Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stargate SG-1: Hostile Ground

This is book one of the Apocalypse Series, a series I knew nothing about until Shoreleave Convention in Baltimore a few weekends ago. I went mostly to see and meet Richard Dean Anderson (and Teryl Rothery and Robert Picardo were hilarious!), but I was pretty excited to find the Fandemonium booth. They had copies of all of the most recent releases, as well as two I was told were not commercially available at the time. I bought anything I didn't already have! Unfortunately, I missed the social function later in the day, but I got two of my purchases signed, including Hostile Ground signed by Sally Malcolm.


Hostile Ground, book #25 of the SG-1 series, is set just after the episode "One Hundred Days" and before "Shades of Gray." This is actually an interesting time period, with O'Neill coming back from Edora and shortly thereafter being "recruited" to the dark side. When I first started reading, I found myself slightly annoyed at this- it's a period I prefer to imagine was short and as painless as possible. However, it does make sense to explore this gap and I got over my cringing empathy for the whole situation between Jack and the others as he tries to alienate them as part of his mission in "Shades of Gray" once the action got going.

Book one of the Apocalypse Series
I would definitely recommend watching "One Hundred Days" and "Shades of Gray" before reading this, but a vague memory of the episodes would suffice. We already know Jack is acting out the whole traitorous rebel thing for Maybourne's sake but this novel goes into his thoughts and feelings on everything, as well. There's some angst.

The story starts out with a close call and an injury on some supposedly routine mission off-world. Something goes wrong when Carter dials the gate and the teams finds themselves in an unpleasant, radioactive wasteland. Team dynamics are at the forefront for this part, one of those TV situations where you wish everyone would just explain themselves, except in this case, Jack can't because of his top-secret mission. Back at home, the alliances with the Asgard and the Tollan are in jeopardy. The plot gets pretty twisty and exciting after this!

Recommendation:

This is a great one! What I thought were a few minor flaws as I read actually explained themselves rather brilliantly. I'm excited for the rest of the series, perhaps a trilogy? I do recommend this book to anyone familiar with season three of SG-1. Impatient people may want to wait for the sequels to come out first.

Spoilers:

My single gripe after reading this book is that one of the Amam, I believe, was deliberately described in such a way to throw us off for a few more pages. I've never heard of a Wraith with black hair, aside from maybe a queen. However, I did like the way they were brought into the story. I wasn't sure they were Wraith till we were introduced to the ship, and it was actually interesting to hear them described from SG-1's point of view of never having seen them before. They are well-written, too. I like "Crazy," the scientist. I may be totally wrong about where things are going, but I can imagine a slightly unstable group or individual going on some mad experiment to find new feeding grounds or search for Ancient technology and ending up in the Milky Way all alone. Of course, it may be something to do with the fact that it is 100 years in the future! I will like it less if it's a whole invasion, I think. But it's fair game. We will see. 

Speaking of which! I did like the subtle hints. Starting with the DHD definitely being dialed for Earth (though we have seen dozens of explanations for how that could happen), the daylight thing, the use of the word "miles" (although are we just ignoring the fact that the whole galaxy seems to speak English for no reason?). It was the red paint on the floor that did it for me, and I liked the reveal. I wasn't expecting Rya'c, that's for sure. But it explains why the boy and girl in the tent city thought Teal'c might be Dix!

The other big twist for me was the chapter that started out with Colorado Springs being on fire. I was so shocked I had to put the book down and gibber to myself for a minute or two. Of course, I told myself early on that the situation would not be resolved back to normal by the end of this book. But this is a doozy! We don't just have to get SG-1 back to Earth. We're going to have to fix the whole darn timeline! I am pleased. 

Plus, we're going to have to erase this timeline from everyone's memory as well, in order to get back to the starting point of "Shades of Gray." O'Neill has dropped the act, Carter knows more than she should, Makepeace is dead and somewhat redeemed, Hammond knows who the mole is. Not to mention the state of Earth, having been attacked by the Goa'uld. I sort of like that we are playing in a timeline that won't exist, but without going totally AU. It will really keep canon perfectly safe. I do love my novels sticking to canon. 

Overall:

7 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Characters:

6.5 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Meaningful, interesting plot:

7 out of 7 chevrons engaged!

