Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Babylon 5: To Dream In The City Of Sorrows

I picked up Kathryn Drennan's Babylon 5: To Dream In The City Of Sorrows and it was off to an explosive start. Like anything else I write about here on Musings Of A Sci Fi Fanatic please don't continue unless you've already read the book. I essentially sum up each chapter with a play by play and the occasional musing. My apologies for this one being a bit long. It's certainly intended for us B5 die hards and is not for the faint of heart or for those with very little time on their hands, for which most of us would qualify.

Prologue: We jump past the events of War Without End. Marcus is nearly killed by Neroon and is sent to Tuzanor to recover from his beating by Delenn for his loyalty in defending her during her installation as Ranger One. Marcus goes to The Chapel to consider his friend Jeffrey Sinclair. He gazes at the statue of Valen wondering if Valen is indeed the same man as Jeffrey Sinclair.
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Chapter 1: We're taken back to the Battle Of The Line via nightmare to reconnect us with Commander Sinclair. I must admit her writing style was very natural, articulate and it flowed nicely as she really captured the character's personality for me. A couple of things struck me about reading the chapter. I found myself missing Commander Sinclair and appreciating his character much more in retrospect. WHAT! I know. "Did I hear that correct?" I've been a critic of Michael O'Hare, but the big lug has grown on me. Further, I was happy to know I'd learn more about what happened following the end of Season One to one of the series' most beautiful characters, Sinclair's lovely fiance Ms. Catherine Sakai.
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Chapter 2: I love the details that are fleshed out about Minbari culture, Sinclair and Rathenn. I remember we met Rathenn briefly in Season Three, Episode 16, War Without End Part One.
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Chapter 3: Sinclair seemed to be getting the runaround from all parties involved on Minbar, his newly relocated home. It's interesting that Clark placed him exactly where he needed to be following Santiago's assassination. It ironically played right into the hands of fate and the Minbari's plans. I'm not quite sure why, but Sinclair rarely gets the straight skinny from his assistants for a guy slated to become Valen.
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Chapter 4: Sinclair continues to flashback through dreams [more appropriately nightmares] offering detail about what exactly transpired between him and the Minbari. The nightmares allude to Season One, Episode 1, Midnight On The Firing Line and Episode 8, And The Sky Full Of Stars [the abduction by Earth loyalists] lending us even greater insights. There was a hole in Sinclair's mind, and ours too, but now we're beginning to see the big picture concerning what happened to Sinclair. Sinclair's frustration grows being on Minbar. He greets Earthers, as an ambassador, who have arrived on Minbar from Earth. He is given a copy of Universe Today to learn more about the political state of affairs back on Earth. Based upon the headlines, he learns of the destruction of Earthforce One. He knows the Clark presidency is dirty. Drennan does a sensational job of weaving her tale into the already established facts setup within the Babylon 5 series. Sinclair's frustration builds to the point he writes a letter of resignation and prepares to vacate Minbar.
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Chapter 5: A Catherine Sakai chapter. We catch up with Sakai who is piloting an Earth survey vessel dubbed Skydancer. It's essentially her ship. Drennan really does a superb job of describing the spaceship's interior and prescribing it a personality all its own. I love spaceships and Drennan makes me want to have my very own Skydancer. She does me proud. The chapter picks up days after Sinclair asked for Sakai's hand in marriage in Season One, Episode 22, Chrysalis. The author takes us back to both Sakai and Sinclair's first meeting at Earthforce Academy. Nice stuff. The more I read the more sympathetic a hero Sinclair has become for me.
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Chapter 6: A Marcus chapter. Loads of backstory details and information regarding his brother William who is planning a trip to Minbar. At this point I'm seeing the book flesh out the characters that are highlighted on the cover including Sinclair, Sakai and now Marcus. I suspect they are all pivotal to the sroty within the Babylon 5 universe. It would appear they will converge at some point.
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Chapter 7: Sinclair plans to depart following his resignation, but agrees to join Rathenn to visit The Chosen One outside of Yedor. The Chosen One is Jenimer. There once was Dukhat. The first Chosen One was Valen, of course. We get more on the first Shadows War and Valen bringing The Vorlons on board. Again, Valen created Grey Council, formed an elite fighting force and reorganized Minbari society. No wonder he's legendary. This is a fascinating chapter as it delves headlong into The Shadows saga. I really enjoyed the finer details that informed much of what we saw in the actual television series. There is alot of background to Valen and Minbari life. There is also much to learn about the Entil' Zha.
