Babylon 5: Deadly Relations – Bester Ascendant – Gregory Keyes

Bester Ascendant Book Cover

Title: Babylon 5: Deadly Relations – Bester Ascendant
Author: J. Gregory Keyes
Published by:Del Rey Books
Publication date: 1st July Aug. 1999
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 266
Format: Paperback
Source: Private Collection

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Blurb/Synopsis

Born in the fire and terror of the twenty-second century, the Psi Corps – a group of elite telepaths used to control their own kind – became a finely tuned instrument of oppression. Only the underground, under the determined leadership of Matthew and Fiona Dexter, held out and hope for freedom.

But in 2195, the underground was shattered. The Dexters were killed, and their only son – the brightest hope for the future – was claimed by Psi Corps. To sever all connection with the past, the child was given a new name: Al Bester. From that moment forth, to Bester, “the Corps was mother, the Corps was father.”

Bester was a telepath of exceptional ability. Ambition drove him to be Psi Corps’ most ruthless operative and to seek to become its master. To attain that goal, he would pay any price, betraying love, friendship and humanity. And one day he would step into the void beyond death, to confront his own soul – or what remained of it…

Review

A direct follow on from the previous book in the ‘Psi-Corps Trilogy’. Deadly Relations; Bester Ascendant gives us a more direct route into the Babylon 5 character Alfred Bester. Whereas Dark Genesis gave us a much broader overview into the creation of telepaths and the Psi-Corps in the Babylon 5 world setting, Deadly Relations really only follows the path of one character; Alfred Bester. Almost needless to say, Deadly Relations is a tie-in with the TV series Babylon 5.

Starting at the age of six years old already initiated into the Psi-Corps unit Cadre Prime – where young telepaths are raised by the Corps and not their families. Going through the details of Besters life growing up, right until the characters introduction in the Babylon 5 Episode Mind War. Deadly Relations documents the life and rising through the Psi-Corps ranks. The journey in which a young child takes throughout the majority of his life, from infancy to adulthood. The highs and lows of it all.

There is a lot of ground to cover for the character and at points some of the events that the character goes through may seem frivolous. However, many of them do seem to end up tying in to the book unexpectedly further on down the line. A lesson that holds a specific event in youth comes back into play much later in life.

I am a big fan of character development and Deadly Relations has it in bucketloads. You can see the exact point in which the life and spark goes out of Bester and is replaced with dry wit and subtle sarcasm. There are many events, some of which leave the reader sad for the character, other times triumphant and more times, horrified.

Unlike the previous book in the trilogy, Dark Genesis, Deadly Relations doesn’t have the same level of world building or political intrigue. It does however leave the reader with a clear impression of what the Psi-Corps is all about and how institutionalised it’s members from Besters era are. It makes for an interesting read in a lot of senses because not only are we given a richly built character whose viewpoint we see this all from, we’re presented it in a way that makes sense to them. Bester knows nothing else other than the life he has been given. Other than the scant choices he has been forced to make. They all unwrap to make the character complete and give some personal level of justification for his choices further down the line.

At it’s core Deadly Relations is a book about emotions and character relationships. How Bester does, or doesn’t get along with others. How he treats and reacts to other characters within the book. How his hopes and dreams with said characters play out. At times it’s very moving and at others heart-breaking. It’s a compelling story that, as a reader, you root for the characters even with knowing what he is to become later.

Where the books suffers is more from a lack of solid plot, much like Dark Genesis. Deadly Relations reads like a biography and as such tends to illustrate key events in the characters life rather than have a larger over-arching story. Other characters tend to come and go rather quickly and don’t leave as much as a lasting impression on the reader as they do the central character. There are a couple of other characters that have cameo roles, Lyta Alexandra and Byron Gordon; they aren’t particularly well fleshed out as their page lime is rather limited. This book is entirely about Bester, his life, his thoughts, his reactions to events and how everything he has experienced has shaped him.

I admit, I enjoyed this book mostly because I enjoyed the character while watching the TV series. As such, I don’t know how unbiased my review of this book really is.

Summary

My most biased review to date. A detailed, fictional, biography describing the events in Alfred Besters life. Probably not a great read for those not already invested in either the character of the Babylon 5 setting, but for those who are. It’s really pretty awesome.

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