‘Transitions’ is a Tragedy

PlayItGrand March 19, 2012 2 Comments »

The 18th book in Fandemonium’s arsenal of Stargate SG-1 novels is out. Written by Sabine C. Bauer, Transitions falls shockingly short.

Sabine Bauer is not a newbie to the Stargate franchise. Her first novel, Trail by Fire, was the first Stargate book Fandemonium ever published, and I decided right then and there that I really liked her work. Later she wrote Survival of the Fittest, another fantastic SG-1 story, and then she took on Atlantis with Mirror MirrorTrial by Fire was very accurate as far as the franchise canon goes. It is set in season seven and does very well at playing into Daniel’s return from Ascension and Jack’s previous encounter with our friend Baal. After having endured the work of American authors who didn’t know their Jaffa from their Tok’ra, I adored Bauer’s well researched and original story, and my favorite original character of all time. It is truly worthy of it’s own review, which I promise I will get to.

Mirror Mirror was a little different from Trial by Fire as far as plot style. It is in some ways psychological test of the characters. The characters encounter a device that fractures time, spitting each character off though all the potenial forks in the road that they could have taken. For instance, we see what could have happened to Elizabeth Weir if, after waking to rotate the ZPMs, the statis chamber wouldn’t work again and she is left alone in a sleeping city as seen in ‘Before I Sleep’. While it is a season two story and I am not as well trained in Atlantis canon as some fans I know, I didn’t find any obvious errors and I really enjoyed the book.

Survival of the Fittest is definitely the meatiest of Bauer’s first three books. I really enjoyed the depth of the story, and it is still among my favorite books of the novel series. However, it has a canyon-sized plot hole. According to events that the characters mention, the main antagonist, the ever annoying Colonel Simons, should have been in jail along side his pet Goa’uld. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way for Bauer to have sidestepped this gaping hole and still keep all of her puzzle pieces. It was a real shame but I forgave her and I highly recommend the book.

Transitions, however . . . . I think that Bauer bit off much more than she could chew. Transitions is an SG-1/Atlantis crossover novel, and it is the first of its kind. Sonny Whitelaw and Elizabeth Christensen wrote Blood Ties, which is basically an Atlantis novel that includes Daniel Jackson. (I highly recommend it!) Transitions however is a true two full cast crossover. This made reading fun but not in a good way. Every time something huge happened on Earth with SG-1, the next chapter would send you to Atlantis until another cliffhanger chapter sent you back. In most stories this works really well, but in Transitions, the related events taking place between Earth and Atlantis took much too long to come together despite the prologue that attempted to provide the trigger event for the whole book.

I was so excited about this book when I first started hearing about it because it is the first book to bring back Cassandra Fraiser, the adopted daughter of the late lamented Dr. Janet Fraiser. Fans only saw Cassie three times during the course of the series, but it is a widely held belief that she is an integral part of SG-1’s life outside of Cheyanne Mountain. I became a lot more skeptical when I realized that the book would also be a crossover. I mean, that’s a lot to cram into 341 pages. It is a truly daunting task, which is no doubt why no one has tried it before! Plus, I really feel that Cassie should have been on the cover of this book!

Sometimes the devil is in the details, but for Transitions the devil is in the timing. The story is set right after SG-1’s season 8 concluded. The Goa’uld are decimated and declawed, the Replicators have been destroyed, Brigadier General Jack O’Neill has been offered another promotion and a position in Washington, Daniel Jackson is packing to go to Atlantis, Teal’c is on Dakara helping to establish the new Jaffa nation, and Sam Carter is trying to figure out what she is going to do next without her team. This is a perfectly fertile place for this novel, and it does a really good job of filling in that gap of time before season nine when the show returned and for fans, it was a nightmare without explanation. Not only does it show how we got there, but it also goes a long way to explain why Sam chose to lead R&D because Cassie was going through a “tough time.” Unfortunately filling in that gap is the only thing this story does well.

The timing goes absolutely haywire when it comes to Atlantis. At this point in time if compared to SG-1, Atlantis was under siege by the Wraith, completely cut off from Earth until the Daedalus and troops came to help them. Since the story couldn’t work into those events, it was necessary for Bauer to fudge things a little. I completely understand the rational, and it didn’t bother me. She had to place this story after ‘The Siege Part 3’. I can even see why she had to place it after ‘The Intruder.’ What I don’t get is why she placed it after ‘Runner,’ bringing Ronan to the team, and didn’t include any awkwardness or references in to point out the fact that he’s brand new, he doesn’t know the rules yet, we can’t completely trust him yet, and he barely talks! Instead Ronan seems to be completely settled into his role on John Sheppard’s team. It didn’t fit, and it wouldn’t have hurt the story to slip in a reference or two, but I let it slide.