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Chapter 8: An intense chapter that delves into the philosophical and questions of the soul. Sinclair and the Minbari serve as vehicles for the conversation on 'what is soul?' The prophecy, with relation to Sinclair, is also a focal point. Sinclair establishes his credentials as the human tasked with establishing The Rangers. We also get more insight into who can join The Rangers. Apparently the seemingly omniscient, open-minded genius that was Valen believed it was fine if the worker caste joined to become Rangers. Sinclair alludes to feeling just fine about it too. Hmmm...wonder why? [wink, wink, nudge, nudge] There's also further proof on why the Minbari were masters of concealing the truth. The Rangers were very much a part of that concealment. The ugly Vorlon, Ulkesh, continues to rear his head with puzzles. Rathenn and Sinclair continue to get cozy.
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Chapter 9: We return to the life and times of Catherine Sakai. We learn some interesting details about Hyperspace Travel Syndrome [HST] and the affects of extended hyperspace travel. We also get a good bit of detail on the jumpgate system and its history. There's some attention paid to Sakai's parents. Things get interesting from a traditional sci-fi perspective when she reaches Planet UTC45-03A in her Skydancer. Something isn't right on the planet below and it has something to do with Quantium 40. I could have sworn Bester was looking for some of this in the series at one point. I know someone was interested.
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Chapter 10: Neroon and Sinclair go toe to toe for a chapter concerning Sinclair's appointment as Ranger One. In the end, he is appointed to the position but Neroon refuses to lend him the Minbari title of Entil' Zha. He'll need to earn that. It's a well-structured and consistent chapter.
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Chapter 11: As the head of The Rangers Sinclair receives his new Minbari wardrobe. He is brought to the City Of Sorrows more formally referred to as Tuzanor. It was formerly the site of much bloody, savage Minbari on Minbari violence. Over one million Minbari died in one day here. Never again. We get a detailed mapping of the compund where The Rangers will train. All are invited to try for a position as Sinclair wishes to invite the worker caste and humans. Their mission is peace. He thinks of Catherine Sakai and their future on Minbar. I thought this was one of the most interesting paragraphs mused by Sinclair: "...it hit him again how odd it was to take up residence in a building last occupied a thousand years ago by Valen himself, the greatest personage in Minbari history, venerated almost to the point of deification." Yeah, that would be you. This is followed with extensive research by Sinclair on the "mythic" leader that would be all about... HIM! We are introduced to Minbari Sech Durhan, the master teacher of the denn'bok or Minbari fighting pike. Apparently he is not on board with humans being trained with the weapon. Sinclair finds himself at odds with Minbari traditions at times in the hopes of getting Rangers trained. Sinclair receives his official badge. In the end only 34 [of 78] Rangers take formation. The warrior caste boycotts. What a stodgy bunch of curmudgeons. Sinclair dreams in the City of Sorrows, but cannot remember those dreams when he wakes. Hmmm.
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Chapter 12: I must admit with all of the training for the Rangers in hand to hand combat we never did see much of it for the fight against The Shadows and that is sorely disappointing. Sinclair has his work cut out for him in training new Rangers. He engages the Vorlon Ulkesh and finds him elusive. I thought about it for a bit. It's interesting the Minbari turned to the Vorlons for help. It seems part of their genetic make-up to ally with others, which led me to think of Forell in Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 11, Lines Of Communication, when he turned to the Drakh. Sinclair and Ulkesh continue to be at loggerheads. Sinclair finally meets his match in Sech Durhan. The gloves come off in a concentrated fighting pike battle where Durhan puts Sinclair to the test. Sinclair earns Durhan's respect who agrees to train both Minbari and Human. Jenimer, The Chosen One, exhibits signs of fragility as he crumples in a heap. Sinclair receives a full report on The Shadows’ movements and is stunned by how little he knew. He has words with Rathenn regarding the lack of communication by the Minbari. Rathenn insists, as Delenn did in the series to Sheridan, The Shadows musn’t know how much they know even if it costs lives [as it did for the Narn in the series]. You'll recall the powerful sequence between Delenn, Kosh and Sheridan in Season Two, Episode 16, In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum. In fact, Sinclair wonders, “how much has Delenn told Sheridan?” Ulkesh indicates Sheridan isn’t ready. We were given that impression through much of Season Two of the series. Jenimer promises to keep Sinclair better informed. Sinclair needs to send a transmission to his fiancé out on the rim. He will send it coded so the Shadows are unaware of what he knows. I like this final bit in the chapter when Sinclair responds to a comment by Ulkesh to “concentrate on the cause.” Sinclair: “You can never forget the personal. Or else what are you fighting for? The person who fights only for the cause is always in danger of becoming a fanatic, or of losing any reason for fighting at all. But the person who fights for his family and his home fights just long enough and just hard enough to win, without losing himself to the violence or the cause.” Amen. If that isn’t a complete reality check in this world I don’t know what is. Perhaps I should consider changing the name of my blog to Musings Of A Sci Fi Lover. What do you think?
