Story: This book tells the tale of a curiously hazy portion of the series’ history dealing with a very significant character – B5’s original commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, and the events that unfolded between his sudden assignment to Minbar (after actor Michael O’Hare departed from the show between the first and second seasons) and his reappearance and subsequent final departure in the show’s third season. The story also manages to fit in how Catherine Sakai – Sinclair’s fiancee – dealt with his sudden disappearance, as well as the origins of a character who has only recently become sorely missed in the B5 universe: Marcus Cole. There are guest appearances by Delenn, Kosh, Kosh’s successor, and Garibaldi, as well as the recurring Minbari Grey Council gadfly Neroon and – for good measure! – at least one or two characters from the comic books (remember, they’re official too, even if they weren’t exactly high art). You’ll find out where Sinclair got that great honking scar across his face, and discover that he can chew out a Vorlon just as well as Sheridan can.
Review: I remember being somewhat disappointed with the first Babylon 5 novel published in 1995, and also reining my funds in more tightly, I opted to pass on the latest line of licensed books, unless they branched into the area of behind- the-scenes expositions (which they later did, with mixed results – see above). But this latest entry in the Babylon 5 series of novels was different for many reasons.
One of the best reasons to buy this book is Kathryn M. Drennan’s excellent handling of the characters, especially Sinclair. Throughout the book, Babylon 5’s former commander is subjected to ridicule, receives hostility from his Minbari neighbors, is prodded and pushed toward an unspecified goal by the Vorlon ambassador to Minbar, suddenly finds out that an ancient enemy called the Shadows are on the move, and finally suffers a grave personal loss. Despite all of this, he maintains the quiet, wry sense of humor that characterized Sinclair on the screen, and you can really hear Michael O’Hare’s voice throughout. (In fact, I think someone ought to pitch the idea of a book-on-tape with O’Hare doing the vocal honors.) Sakai is also well represented, though the change in Marcus is a little bit too sudden, from dullard to wanna-be Ranger in a very short span of time. Of course, the incident that sparks his conversion – an event alluded to only vaguely in the series – is also a sudden change for him.
Hopefully, Kathryn Drennan – who also wrote Babylon 5’s first season labor dispute episode By Any Means Necessary – will revisit the B5 universe in a future book. It’s just possible that, as J. Michael Straczynski’s wife, she has a uniquely qualified perspective on what makes a story good Babylon 5 material.
Author: Kathryn Drennan
Pages: 337 pages