review by Sarah T.
It's too bad about the similarity in title to Ana Dorfstad's story in =Enarrare=; I hope that won't cause confusion. Both stories are very long, IMO very good PGPs, starring Avon, that also bring back lots of characters and concepts from earlier episodes; but the resemblance ends there. They are very different in feel. If I had to compare the two, I might say that Ana Dorfstad's story is more geared toward emotional effect, though it also has a clever plot; while J. Kel's is more of an "idea" story, though with very moving emotional content as well.
The archive notes describe J. Kel's POI as "lyrical," and I agree. I can't think of many other examples of fan fiction that I can really compare it to, but I wonder whether perhaps the author is an Arthur C. Clarke fan. In a way this story reminds me of some of Clarke's early, visionary works, things like =Childhood's End= and "The Nine Billion Names of God."
What? you ask. So, does J. Kel destroy the Earth, maybe even the universe, in an apocalyptic B7 story? Well... yes and no. It's hard to explain. Read it and see.
And to think that I thought "The Chameleons" was hard to describe without giving spoilers! This is even more difficult, but I'll try to give some idea of what it's like.
The story opens seven years after GP, in chilly Servalan City (formerly known as "Kalgerry," Canadians will be amused to note). Lord Avon has become the lover and second-in-command of supreme ruler Servalan. On her orders, he confers with the scientist Geir, who has observed strange phenomena associated with the artificial planet Terminal. He also meets a young Auron man, Mykal Hodos, Geir's assistant. Mykal tells Avon that Cally had another sister who is still alive, Molli, a Songmaster, who now seems to be receiving telepathic messages from Cally herself, via Terminal. We also learn that Servalan remains obsessed with the Auronaar, and not just from guilt; Avon feels, however, that she should be more concerned about the sinister, enigmatic alien civilization that inhabits the object known as the Black Shield (the source of the plague in "Killer," a modified version of which was used by Servalan on Auron).
In Episode II, we meet Molli herself, in the company of-- Jenna! Over the next several episodes, Molli, Avon, and Mykal escape from Servalan with Jenna's help, and make their way first to Kaarn, aka New Auron, where they discover an incredibly powerful new technology guarded by an embittered, none-too-sane man; and then to Lindor, where they again meet President Sarkoff and his daughter Tyce, still resisting the Federation against increasingly poor odds. At the end of Episode VI, tragedy strikes; some of the characters are recaptured by Servalan, and some die. (This was the last part of the series to be published on paper, back in 1993, leaving those of us who had been following the story in great suspense!)
However, thanks to the mysterious Entity associated with Terminal, death is not necessarily final for anyone who has visited the artificial planet. In the second half of the novel, not only Avon and Jenna but also Vila, Dayna, Tarrant, and Cally play prominent roles, with Blake himself appearing briefly. In fact, the only regular characters from the original show who do =not= reappear are Gan, Soolin, and Travis-- oh, and Slave, if you count the AIs (and we probably should, since both Orac and Zen feature in the story-- yes, the Liberator, or at least =a= Liberator, returns). Avon is the central character, but many of the others are featured as well; Vila in particular becomes a major hero toward the end, performing some crucial actions.
By the end there have been some amazing escapes and adventures. I particularly like the vividly described raid on a Federation concentration camp in the Arctic, to rescue some very important prisoners, in Episode XI (Tarrant stars in this section). Meanwhile, the Lindorean fleet prepares to attack Earth; and a terrible threat is hanging over the entire human race, throughout the galaxy, as Servalan out-Travises Travis in her plans for a Final Act. All the plot elements are neatly pulled together, and every episode ends with a startling revelation or cliffhanger. At this point I couldn't stop reading, and I stayed up much too late in order to finish the entire story and find out what happens!
I'm happy to say that the ending did not disappoint. The mystery of Terminal, the threat of the Black Shield, the promise of the new technology, and revelations about Servalan's background and the nature of her relationship with Avon are all neatly and satisfactorily dealt with. The end is a very B7ish combination of triumph and tragedy.
Overall I rate this story very highly. My one complaint is that, even though I know it has gone through at least two drafts by the author plus editing by friends, I think it needs one more proofreading (to fix things like "it's" for "its") and very light copy edit (to make a few little changes like "flight deck" for "bridge"). Maybe this can be done before the story appears in a hard copy version, as I very much hope it will. There are also some small formatting problems, such as the occasional skipped line; but none of these minor gripes detracted significantly from my enjoyment.
In general the writing style manages to be clear and straightforward, but at the same time poetic. There are occasional experiments in stylistic variation: sudden shifts in POV or tense, a few dialogues in script-like form, etc. I sometimes find that sort of thing annoying, but here I didn't mind, perhaps because I was so caught up in the story. I also like the quotes from various famous writers at the beginning of each episode, which IMO are wonderfully apt and which also provide the evocative episode titles.
At the same time, the hard science is good and hard, and the author clearly knows what he's talking about; no bafflegab here, but some fascinating extrapolations. I can't think of any other B7 fan story that deals so well with Big Ideas of the science fictional kind. How I'd love to see a film version, with the actors as they were ten years ago, and a big budget for suitably spectacular special effects!
Highly recommended, and I'll be very interested to hear what others think of it.
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