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Chapter 13: Catherine Sakai is seeking more planetary resources. She reconsiders Ymir and wonders how the planet was possibly devastated. She can't make sense of it. I love author Drennan’s terrific detail in the Sakai chapters referencing and detailing her ship Skydancer. Unexpectedly she receives a coded transmission from her honey back on Minbar. “Catherine, remember Sigma 957? Your current situation is different-but similar. Be careful. All my love, Jeff.” She ponders the meaning and reads between the lines understanding it to be a warning. I remember Sigma 957. I remember the conversation she had with G’Kar who essentially saved her ass by dispatching from Babylon 5 during Season One, Episode 6, Mind War. She knew there was an alien presence out there on the outer rim. I must admit I thought Catherine might turn her ass around based upon the message, but instead she continues on two more missions with her intentions to be careful. I'm not sure she's getting the message and I’m not sure 'careful' is going to cut it.
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Chapter 14: We are reminded of the Minbari addiction to ceremony with the official graduation of the first new Rangers. The Minbari should be called the Ceremoni. The Ranger Credo: I am a Ranger. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge and no one may pass. We live for The One. We die for The One. Now, at first [and they do get to this], I’m thinking, so is Zathras a Ranger. Sinclair wonders the same thing later. By tradition they pledge to The One. Sinclair is not crazy about the whole concept of worshiping. It has a cult of personality ring to it. I can’t say I blame him. Sinclair believes in pledging to duty and protection of life. Sinclair plans to implement a communication stream by stationing Rangers on Babylon 5. Ulkesh and others insist, yet again, Sheridan is not ready. Sinclair will inform his closest friend, Michael Garibaldi. One of the things I love about Drennan’s book is how closely she ties and weaves it into the world of the Babylon 5 series. It makes sense this book is cannon because it runs everything by the letter of the law as established by Straczynski. You’ll recall the video delivered by Marcus to Garibaldi in Season Two, Episode 9, The Coming Of Shadows. We see through this backstory how Sinclair labors to formulate his words for that transmission. He makes every effort to speak in code so as not to inadvertently tip the Rangers' hand by alerting The Shadows to knowledge of their movements should information fall into the wrong hands. You will recall the words, “Stay close to the Vorlon and watch out out for shadows. They move when you’re not looking.” This line was always curious to me, but understandable. With the novel we understand more fully Sinclair’s intentions. He refers to Garibaldi’s instinctive ability to decipher what he means. He recalls an old saying Garibaldi subscribed to, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Garibaldi added, “And if I don’t know which a person is, I stay really close.” It all makes perfect sense after reading the book and knowing what we do within the series by Season Four. Sinclair tasks the Rangers with delivery of three messages to Garibaldi. The third message is private, and does not receive prior approval by the Minbari or the Vorlons. It is a message for Catherine. It is a request for her to come to Minbar upon her return to Babylon 5. I must admit I was hard on Michael O’Hare and hsi input and was called on it. There is a certain charm about him. Drennan truly revitalizes his character and, in a way, brings O’Hare back to life for me in this. I also seemed to blindly believe O’Hare was cast aside from the television series in favor of Bruce Boxleitner. In retrospect, having seen the series to date, his role makes sense and his assignment worked within the parameters of the story whether it was planned or not. It would seem it was planned based upon the intricacies of Babylon 5’s story. It feels natural given how events have unfolded and how the details were laid out within Drennan’s book so meticulously. If not, Straczynski has sold me or fooled me. Sinclair is very much alive in this world. Feeling alone in the city of sorrows, Sinclair misses Catherine more than ever.
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Chapter 15: The story of Marcus and his journey to becoming an elite Ranger. He is on the Arisia Mining Colony working the inherited family business. His brother William [a.k.a. Willie] arrives and the two have words and some heated arguments over responsibility and doing right by the family. Marcus is clearly the responsible one. Willie has taken up work with the Minbari and is now a Ranger. He looks to bring Marcus on board. Needless to say Marcus is skeptical of the Minabari and the military caste in particular. He’s also dubious on Ranger One, Jeffrey Sinclair. William tells Marcus he is needed and Ranger One wants to meet with him. All of the tension is a result of these two brothers being very different, but Marcus loves William. William, too, loves Marcus. William has matured and Marcus believes he will make the effort to meet Sinclair.