After I got past that hurtle things were actually going quite well. The characters are captured perfectly. One of the things that Bauer does particularly well is wry humor. No matter what’s going on, she always manages to put you in stitches of laughter. For instance, there’s a scene where McKay is in a jumper trying to escape the attention of some Wraith Darts. He is discovered, and as one of the Darts races straight towards him, sharp end first, he mentally comments that he is about to become a McKay-kabob, a new staple of the Wraith diet! We also get some fantastic moments courtesy of General Landry and Richard Woolsey. Landry muscles his way into the SGC when Jack disappears, and Woolsey follows to whine and complain that Landry’s post at the SGC hasn’t been confirmed. The scene, as given from Landry’s point of view, is pure gold with his whit. I adore moments like this.

My fun came to a grinding halt when I hit page 211. By this point it is clear that something is going wrong in Atlantis, but no one outside the city knows what yet. Suddenly Colonel Chekov is contacting the SGC which a message from the Daedalus in the Pegasus galaxy. Chekov is on the Korolev, which, they say, was given the strongest of three ZPMs, and has an intergalactic subspace transmitter that the Russians aren’t sharing. WHOA, hold your horses! What the heck is this? The Korolev, they mentioned, was rushed into service just in time for the battle with the Ori at the supergate in ‘Camelot’ at the end of season nine! And what is this about three ZPMs? The only ZPM involved in this story should be the one recovered by SG-1 in ‘Moebius’ and then sent to Atlantis to help them in ‘The Siege Part 3’. Additionally, there is not one mention of the Prometheus, which should still be out there somewhere. I can’t reconcile this!

On the next page it gets worse, and Bauer’s timing mistake becomes clear. We suddenly have a new commander aboard the Daedalus. A new character, Major Laval has taken the place of Colonel Caldwell because he is still recovering after the Trust put a Goa’uld in him! This points to the Atlantis episode ‘Critical Mass’, which is episode THIRTEEN of the second season. As I said, I understood why Bauer had to work from after episode one or two, but thirteen? No way! It doesn’t track, it’s nowhere close! I can’t think of a good reason for it either. If Bauer didn’t feel comfortable writing for Caldwell, I can understand that. I have yet to involve a Goa’uld directly in any of my fan fiction because I’m not convinced that I can pull it off.  However, to me this Major Laval that she created to take Caldwell’s place sounds a lot like Caldwell anyway. Placing events after ‘Critical Mass’ just to write him out is pretty extreme. Plus, I can’t buy that the Air Force would let a Major be in command of any of our interstellar ships. Previously it has always been a Colonel or a General. Colonel Ronson, Colonel Pendergast, Colonel Ellis, etc. I’m sorry, but there’s no way they would trust a Major to be in command unless it was a truly special circumstance, and I don’t believe this would qualify.

Just a couple pages later Bauer compounds the problem. Rodney is in a jumper and he remembers the events of ‘Grace Under Pressure’, which is episode fourteen of the second season of Atlantis. While Bauer uses the events of that episode to great comedic effect in her story, she continues to skew the timeline in a way that I just can’t condone.

CAUTION: It is difficult to continue to explain where this book went wrong without explaining the story in greater detail, so please beware of spoilers!

There are many forces at work in this story. First in the prolog you have a mysterious woman named Amara who is definitely up to no good and it has to do with Atlantis. Then you have Cassandra, who is now just starting college. Coincidentally she has discovered that Nirrti didn’t completely cure her of her telekinetic powers in ‘Rite of Passage’. Cassie occasionally wakes up with something floating in her room, out of her control. While this seems extremely convenient to me I believe it because it is Nirrti after all. Cassie doesn’t tell anyone, afraid that she’ll find herself stuck in Area 51. Someone heard something though because suddenly she’s being kidnapped. Before you can say “Fer cryin’ out loud” SG-1 is looking for her.

Meanwhile, people are getting sick in Atlantis. A biological virus is attacking people while a computer virus is preventing the quarantine protocols from stopping the spread of the infection and messing with the systems across the board. The reader knows that this somehow involved Amara, but the explanation is a long time in coming.