Shippyness:

The angst between O'Neill and Carter during "One Hundred Days" and "Shades of Gray" isn't my favorite normally. I do like that it adds to their overall relationship and I firmly believe, while O'Neill could enjoy a life of fishing and farming in general, it's not what he ever wanted in this situation. As he says in this book, he couldn't live that way while he knows he is needed at home. I think that episode was more about making due with what he thought was his final fate. I also choose to believe he was trying to let Laira down gently when he told her he wasn't happy to leave. He doesn't seem to dwell on it or make a point to go back in the series, except for the ruse with the NID plot. So, I was pretty happy with this story. O'Neill knows he is hurting Carter by being distant and regrets that he has to do it, as we can see later in "Shades of Gray." He also drops it eventually in this novel, which is a good relief. There is not so much shippyness as closeness, and it is enough to keep me happy. We're not hard to please, right SG-1 writers and producers? Apparently.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Stargate SG-1: Ouroboros


This novel's (SG-1 #23) strongest point, for me, was the Stargate Atlantis setting. It's pretty unusual for an SG-1 plotline to delve into Janus's mysteries, but I like it when it happens (episodes include It's Good to be King and Moebius). The alternate Atlantis timeline depicted in this novel is interesting and different and works pretty well; the characters are done well across the board. 


Melissa Scott brings us some Ancient technology
Ok, I have to admit that this review was half-written and saved in my queue. I forgot about it and now I can't find the book to go back and skim through again. So, I will leave this summary short. Suffice it to say, the novel form of universe switching was a nice idea. The interactions between the two sets of characters seemed like it could have been more satisfying, but they weren't really our Atlantis team anyway.

Recommendation:

This one is a fun read. If you like SG-1 and Atlantis, you will like this crossover. If you're not familiar with Stargate: Atlantis, you will miss out on a lot, but you will probably be able to understand what you need to.

Spoilers:

The Pegasus team getting into Wraith enzyme worked well. It is kind of a bummer to not meet alternate Weir, but it's supposed to be, I think. No one likes Colonel Sumner, right? 

Overall:
5.5 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Characters:
6 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Meaningful, interesting plot:
5 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Shippyness:

TBD when I find the book and have a chance to refresh my memory for specifics. 

Stargate SG-1: Survival of the Fittest

First of all, I didn't realize it had been so long! Wow, there must be something about September 4th that makes me want to write about Stargate novels. Anyway, a combination of reading other things and, unfortunately, reading less overall (change in work schedule) had me putting off reading the next Fandemonium novel in my growing stack. Glad to be back, though!

This novel by Sabine Bauer is #7 in the series, one of the reprints I mentioned in my last post. I have to say, I don't know why this one ever went out of print, I really enjoyed it. I expected it would have character or consistency flaws, but it was good on those fronts. I'm glad it is back in print for all to enjoy.

The cover is one of the most tailored to the book that I've seen from the series
The story sets off with Colonel Simmons and some bad-egg Marines. The training scenario that goes so poorly in the opening scenes of the novel never stuck me as quite as serious as the characters seem to imply, but it sets off a fun and imaginative, yet fairly dark, trip off world.

There is a lot of action in this one, and it is written well. Although some of the first parts of the book seem slow, once we are in the thick of it, somewhere around 50 pages in, we have Nirrti and more than the usual SGC members on a perilous adventure, and it picks up considerably. It's not a complicated story but it has some nice, original elements.

I liked that Dr. Fraiser plays a significant part in this story, with contributions from Hammond and others as well, with limited reliance on new characters. SG-1 are true to canon, although Jack O'Neill is perhaps darker than his usual self- but that seems to be the temptation for many of the Stargate writers.

Recommendation:

This is a good adventure. Go ahead and pick it up. It's quite like a typical episode, but with no need for cutting out details.

Spoilers:

Janet is written particularly well in this one, and her struggle with Nirrti's mind-control seems as realistic as it is dramatic. Carter is also written well, although the flirting with an old colleague to get some classified intel in an early chapter had me a little skeptical at first. 

In fact, the mind-control overall was a good plot device in this novel, and although it seems a little convenient, the internal struggles it revealed were a good addition. Combined with the Jaffa Marines, it was all quite interesting. 

I liked these lines from the last few pages (Daniel is injured and hanging out annoying Carter in her office. O'Neill comes in):

"'...And by the way, what are you doing here?' 
This last question was directed at Daniel, who grinned. 'I got fed up at home.' 
'Ah,' said the Colonel, implying it was perfectly reasonable that anyone suffering from boredom should converge on Major Carter's lab."