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Chapter 16: Catherine Sakai begins her journey back to Babylon 5. While sleeping in hyperspace her sensors pick up something and sound her alert. She checks into the readings. She is surrounded by a fleet of twelve. Things are hairy. She is pleased the ships do not fire upon her. Who wouldn't be? Apparently the properties of hyperspace make it a bit of a gamble at taking a shot to boot and potentially inflicting damage upon one's self. In effect, the vessels could strike one another. It certainly didn’t help Warren Keffer in the series. Bull's eye! Skydancer adjusts course and Sakai finds herself followed. She prays she might make it out of hyperspace. After some time she comes upon the jumpgate with the Shadows vessel tailing her at the same distance. She escapes by a hair through the gate, but is fired upon and damaged badly. Nevertheless she docks with the Universal Terraform Operations Ship. It was a close one and I had a bad feeling about her chance to survive here, but she did it and lives to see another chapter.
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Chapter 17: The Marcus/ William arc continues. Marcus takes William out for a flight. It is on this little excursion they happen upon the destructive purple-pink firepower of The Shadows upon the colony. Marcus XO Sphere personal flyer all but crash lands with damage on the surface of Arisia 3 as they attempt to get to a fully fueled shuttlecraft. William is thrown from the wreckage, bleeding profusely and growing weaker. William slips away and asks Marcus to finish what he started as a Ranger. A voice [Vorlon?] tells him to “Go!” I can’t recall which episode, but Marcus speaks of his brother I believe and references what The Shadows did to him. So William and all colonists are killed on Arisia 3. Marcus tastes revenge. Marcus struggles to reclaim his brother’s body before leaving in the shuttle. Explosions grow near and The Shadows move closer. The voice, “Go!” Marcus takes flight and leaves his mining colony and the past behind. Overcome with radiation poison, he injects a serum into his body and passes out. His ship glides through space on autopilot.
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Chapter 18: Two of our novel's key players converge on Babylon 5. There are two parts running concurrently on Marcus and Catherine. Marcus reawakens in medlab under Dr. Hobbs care [we remember Lillian]. Hysterical from radiation poisoning Marcus is subdued. A repaired Skydancer exits the UTC Ops Ship destined for Babylon 5. She references the logs for Sigma 957 once again. I’m beginning to wonder if the aliens she encountered there were in fact NOT The Shadows but perhaps one of The First Ones. I wonder. Her UTC employers seem to understand, based upon the data, she was in an inherently dangerous position when she had to let go of her mineral cargo and damage the jumpgate in order to escape The Shadows. She docks on Babylon 5 and is greeted by Zack. Zack gives her the news about Sinclair and his sudden promotion to Minbar as Earth ambassador. The appointment happened just after she left. Later, Marcus speaks with Dr. Hobbs and learns he’s the only survivor of the Arisia Mining Colony and ISN is busy blaming faulty equipment on the colony for the explosions. Marcus must warn everyone. Elsewhere, Sakai gets a room and catches up on her messages looking for something from Sinclair. She finds a message that he loves her and wants her to come to Minbar so he can explain everything. The book does such a splendid job at filling in the gaps left by the series to our imagination. An Earth representative requests Marcus sign off on a form indicating Arisia was the victim of an “industrial accident.” Marcus knows the whole thing smells, but signs anyway for the money. He plans on using the funds to get to the truth. Meanwhile, UTC suggests Catherine sever ties with Sinclair. She severs her ties with UTC in anger instead. She contacts Minbar and is informed she should not come. She continues to get the runaround until Garibaldi lends her a hand.
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Chapter 19: Catherine Sakai finally arrives on Minbar to see Sinclair. Sakai and Sinclair discuss the legend of Valen. Valen never created the caste system. He elevated the worker caste to equal status with both religious and warrior in the hopes of abolishing the caste system altogether. So the question remained, would Sakai still want to marry Sinclair? She still want to be with Sinclair. Much holding, squeezing and kissing follows.
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Chapter 20: Sinclair dreams he becomes Valen with the bone crest sprouting from his head. Sinclair shares a bit of his shared history with Sheridan to Catherine. Sinclair and Sheridan have known each other since the Academy and have not always been on the same foot. Sinclair is called to a meeting where he learns Delenn has been removed from Grey Council and replaced by Neroon, leaving only two religious caste members. There is now imbalance. We also learn Ulkesh disapproves of Sakai’s presence. “You are the arrow and must not be deflected.” Sinclair is less than happy with Ulkesh, but it's clear Sakai’s presence is going to be a problem.
