Monday, January 01, 2007

Book Review: The Cylons' Secret

It's been a few years since I've read a book based on a TV series. Back when Star Trek TNG was on, I actually read quite a few based on that show. But I hadn't been tempted to read any others until I received an offer I couldn't refuse from my new friend Carey Tse in the form of free books. I'm not immune to the temptation of free entertainment, that's for sure. So I have finished the first of two books that he sent me; The Cylons' Secret, by Craig Shaw Gardner. I understood from the description on the back of the book that the story was going to be taking place several years prior to the storyline on the TV series. But I did expect it would feature the Cylons we have come to know on the show because the Six model is shown on the cover of the book. Perhaps it is a nit-picky on my part, but I was kind of bugged as I got further into the book and it became apparent that the human-like Cylons were not going to be a part of the story. However, there are a few surprises in store that made up for my earlier disappointment. First, let me back up a little bit. The book is set 20 years or so prior to where the TV show picks up the story. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that when the TV show starts the Cylons have not been seen by humanity for 40 years following the first Cylon War. As far as the human population knew at the time of the initial uprising, the Cylons were machines that have become self-aware and nothing more. As the book begins, humans have fought the Cylon machines but have no inkling that the Cylons are developing any kind of cyborg technology. Bill Adama is a much younger man that we know now, though he has already been assigned to the Galactica as second in command. Saul Tigh has followed his longtime friend into service on Galactica and is a Captain on the ship. The only other character in the book that we have seen in the series is Tom Zarek, who is known to us all on the show since he is played by Richard Hatch; the original Apollo. I don't want to give too much away since there are those of you who may yet want to read the book. It's a fairly basic story to tell the truth. If they wanted to go back in time and tell this story, it could easily be done in one episode-- two at most. The crux of the story is that a long abandoned outpost in space has been discovered. It's original mission was to develop the relationship between man and machine, creating a society in which Cylons and man could live in a cooperative society as equals. Somehow the outpost appears to have remained neutral from the original Cylon wars, and has finally been discovered. The first to discover the outpost are a group of scavengers, Tom Zarek among them. And not long after that, the Battlestar Galactica also discovers the isolated post. The main mystery at this point in the book is regarding the Cylons who inhabit the outpost with the few remaining humans. We don't know if these Cylons are aware of the earlier war or how self-aware they are. Mostly the book works. The problem I usually have with books associated with TV series is that they are never as able to make the story as in depth as I like. I'm sure they are unable to due to the constraints put on them by the producers of the show; after all, they can't reveal too many secrets can they? Another small nit I have with the book is that the author doesn't spend much time describing the characters. We already have an idea in our head of what Adama and Tigh look like, we only have to imagine them a bit younger. But I can only think of one other character in the book that is given much of a physical description. But other than that, I did enjoy the book. The story is a fast read and there were some revelations in the last chapters that made it worthwhile in my opinion. The dialogue is brisk and mostly believable. And ultimately it does attempt to answer some questions I have had all along about the Cylons and the progression from pure machine to something almost human. Don't expect a book that is especially deep, but expect to be entertained. It is better if you know the series before you read the book, though it probably is possible to read it and understand it otherwise. But like most books associated with a TV show, a certain amount of knowledge about the subject matter is expected. I do think this book is pretty much purely for fans of the show as it isn't a terribly in-depth story. I remember when I read the Star Trek books, some were better than others. This one isn't bad, but I doubt it'll rank as the best in the series.

13 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I read quite a few Star Trek tie-ins, mostly for the original show, and almost always enjoyed them. But I haven't done it much since, although I have read a few novelizations.

ShadowFalcon said...

They have battlestar books? Ok I have to but them!

the TNG books were awesome.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Oooohhh, two book reviews in a row. I like that. I've read this book as well, but found myself feeling fairly indifferent.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Too funny.. I reviewed the book today too! LOL

SQT said...

Stu

I was too, until pretty much the very end. I think the last two chapters or so are what made it a decent read.

I've started on the second one and it seems like it'll be better.

DesLily said...

I don't read sci fi books.. I did way back when on the original Star Trek, but that's because I knew the author (he), Carmen Carter.

It's still hard for me to imagine the voice of cylons.. since "back in the day of the original Battlestar Galactica" Jonathan Harris was the voice to the "tall guy" with the roving red "eye" lol

The Curmudgeon said...

Haven't followed this edition of Gallactica... it's been awfully dark. (Yes, I watched Battlestar Ponderosa back in the day. Don't hold that against me.)

I used to read all the Star Trek books: There are some that are worth looking for, namely, any by Peter David (whose other fantasy work includes the Sir Apropos of Nothing series which is structually a take-off on Gulliver's Travels and a take-off on almost everything else within that framework).

Back to TNG: In addition to contributing to other series, Peter David did a whole series, with (mostly) his own characters, which I believe is continuing (the New Frontier series) -- very enjoyable.

Professor Xavier said...

Is that book anything like Victoria's Secret? If so, I'm there. Especially if it's illustrated.

SQT said...

The other BSG book I was sent is written by Peter David and already I can tell it's going to be much better than the first one. Plus, it's about all the main characters which I like. I'll have that review up fairly soon.

jedimerc said...

I'll certainly have to check out the one by Peter David since his skill in the Babylon 5 novels are evident (and unlike many Star Trek tie-ins, they are canon). I would assume these BSG novels are such.

SQT said...

I'm about 85 pages into the Peter David one, and it is quite a bit superior to the other one.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

I'm excited to start on the new one soon.. I just have to rotate genres a bit before starting it. Can't read the same thing in a row.

Mother Jones RN said...

I LOVE books! Thank you for the book review.

Happy New Year.

MJ