Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Satisfying, quick and fun ... again

"The Cost of Honor" by Sally Malcolm picks up where "A Matter of Honor" left off very well. The story seeds planted in the prequel have some very surprising results as well as consequences. Rather than following military protocol and asking permission first, Colonel Jack O'Neill mounts an unauthorized rescue mission of SG-10 using the stolen gravitational technology to slip through the crushing grasp of a black hole. This "breaking faith" becomes a thematic conflict for all of the characters. One by one they must come to terms with the relationship that they have broken faith with, and how, if it is possible at all, they can redeem themselves. The plot that emerges from that conflict is very well done. It makes this novel the strongest story written in the SG-1 line so far.

A simple truth is that the hardest thing in the SG-1 universe for an author to do is to get the characterizations right. Sally Malcolm did an admirable job bringing our favorite Jaffa, Teal'c, to life in the pages of this book. The mannerisms were spot on. His subtle humor was natural and effectively presented. I liked her presentation of General Hammond very much, especially in her deepening of his character through his struggles with the central theme of the story. She perfectly captured the basic weasel in Senator Kinsey's character, and kept him squirming through to the very last page.

In three places in "The Cost of Honor" the author missed the characterization mark. The peek that we get into Samantha Carter's head very early in the story is especially uncomfortable. It is one thing to wonder if she will "fall apart", but another entirely to deny the military bearing and professional demeanor that we've come to expect from her character. She is military and would focus on the mission first, there would be time to second guess decisions made along the way and mourn later. Along the same lines, Jack O'Neill is NOT a "kill or be killed" kind of guy. He is a military man and a professional. That means that he is a principled warrior. We've seen that aspect of his character consistently over the years and we've come to expect better of him than a mere "law of the jungle" player. We expect him to behave consistently on other matters too. On page 308 when Carter "dies", Jack O'Neill does nothing to her killer even though he is standing right there with a gun against the killer's (Koash) chest. Even though this "death" isn't real (an illusion because of the sheh'fet), Jack would have certainly shot Koash first - before he had the chance to injure Carter like he did, and if not, then certainly afterward. Consistency is expected of all the characters, especially from the heroic characters of Daniel Jackson, Teal'c, Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill. The SG-1 canon has never wavered on that point. Taking liberties with the heroic nature of these four characters is -- CHEATING. Don't do it! These miscues are the only weakness that mattered to me in the story because the storyline is so strong and (otherwise) well done.

This book is definitely worth a read, even if you have to hold your nose to cross these few bad paragraphs. All the rest of the 362 pages of "The Cost of Honor" are a pleasure to read.

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