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Chapter 21: Marcus awaits meeting Sinclair in Tuzanor. It’s ironic his brother had to die to bring Marcus into the fold. After all it was Marcus who intended on carrying on the family business. Here he is on Minbar once again trying to carry out his family and brother’s name. Marcus learns of many Minbari who knew his brother and he is touched. He meets fellow Ranger Inesval who shares his respect for Sinclair with Marcus. Sinclair is revered for defeating the Minbari in hand-to-hand confrontations. I believe we can look to the pilot, The Gathering, of Babylon 5 for a case in point. The second case involves Sinclair kicking “Neroon’s ass.” “Some believe that Sinclair, a Human, may possess at least part of Valen’s soul." You don’t know the half of it pal. The warrior caste fears him. As a group, several met Sinclair and bowed before him, but not Marcus. Sinclair notices. As if speaking directly to Marcus Sinclair announces that all who seek revenge against The Shadows are not welcomed. I really enjoyed this segment regarding the Rangers’ mission statement. “The Rangers are a military group dedicated to nothing less then preserving the future and all life. Even our enemy’s life, if possible. This is by the word of our founder, Valen. We are not looking to annihilate our enemy, only to defeat his aims of destruction. Never forget they are living beings also, however distorted their motives and actions appear to be.” Those are some lofty goals. I mean talk about taking the high moral ground. That is a stiff plan, a noble one, but hard to the core. Marcus likes it. Sinclair speaks with Marcus personally and apologizes to him for his loss. Marcus fills him in on events and on the strange response he received by Earth Central.
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Chapter 22: This would be the lover's spat chapter. You can hear her now. Catherine Sakai sings, “I wanna' be an Airforce Ranger. I wanna live a life of danger.” The two quarrel over her interest in becoming a Ranger. She was an Academy Officer once. She’s unafraid of danger and she would like to be a Ranger. Sinclair worries for her, but relents in the end. They head into their quarters to make mad, passionate love. I don't picture Sinclair as passionate, but Sakai definitely a sensual hottie! This chapter had me thinking about how Garibaldi and Ivanova were asked to be in their wedding in Season One. The episode number escapes me. It seems like ancient history. It had me recollecting how very close Garibaldi was to Sinclair. Their connection was dropped abruptly and Garibaldi had to connect with Sheridan in Season Two from scratch. This in turn got me thinking about how Straczynski has built this wonderful world, fully-realized with a brilliant cast of characters. Building mythology is a careful, delicate and difficult business. It's rare to see someone do it outside of Star Trek. He had it all laid out and dropped his audience smack dab into the ongoing lives of these beings within this complex universe with Season One of Babylon 5. Massive excellence.
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Chapter 23: Ranger training camp with Marcus and Catherine. We are introduced to meditation with instructor Sech Turval. We learn Marcus is less than a fan of this segment of training. Turval makes him a believer in the end. Interesting fact: Every Minbari should learn delight, respect and compassion. Marcus finds meditation less than delightful. Marcus prefers pike and flight training. He’s an action man. Good, because Turval puts a little of his own action on his ass and beats him in one shot. It’s also interesting to note Turval proudly refers to Marcus’ brother William as a once great Ranger. Marcus bows out of respect to his teacher. He is a humbled man who is educated on the importance of meditation [and avoiding a good ass-kicking].
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Chapter 24: Marcus bumps into a praying Sinclair within The Chapel. The two chat and Sinclair recommends he read The Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius. It’s a book about leadership. The two talk intensively about former leader Valen. Marcus overhears Rathenn report to Sinclair as he leaves that Jenimer, The Chosen One, is dying. At this point, we kind of had that sense.
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Chapter 25: Sinclair visits Jenimer at The Chosen One’s palace. I think this chapter is a fine example of how Drennan really fleshes out the world of Straczynski, in this case Minbar. Sinclair holds the hand of his dying friend and Jenimer speaks these important words, “Continue to dream. You dream for us all.” Sinclair clearly represents Minbari hope. There is a great sadness on Tuzanor steeped in a tragic Minbari past that has in some ways crippled the Minbari as dreamers and yet Sinclair can dream there. Moments later, Neroon is given the last dying wish of Jenimer. He is to anoint Sinclair officially as Ranger One in Minbari tradition referred to in Minbari as the Entil’ Zha. Neroon is less than happy, but begrudgingly pays respect to Sinclair out of respect to Jenimer. Two points should be made after reading this chapter. A. Neroon is a right prick! B. For all the knocks I have given Michael O’Hare while watching the Babylon 5 series, I truly can’t imagine anyone else being the character combination that is Jeffrey Sinclair. As I read this book, O’Hare’s every move is embodied in the Sinclair character I have imagined that Drennan has further developed here. O’Hare is indubitably Jeffrey Sinclair and I have learned that I like this man. Funny how things can change.
