Dark Side of the Sun, by Andrew Dymond

darksideCom-Officer, send this message:  Captain SoueDva, Tenth Operational Peacekeeper Taskforce to Nomad Trader Jansz.  It is my great pleasure to inform you that you, and your scurvy fleet of fruit-sucking economic subversives, are under arrest.  You have one minute to surrender or I will personally throw the switch on the weapons that will immolate you.
You have a way with words, Evbow
-SoueDva and Evbow, of the Peacekeepers

Summer time can be a boring one for fans of sci-fi television.  Reruns are all over the place.  But it’s a good time to catch up on things you’ve missed, or to try something new.  This happened to me recently, so I started watching Farscape on the Sci-Fi Channel.  I figured I’d have the same opinion as Babylon 5…not a bad show, but not one I particularly feel like watching much of.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  I’ve been hooked.

Why is this relevant?  Well, as a result, I picked up the two novels that have come out set in the Farscape universe.  I may review the first book at some future date, but since I wanted to stay current, I present Dark Side of the Sun.

For those unfamiliar with the show….astronaut John Crichton, during a test of his experimental Farscape I module, was sucked through a wormhole to a galaxy far, far away (whoop!  wrong franchise!).  He ended up on a living prison ship called Moya, which had just been liberated by a few of its former prisoners.  They don’t always get along; Rygel XVI is the deposed Dominar of Hyneria, Ka D’Argo is a Luxan warrior, and Pau Zotah Zhaan is a Delvian priestess.  Also along for the ride are Moya’s Pilot, a former Peacekeeper commando named Aeryn Sun (and no, the Peacekeepers are not nice folks to begin with), and Chiana, a Nebari delinquent.  I won’t go into details about the characters, since the book does an adequate job on the basics.

It’s been about seven months since Crichton’s arrival; while attempting to practice good dental hygiene, Crichton accidentally infects Moya with a rather unpleasant disease…one that is beyond the crew’s ability to cure.  Luckily, Zhaan suggests that they seek out a Free-Trader named Jansz (that’s “pirate” for the less enlightened).  Jansz is a rather…interesting being, even in the rather well populated sci-fi genre.  A deal is struck that is almost to everyone’s satisfaction.  Unfortunately, a monkey wrench is thrown into the plan-Rygel discovers an old flame being held captive by Jansz.  Did I mention that Moya’s crew doesn’t always get along?  And things start to get really complicated when another life form makes itself known to Moya….

In some ways, I rather enjoyed this book.  Crichton’s a bit of a smart-ass, but he’s a basically decent guy.  We get a good luck at Rygel’s life before he became a prisoner of the Peacekeepers, and we get lots of infighting amongst the crew-which is for the most part, understandable, given the plot.  However, there were aspect that seemed contrived, especially concerning Chiana and Aeryn.  Now, I’ll admit I haven’t seen all the episodes of Farscape, but unless I’m wrong, there will be aspects of the book which may seem a little out of character.  And that’s one of the other weaknesses of this book; it does seem to rely a bit on familiarity with the series.  That’s all well and good for many licensed properties like Star Wars and Star Trek, but Farscape is a series that’s on a cable network that may not be available to a wide audience.  I think that a bit more background info would’ve been helpful, seeing that it is only the second Farscape book that’s been released.

I’m fortunate; since they’ve been replaying Farscape on the Sci-Fi channel almost daily over the summer, I can say that this was a decent book, although not stellar.  But readers interested in Farscape may want to bypass Dark Side of the Sun in favor of the other book, House of Cards, which may be a bit friendlier to readers new to Farscape.

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Ship of Ghosts, by David Bischoff

Hello?  Anybody here?
The modes of human inquiry constantly surprise me.
-John Crichton and Ka D’Argo

Well, it’s another crazy trip for the crew of Moya in the Uncharted Territories!

This book takes place earlier in the very first season of the Farscape series.  Probably a good thing; don’t have to worry about all the baggage characters develop in the course of a good series, and it doesn’t have to worry about dealing with the ongoing arcs that the series does so well.  The early first season episodes stood on their own with minimal interference from previous episodes.

Ship of Ghosts also opens on a scene that must have happened a number of times off-screen, but we’d never seen.  Commander Crais of the Peacekeepers has caught up with Moya, with her crew of escaped prisoners, and the man he believes cold-bloodedly murdered his brother…John Crichton of Earth.  However, it becomes clear that we’re seeing the tail end of their latest meeting, as Moya prepares to StarBurst away-and just before Crais fires off an experimental weapon towards Moya.  As a result, a Peacekeeper ship gets carried along, although not all the way.

Later:  Moya comes upon a distress signal from a ship of the Nokmadi, a race of navigators that may have maps to all of the crew’s homeworlds…possibly including Crichton’s.  Upon arrival at that ship, however, they discover that reality isn’t quite as it seems aboard; in part because of the fact that the Nokmadi don’t exactly live in the “material world”, and they want nothing more than to leave that existence behind.  And strangely enough, one member of Moya’s crew qualifies under their legends as the one to do the job.

Usually, I find that books are often better than movies and television; the imagination isn’t really restricted by budget, and you can really get in depth about the mindsets of each character.  This was not the case with Ship of Ghosts.  To be honest, I really didn’t like this book.  Even for a first-season setting, I found the characters to be “off” in almost every way (with maybe-just maybe-Crichton).  Events involving Rygel and the DRD’s pushed me over the edge.  I’d go into detail, but I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone else!  While I accept that a great deal of Farscape’s charm is in the casual goofiness that goes on, this book misuses it badly when it tries to imitate it.

This represents a disturbing trend for me.  The first Farscape book was very good, the second mediocre, and this last one hit the area of being awful.  Avoid Ship of Ghosts, and keep the fingers crossed that any future Farscape books go back into the opposite direction.

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