As they chase down Cassie’s kidnappers, SG-1 runs into an old old acquaintance. I don’t want to give it away, it is a wonderful surprise! Let’s just stay that he faints at the sight of SG-1! His help is invaluable in catching up with Cassie.

This is where the details ruin the story once again. To bring the whole story together at last, SG-1 plus two guests go to Atlantis. We know that this is all wrong because Daniel never makes it to Atlantis until ‘the Pegasus Project’ in season nine, after the emergence of the Ori. Given how many times Daniel complains about that fact in early season nine I don’t understand how Bauer missed it. She could have avoided this by having only our two friends go, maybe accompanied by Jack. This would have kept it much closer to canon.

SG-1 and company know that people are sick and dying in Atlantis, and they know why. A version of the Ancient plague was set loose on the city by an old enemy, and now that enemy wants to correct the terrible mistake.  Do you want to know how they cure the plague? They use an antidote synthesized from blood samples from Teal’c and Sam, the assumption being that they have an immunity to the virus after Ayiana cured them in ‘Frozen’. This really frustrated me because it is a huge and implausible cheat of a way out. If SG-1 are immune, why wasn’t their blood used to create a cure when people on Earth were infected in ‘The Fourth Horseman’? Plus, Dr. Beckett had determined that this version of the virus was different from the one Ayiana carried because it was only infecting people with the ATA gene. Sam and Teal’c don’t have the gene, so I don’t see how they could have helped.

Even worse, a far more plausible and precedented cure is right under everyone’s nose. Colonel Sheppard contracted the virus and was cured by, well, other means. In ‘The Fourth Horseman Part 2’ Gerak used his power as a Prior to cure the SGC personnel of the disease, and then samples from those people provided a cure for the general population. By this standard, one should expect that only Sheppard now has the necessary immunity to create an vaccine.

Finally, in an epilogue, Bauer makes one final error. We learn the truth of Amara’s origins, literally. She is a follower of the Ori. She was the one who placed the virus in Atlantis as an attack on the Ancients there who had denounced Origin. Seeing that her attack was hurting the wrong people, she chose to help them and renounce the Ori in the process. The Ori become aware of this, and at the same time they become aware of the Pegasus galaxy, the Milky Way, and all it’s people who need to me shown the path to Origin. While this was a reasonable consequence of what Amara did, I don’t buy it because the Ori never once made any attempt to convert the Pegasus galaxy, and they didn’t send a Prior to the Milky Way until after Daniel and Vala made contact with them. There was no reason for them to wait. The Milky Way may be more populated, and the Wraith may have given the Ori a reason to pause for half a second, but ultimately their all-powerful egos would have won, and I don’t think the Wraith would be able to hold out against them. If they knew about Pegasus, they would have sent their crusade there as well, and it was a miracle that they never did find out. In my mind this is another grave error.

I love the Fandemonium novels. Even when I find canon errors that annoy me I have always found enough good in each book that I feel I can honestly recommend it to my fellow fans. I can’t explain how much it pains me to admit that I can’t honestly say that Transitions is a good book worthy of the franchise on which it is based. The errors are too blatant and too easily avoided, and the solution to the plague was anti-climactic even if it had been properly based in the canon. There are still scenes that I love, and Bauer’s humor can’t be beat, but it would be too much to say that those moments are enough to make up for the mess. I don’t know if Fandemonium has someone well versed in the franchise that reads the books before publishing or not. If they do, that person really dropped the ball when they approved this novel. If they don’t have someone, I would be thrilled to volunteer!

As much as it hurts, I give Transitions one out of five SpaceGypsy wagons, and I caution anyone that gets a copy, if you are at all inclined to analyze books the way I have done, you will not enjoy this story the way it is meant to be enjoyed.

You can order your copy of Transitions or any other Fandemonium novel from their website, or you can download the books for your Amazon ebook reader.

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2 Comments

  1. CleoNo Gravatar March 19, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I have a very low opinion of the Fandy novels in general because of a history of poor characterization, canonical errors, and blatant ‘shipping. Sad to see the lack of quality continues.

    • PlayItGrandNo Gravatar March 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Hi Cleo, thanks for the feedback! I’m sorry that you have not been satisfied with the Fandemonium novels. I can’t help but want to stress again that this is the only book out of over 30 that I have not been able to honestly recommend. I love all the other books, even when I catch a canon error. As a writer I sympathize with how hard it can be to keep tabs on as much as 15 seasons of canon history. I plan on going back to the early books and continuing to review this series.

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