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Chapter 26: The ceremony to install Sinclair as the Entil’Zha is overseen by Rathenn and Neroon. Neroon presses protocol demanding Sinclair drink the ceremonial sha’neyat, a liquid poisonous to humans. Sinclair agrees to drink one sip to satisfy tradition, which Neroon approves. Sinclair and Sakai proceed to the ceremony where Catherine is his second. Neroon does not disapprove somewhat surprisingly. Inevitably Sinclair takes his sip controlling the internal agony within his body long enough to don the robe of Valen. He whispers to Sakai, “tasted-like-molten lava.” He never sacrifices his humor. Neroon savors his agony with some satisfaction. Sinclair makes it to the medic. He suffers a fever for three nights and finally pulls out of it expressing he had many dreams over the course of those nights. Kosh tries to tell him something. Ulkesh is evil. We got that impression in the series especially following is sadistic treatment of Lyta. We also learn Sinclair's father died in the Dilgar War. I’m not sure of the significance of the Dilgar War just that it did happen. He also dreams about Father Raffelli and his influence on him following the Earth-Minbari War. The good news is Sinclair is alive.
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Chapter 27: Sinclair is proud of his Ranger graduates. It’s especially strange to have them vowing their allegiance to him, in particular his lover Sakai. The saying goes, “I am a Ranger. We walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge and no one may pass. We live for the One. We die for the One.” Sinclair and Sakai discuss having the wedding on Minbar since going to Babylon 5 anytime soon is unlikely. Rathenn and Ulkesh want to discuss Babylon 4 and the timerift and interrupt their conversation. They also discuss Epsilon 3. I have felt right along that Epsilon 3 has seemed kind of useless, but according to the book here it had a lot to do with controlling the temporal rift. I’m not sure I was clear on that watching the series. Again, the Great Machine is capable of manipulating the size of the temporal rift. Having read this, Epsilon 3’s significance seemed a little greater within the context of the Shadow Wars story and Sinclair becoming Valen et.… Sinclair begins to press Ulkesh on the Vorlons’ interest in the Great Machine. He inquires with the Vorlon regarding why The Shadows don't just attack Epsilon 3. It turns out The Shadows are making every effort to expand the rift utilizing their own technology. This chapter really delves into the Epsilon 3/ timerift/ Shadows equation in great detail more so than it was ever dealt within the series. Controlling the rift from Epsilon 3 requires a great deal of energy by the Great Machine and the one controlling it. The White Star prototypes are introduced to us here. There are preparations to take on the Shadows at the point of the temporal rift. The new White Stars will require top pilots. Sakai will be among them. Now, I had another bad feeling about this. I’ve had a bad feeling about Sakai since I started reading the book. I suppose since she was a non-factor in Season Three, Episode 16/17, War Without End I suspected she would wind up pushin' up daisies as they say. So Marcus and Catherine are chosen for the mission to stop The Shadows at the rift. Sinclair is displeased seeing Catherine selected at the top of the pilot list. He volunteers to join them and Rathenn and Ulkesh protest vehemently. Solid literary excitement.
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Chapter 28: Our three heroes converge as a team preparing to take on their mission. The trio studies the enemy, their White Stars and the device they need to destroy. Rathenn has also notified Sinclair he will be joining them on their trip to the Babylon 5 jumpgate. The triad discusses the time-shifting properties of the rift based upon Sinclair’s previous experience. The unit prepares to launch but not before a shuttle lands on their Minbari freighter to deliver three small packages from Epsilon 3. Who delivered those packages? Could it have been Zathras or some derivation of the brotherhood. The three devices are time stabilizers. Each is given one specific to them by Rathenn. After Rathenn departs Sinclair swaps his with Sakai assuming the device that was given to him is even safer than the one she was given. Off to space they go. Why do I get a bad feeling about this? I sound like Han Solo.
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Chapter 29: The threesome engages five Shadows fighters surrounding the detonation device near the time rift. All are destroyed. That went smoother than I expected. The device explodes and disorients the team as they illogically begin getting sucked toward the time rift. Marcus, Catherine and Sinclair begin to pull away when out of nowhere one remaining Shadow ship strikes Catherine. She is now hurtling helplessly toward the rift. Sinclair hopes her Vorlon-based ship has the technology capable of repairing itself. I knew this was coming. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end only that it would end. I just had a bad feeling going into the book regarding Catherine. At this point I knew the rift would close just shy of Sinclair saving her. That’s right Catherine Sakai is lost on the other side of the rift as it closes behind her. Where is Catherine? Could she be with Valen? I guess we’ll never know, but that’s a love story heartbreaker for you. Sinclair is crushed and manages to report to Marcus, “Fighter two is gone.” For Sinclair, his whole world just went right out the time rift window.