One more thing- I wish they hadn't had to kill the pigs! I was kind of hoping they would turn out to be sentient but mind-controlled friendly beings. I guess that wouldn't end the story quite as well. 

Overall:

6 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Characters:

6.5 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Meaningful, interesting plot:

6 out of 7 chevrons engaged!

Shippyness:

Nothing too blatant; for example a little flirtiness that may just be flippancy when Carter and O'Neill meet back up and both of them are somehow underclothed (ok, that would never happen on the show). Enough to keep me happy like the quote above, nothing stressfully un-shippy.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Some out of print books are available again!

Some of the Fandemonium Stargate novels have been out of print and very hard to find for a long time now. For example, I had pretty much given up hope of reading Siren Song or Survival of the Fittest in the SG-1 series. The good news is- I ordered both today! There are still a few more in the SGA series that I haven't been able to find, but hopefully they will bring those back soon as well.

From the website:

Five rare titles have been reprinted 
We appreciate that some of our titles have been out of print for a while, so we are pleased to announce they're now available again, thanks to the wonders of print on demand. The titles are:
There are a few titles still out of print - we are working to bring those back as well, so thanks for your patience.



This announcement can be found at http://www.stargatenovels.com/  where the books can also be purchased. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Stargate SG-1: Moebius Squared

This book shows what a Stargate novel can be! The characterization is pretty much perfect, and the plot explores a well-liked episode in a new and exciting way. I even like the cover.


Nice nebula, yes?


This novel,  #22 in the SG-1 series, revisits the time-traveling versions of SG-1 that were stranded in Egypt on Earth in about 2492 BC at the end of season 8. It took me a couple of pages to recall the events of that episode, figuring out which versions of Sam, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c I was dealing with. I recommend watching the double episode before you read as a refresher, although it won't be strictly necessary. The authors do a fine job of catching the reader up on events. Since we have doubles of several characters, the authors use a clever but intuitive trick to distinguish them- referring to Egypt Sam as Sam and Atlantis Sam as Carter, and so on where applicable

From the start, I was pretty thrilled with the characterization in this installation. Vala's lines, in particular, seemed spot-on in humor and personality. Also, I liked the way it fit all of the main characters into the approximately current day Stargate setting of 2008, meaning Mitchell is leading SG-1, Carter is back from Atlantis but not yet commanding the Hammond, O'Neill is in Washington.

The story captured my interest as effectively as a backup SG team secures an offworld gate. A group of Tokra steal the time-traveling jumper and go in search of Egeria in an attempt to renew their dwindling race. SG-1 must follow them to preserve the timeline. Without going into details, this book is packed with side adventures and plotlines that converge expertly without ever getting so complex you need to keep charts.

I don't have a lot to say about this one because it speaks for itself. Aside from the handful of typos these always have, I don't have any complaints. The authors expanded on the canon in a few places, but I think it was done well. The only possible exception is that the alternate characters seem a lot more capable than they were in the episode Moebius, but this is explained by the intervening time and difficulties they've faced in Ancient Egypt.

Recommendation:

This is a really strong offering in the Stargate Novel world. It's as good as well done episode, better than many. If you're going through all the books, get ready to enjoy this one. If you're looking for somewhere to start or for a one-off, there probably isn't any better place to start.

This is one of my top three Stargate novels, easily.

Spoilers:

While the plotline about whether Teal'c's symbiote was really Egieria could be said to be predictable, I found it delightfully suspenseful and engrossing. Baal's sunspot device was a bit convenient (and if this was an episode, too overpowered to find) but I can forgive that. It was necessary and kind of neat.

This story takes place in a time I feel Carter seems a little lost. After Atlantis, she's kind of over qualified for everything on Earth. I think this comes through well in this book, as Homeworld Command debates the future of the General Hammond ship's command. Sam asks Carter about her life; they talk about Sam and Jack's baby daughter; Carter says about O'Neill that, yes, she thinks he will wait for her. It's pretty unambiguous and a little sad, but of course Carter doesn't stay down for long. As this takes place in 2008, it makes me wonder what Carter is up to in 2013.

Overall:
 7 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Characters:
7 out of 7 chevrons locked!

