Feb 19, 2013

[Books] Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon's Secret

Franchise books, like those created for shows like Star Trek and movies like Star Wars are the geek equivalent of romance novels for many women. They're typically nicely light reading, they allow you to celebrate your favorite characters from popular TV shows and such and in the end the question of whether or not these stories are "canonical" is pretty much anyone's guess.

I'm a major fan of the Star Wars novels (obviously) and I've dabbled in the odd Star Trek book as well, but this was my first time to venture into the books created based around the Battlestar Galactica universe. I had picked up a few titles in the bargain bins of various book stores some time back and it's only now that I've decided to dig them out of the stacks to read them.

As expected the cover of the book was rather misleading since it did not feature the infamous Caprica Six character. But by now we geeks should be used to these sorts of marketing tricks. Anything to sell a book based on a popular science fiction TV series, right?


Synopsis: Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon's Secret is the second original novel set in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica universe. It was written by Craig Shaw Gardner and is set 20 years after the initial outbreak of the First Cylon War.

The armistice between humans and Cylons is in full effect and little has been seen of the Cylons for quite some time now. In fact, they appear to have completely disappeared. And thus the old Battlestars are now re-exploring former human colonies in the hopes of finding survivors and considering the potential of re-establishing new worlds beyond the core Twelve Colonies. Saul Tigh is now a Captain serving on Galactica and is in charge of training the new Viper pilots. His friend Bill Adama is XO to Admiral Sing.

Meanwhile scavengers like the crew of the Lightning are also taking advantage of the abandoned territories as they explore the ruins and try to find items worth salvaging. This ship is led by Captain Nadu and his intrepid little crew includes the likes of a young Tom Zarek. The crew stumble upon a secret Colonial Science Protectorate outpost that they later learn is Research Station Omega. At first it seems like the scavengers have hit pay dirt given the skeleton crew left in charge of the station - that is until they discover precisely what the station was for.

Given the show has concluded for some time now, I have to admit that it was rather enjoyable to return to the universe, even just in book form. Thus a bit of nostalgia helped me get through the title, even though it really wasn't that remarkable a book. As far as franchise fiction goes, it was very, very light far that felt like the equivalent of having chips instead of a full meal.

The BSG Wiki already documents the many continuity errors with the book, which I suppose could not be helped. This book was written while the show was still active but probably during its early years and thus they ended up writing a prequel instead of daring to have a story set in the main universe. But as it stands the book doesn't exactly play along well with the main TV continuity, thus making it rather suspect as far as canon is concerned.

A lot of the book ends up being focused on the scavenger crew of the Lightning and their initial attempts to enter Research Station Omega. And this was interesting to a limited degree since there's always a lot of potential when it comes to a character like Tom Zarek, but you can only go so far with that. And the author wasn't able to utilize the full Zarek potential because of the need to somehow depict him as younger and thus less experienced. So that was a bit of a downer.

There was also some potential in the interaction between Tigh and Adama as somewhat younger men but still grizzled war veterans. But this also was not fully capitalized in the course of the book. Another opportunity missed once more.

Really, we spend way too much time with the station being stupid and the scavengers being even more stupid since they keep sending small parties over to the station to "talk to the natives". And when we do get the chance for a decent fight, the Battlestar in the book pretty much holds back and we wait for everyone else to figure out how to resolve the conflict. While their reasons in the book may have made sense, they just weren't very satisfying for a fan of the show reading the book.

Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon's Secret is a rather weak first attempt at creating an original story in the BSG universe outside of the TV show. I can only hope the other books weren't this flimsy, although I can also appreciate that this may explain why we don't see many other books from this franchise either. In the meantime, this book only rates 2 primitive Cylons out of a possible 5.

And no, Caprica Six is no where in this book. I felt the need to reiterate that given the cover of the novel.


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