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Chapter 30: It was this incident with The Shadows where Sinclair obtained his trademark scar. The man is in a deep state of sadness and anger as he relives the events over and over. He is adamant with Rathenn that he will return as soon as Draal reopens the rift. Ulkesh and Rathenn insist that it is not advisable and nearly impossible to find her. Where could she have gone if she survived and what time? Sinclair once again flies off the handle over the insensitivity of Ulkesh. He informs Rathenn he will deal with him direct and wants no part of the Vorlon. Sinclair agonizes over the loss of Catherine and goes to the temple to ask why. Marcus is there as both try to make sense of it all. In his quarters Sinclair is visited by Kosh. I always liked Kosh. Kosh expresses sadness to Sinclair over his loss, but impresses upon him that he must carry on. Sinclair wants to know why, but merely gets the impression he has a role to fulfill. That’s how it always seems with the Vorlons. It's like a chess game. He craves to know if Catherine is out there to be found. He hears the disembodied voice of Kosh and the hopeful reply, “Perhaps.”
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Chapter 31: Marcus says goodbye to the City of Sorrows, Tuzanor, before heading to Zagros 7 [Drazi country]. I believe this places us closer to the point where we first meet Marcus in the Babylon 5 series as he makes his narrow escape with a Drazi from Zagros 7 in Season Three, Episode 1, Matters Of Honor. The newly scarred Sinclair bids Marcus farewell. Sinclair reminds him to be leary of the Minbari and the Vorlons. Marcus and Sinclair share a disbelief in the concept of pre-destination. They believe their choices influence the future. I would agree our choices in this life do.
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Epilogue: Marcus experiences discomfort following his battle with Neroon. This epilogue clearly takes place following the events of War Without End and Sinclair’s path to become Valen in the distant past [or a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away]. This takes place during the initiation, if I recall correctly, of Delenn's installation as Ranger One. Marcus recalls Sinclair’s mission to the past with Babylon 4 and the irony of it all. You see, Sinclair was a powerful advocate for the future as Ranger One and to see him sacrifice himself to go backwards in time left him shaking his head. Still, it was the future Sinclair was protecting in his choice to go back. This is a pretty significant epilogue.
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This story is at once epic while embracing the intimacy of a love story. Sinclair, according to the TV series, was clearly fulfilling his fate as savior to the future, but the book delivers greater depth and significance to his decision and the thinking that went into that choice. After all Catherine Sakai went through that rift. We did not know that information in the series. The curious question for Marcus was if Sinclair went through the rift out of a sense of duty and mission as The One or for personal reasons to find her. This book offers a whole other layer to the story and I loved it all the more for it. Throughout the story Sinclair fought the Minbari and Vorlon forces that surrounded him as they insisted he had a role to play. It was his destiny or fate. With that destiny awaiting him he was often steered away from veering off that path. Sinclair knew the jig, but he also believed in the goal despite not being entirely clear on it. He didn't necessarily believe all of the hype that surrounded his part in it. He was a firm believer in making individual choice [a truly human trait in most parts] of his own free will. By secretly [and it was a secret; we never knew this in the series] desiring to find Catherine he was able to go back and fulfill prophecy while doing so on his own terms. The beauty of it is that Sinclair sincerely made his choices out of love. The romantic in me would like to believe it was love that championed his greatness and success. Marcus returned to Babylon 5 to examine the philosophical ramifications of the man he knew to be the Entil’ Zha. Sech Turval handed Marcus a letter which suggested Sinclair had found one Catherine Sakai and that they were together. Could Valen have written it in the distant past and ensured Marcus would indeed receive it some day? Did he truly find Catherine or was it something transcendental regarding life and souls and finding delight? Either way it was a beautiful ending to a terrific chapter in the Babylon 5 saga and a solid book telling a single critical portion in this epic tale.
*
To Dream In The City Of Sorrows is a fitting title to the novel by Kathryn M. Drennan. It captures the mood of the book, which is often layered with a sorrowful tone. Further, as the epilogue points out, “To dream in the City of Sorrows, was to dream of a better future.”
*
This is the first book based on the Babylon 5 series I’ve read and it’s a wonderfully written story. Drennan must have made J. Michael Straczynski proud. I’m not sure of his involvement, but it certainly fits into the series like a glove. Like many who have visited here have mentioned before, this is deservedly pure cannon. I thank my fellow Babylonians here for the recommendation.

