I have dived back in to my pile of Fandemonium's Stargate novels recently. I've read two since the disaster that made me take a break from them in the first place. The first was another SG-1 adventure, and it was not too bad, actually. It pretty much did what I would want any Stargate novel to do, which is to say, it felt like a lovely little one-off adventure that could fit nicely within the framework of the series' existing stories. Mostly, it made me remember why I enjoy these books in the first place.
This past weekend I finished up the first Atlantis entry in my pile. Death Game by Jo Graham was actually pretty delightful, I have to say. I was actually quite surprised to go back and look over my shelf of Stargate books and realize this was her first novel in the franchise, because she wrote the characters very well. It didn't hurt that while Major Lorne wasn't one of the points of view we got to read from, he was still one of the main players in the story, and was accompanying McKay, along with Cadman. Lorne and McKay's interactions on the television show always had just an edge of wry humor to them I enjoyed, and Graham was able to keep to that quite nicely. Adding Cadman in to the mix gave another layer of humor that made their scenes even more fun to read.
I only had two quibbles with the book at all, really. The first was something I think that maybe just wasn't caught in the editing stages. McKay makes a reference to the Wraith cruiser on the planet when neither he nor anyone in his party is actually aware of its presence yet at that point in the story. It did throw me for a few moments but I was able to quickly get over it and keep going.
The second was Graham's decision to not have Lorne piloting the jumper, but rather Carson. Yes, Carson has frequently been shown to be flying the puddle jumpers, sure, but only when everyone else with the ATA gene has been incapacitated or is otherwise unavailable to fly for some reason. Granted, it was never established in the series proper whether Lorne's ATA gene was naturally occurring or if he had the gene therapy, but it was quite clear that he does have the gene and quite often he was shown or mentioned to be flying the jumpers. From the way the story was written, it seems as if Graham was unsure of Lorne's place in Atlantis at the time the story was set. The part of me that wants to give Graham the benefit of the doubt here is kind of assuming that because this was set early in the second season (just after the fourth or fifth episode), and Lorne was still new to the galaxy, maybe she had decided that he had the gene artificially and had not yet been given the therapy or been thoroughly trained in flying the jumpers. I don't quite buy that, but I can accept it as a slightly plausible excuse.
Graham used an interesting device in this novel that I didn't think I would like at first and was surprised when I came to enjoy. There were many instances when various characters found themselves in a position where they had nothing to do but sit and wait for something or other. Instead of cutting to another group immediately when the characters on screen (so to speak) came to one of these points, Graham would show them passing the time by taking turns telling each other stories. The stories were mostly about the teller's past. The first few times I came to these parts in the book, I was a little taken aback, I'll admit. But as I said, I rather came to enjoy them. Writing within an existing franchise, there is not as much character development required, because to some extent we the readers already know pretty much all we think we need to know about these characters. Most writers find a way to fit it in here or there regardless of this, but it often feels forced and unnatural since the characters have to more or less revert to their default settings by the end of the book (due to the very nature of these types of stories). With Graham's device she purposely takes you out of the story to give you this background information without taking you out of the story at all. It was very interesting. Granted, it did give the overall work more of a fan-fictiony feel, but not in a way that detracted from the rest of the story.
The adventure itself was quite a fun trip, and it gave a few characters who got little screen time on the show some chances to shine. Most notably, Zelenka plays a very large role in this tale, and he did so quite admirably, I have to say.
I know I am probably predisposed to enjoy a story about the Atlantis crew more than the SG-1 crew because they are nearer and dearer to my heart. But at the same time, like any fan, the more I love something, the more upset I get when someone gets it wrong, so take that for what its worth.
All in all, I look forward to more entries from Graham in the Stargate realm. She is one of the writers for the upcoming Legacy series, which is a group of books set after the end of the television series, since it ended on something of a cliffhanger. She also has written three of her own books, which I am now seriously considering getting to add to my ridiculous Pile of Reading.
April is an excellent month for reading, I have to say--if the weather's lovely I can sit outside and enjoy a book and some sunshine, but if the weather is stormy, well, that just means I can curl up on my couch with a blanket, a good book and a cup of tea. That pile of Stargate books is making this month seem even better!