Meaningful, interesting plot:
6 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Shippyness:
About as much as I could hope for- without any actual interaction between Jack and Sam! Our Jack and Sam, that is. There is a lot of fondness there (though our Jack isn't in it much) but we've got alternate Jack and Sam, and they have been together in Ancient Egypt raising a family for a few years! Leaning toward shippy even without considering alternate Sam and Jack, this one made me pretty happy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

About this blog

The Fandemonium Stargate novels, which are semi-canon as they are licensed and approved by MGM, are one of the only sources we have left of official new Stargate stories. They are also pretty good overall, and I encourage anyone to pick some up. However, they vary widely in quality from fair to excellent. The goal of this blog is to help people choose which to purchase (particularly if you don't want to read every single one).  Discussion in the comments would also be great!

I will start with the books I have been reading lately, which are some of the most recently published. I will eventually go back to review the older books, but wanted to start with what is fresh in my mind. 

The things I value most in a Stargate novel (and as such will be reflected in my reviews) are interesting storyline and accurate characterization. I hate seeing my friends (characters) do or say something out of character, and there's little point in reading a book that isn't interesting. I give high marks for incorporating new ideas into familiar plots lines (such as finding out more about the Ancients while sticking to canon). I also happen to like to see Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter together, so I will mention it, but it's not a requirement. 

I'm reading Moebius Squared (SG-1 #22) at the moment and looking forward to reviewing it!

Also, visit my etsy shop if you're looking for Stargate gifts or other geeky paraphernalia! I'm donating 10% of shop proceeds to Sanctuary for Kids.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stargate SG-1: The Drift

I like Ancient plot lines. I think the chair in Antarctica is awesome. This novel (#21) does some interesting things with both, but overall this dream-sequence style story lacks meaningful action and seems both rushed and a little thin.

First off, this is actually a sequel to Four Dragons, although I don't think this is mentioned anywhere on the actual book itself. It took me about halfway through to realize certain references to past events weren't from episodes (surely I would have remembered them, right?) but from a previous book. So, make sure to read that first, and you'll want to follow up with The Drift while you still remember events and characters from Four Dragons, or else major plot lines will not mean anything to you.

To me, this novel reads like a relatively weak episode. From the beginning, SG-1 is trapped in some sort of alternate, dream-like reality. The plot is heavily driven by some unknown hand and the reader follows along as details are revealed and the situation changes. While this follows SG-1's experience in the plot, it lacks certain elements of fascination and speculation (key elements of good sci-fi, I believe) as we have no information and are as powerless as the team. Angry rumbling and soft winds in this dream world seem rather trite and cliche to me.

Team interaction and characterization are done well, however. There is a lot of reacting and not a lot of doing, from both SG-1 and the rest of the characters, but reactions seem natural and dialogue flows easily, with some exceptions from the Chinese characters. In fact the anti-China sentiment in general was a little surprising. Of course, China is the new Russia.

The one big exception to the above is the use of ascended character(s). These are used in moderation in SG-1 and Atlantis, and I think including them in these one-shot type stories can be risky. Ancients and ascended beings interfere very infrequently; the author makes the case that the peril in this story is worthy of their intervention. The reader must decide if he or she agrees. Personally, it came out feeling a little contrived to me, a bit deus ex machina. In that sense, a Stargate tradition!



Recommendation:

If you're going through the Stargate novels, by all means read this one. It's not bad. I found it a little frustrating and it could have used some editing (a lot of them feel that way), but it's not actively unpleasant to read or anything. We get to spend some time with our friends and the author does get creative bringing in new story lines, specifically related to Lord Yu and the Ancients.

If you're looking for just a few good SG novels, skip this one. I'm going to call it slightly below average.

Spoilers:

Ok, bringing new historical and scientific phenomena into the Stargate realm by attributing them to the Ancients or others is usually cool. I applaud these efforts. Along these lines, bringing up the frozen Jaffa found near the DHD found in Antarctica in the episode Solitudes was a clever idea. However, deciding that plate tectonics on Earth are due to an Ancient device (the "drift" I guess) requires the reader to completely throw out modern geological understanding. So, if you've briefly heard of the concept of plate tectonic or Pangea, you might think, "cool!" But if you think about it a little further... It comes out as a wacky creationist-esque refutation of the geologic principle of uniformitarianism that people probably should have noticed at some point. This would be the point where Sam should, at least, be very, very surprised.

Overall:
4 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Characters:
5 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Meaningful, interesting plot:
3 out of 7 chevrons engaged

Shippyness:
Not much; enough to placate me