To Dream In The City Of Sorrows: A-

14 comments:

aris-tgd said...

Well, Kathryn Drennan and JMS are married. :) She got to ask him questions about all those segments of the series as she was writing! She also wrote the first season episode By Any Means Necessary, about the Dock Workers' strike.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

haha I did not know that. I told you I've insulated myself from all the info out there so as not to spoil the show for me. That is too funny. I suppose there must have been some nights of... purely literary discussion. Thanks for that. It explains alot then.

Anonymous said...

Haven't you read the preface of the book? :)

Have a nice x-mas!

M.

Anonymous said...

As for the questions:
Sakai met the Walkers (the First Ones with that disco coloured ship) on Sigma 957. Which is why Sinclair said her situation is “similar but different”. The First Ones, but not the same species of First Ones.

re Entil’Zha: All heads of the Rangers are called Ranger One, but only three of them are called Entil’Zha (“The one who creates the future”).

re importance Epsilon 3: The triluminary, the Chrysalis machine and the time stabilisers came from Epsilon 3. Zathras brought them aboard the White Star in WWE, while Draal controlled the temporal rift via The Great Machine. That was mentioned in War Without End.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Oh my God! Where the heck was my head? I am cracking up. Folks! I skipped the preface. I skipped the bloody Prologue. Granted, I did gather a sense of those chapters reading the other 31 chapters, but I can't believe I missed it. I must have been half a sleep or half in the bag when I started reading this. Thanks M! I rushed downstairs to read those portions. Apart from Kathryn's "love" for Straczynski it still doesn't mentioned they are married, but you'd have to be brain dead not to put it together.

I am totally shaking my head wonderfing how the hell I missed it. Thanks for the head's up. The One To Be Pitied often refers to me as a "genius". This would be one of those moments.

I have updated the entry with the prologue. Doh!

Excuse me while I get my head out of my butt!

By the way, the preface totally explains much from Straczynski and his efforts to make this book a genuine part of the story. It shows. I definitely picked it all of it up without reading it, but they definitely had to hammer through a lot of facts to get it straight. A very commendable job by Drennan!

So it looks like I was right there with you on The First Ones. I thought it was. Thanks for the clarification.

I couldn't remember if the Great Machine was mentioned regarding the temporal rift and never got a chance to go back and check that. Thanks.

Oh and nice to hear from you M....Merry Christmas! All the best in the New Year!

Anonymous said...

Well, it certainly reads like she grilled him for information :D ... he mentioned a couple of times on Usenet how he thought she was smarter than him :)

The prologue and epilogue taken together make for a nice frame for the book.

You can't catch every detail on first viewing (referring to Sigma 957 and Zathras' information). You'll catch a lot more once you review the entire thing.

And re: Sinclair's role in the series, and his replacement by Sheridan. Dare I suggest that you'll be in for a moderate shock once you consult scriptbook 15 for the outline of the original plan.

M.

Anonymous said...

PS: I'm so happy to see you've come to appreciate Sinclair, and even Michael O'Hare. Sometimes it's difficult to explain why we appreciate a character or actor to a newcomer, and that's definitely one of these cases. They just grow on you, the more you see or read about them, and it's very difficult to make a newbie understand exactly why this happens.

In regard to the books, how do you intend to proceed - what's next on your reading list?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M- you're right....it was so well thought out she definitely had J. Michael under one of those Psi Corps interrogation lights. ;)

Definitely, having read the Prologue [now at the end- I'm still shaking my head], both it and the Epilogue definitwely sandwich the story fittingly.

I agree. It's tought to catch everything on first viewing. What may seem fairly trivial can often be so much more.

Thanks M for not giving it away but I look forward to checking out script book 15 hopefully sometime in this life based on more revelations you have hinted to.

I definitely felt the preface by Straczynski detailing the story of Sinclair is exactly how it played out. It gave much more detail on a character I never full appreciated and I appreciated Drennan's story for it.

I'll take your suggestions guys on what to read next. M, your thoughts? I was thinking the Technomage trilogy or the solo shot about Sheridan.

Anonymous said...

The Sheridan one-shot is actually a prequel to the technomage trilogy. It's not that substantial, though.

The only problem with the technomage trilogy is that you haven't been introduced to Galen yet, who's the main character. It's not that the books would spoil anything, but it might be difficult for you to relate to him. Perhaps it's best to just give it a try.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

So my guess is to go with The Shadow Within next. I do have the Bester trilogy in my basement I think as well.

fleurdujardin said...

If you enjoyed that book, I strongly recommend you tackle the "Legions of Fire" Trilogy next. It's the history of Centauri Prime, from the moment Londo becomes Emperor but gets that parasitic creature of the Shadows attached to him, it ends with the liberation of Centauri Prime from the Shadows, the death of Londo and Vir's accession to the throne.

In between, you learn a lot more about Vir and his activities, a surprising view of Lady Mariel (one of Londo's ex-wives), and David Sheridan, John Sheridan and Delenn's son. It's a very good read.

My thanks to my friend Mandrake for having given me the link to this site.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks for joining the fray and to Mandrake as well. It's a tremendous community of science fiction fans out there and thanks for dropping a line.

I actually do have the Legions Of Fire books. I'm double-checking. Yes I do have them and I picked them up some time ago. I believe one of them I really had to hunt down. So I do have them on stand by and I will get to those eventually. I like your synopsis it sounds very interesting to me as I love the Londo character and some of the threads you mentioned. Hope you like the link.

Anonymous said...

Don't read legions until you've finished season 5. They're not spoiler-safe yet.

Happy new year!

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey M! I definitely got that impression from you last we spoke about the books so I won't be touching them until the last. They do sound good.
Happy New Year to you as well. All the best.