Title: Babylon 5: Final Reckoning – The Fate of Bester
Author: J. Gregory Keyes
Published by:Del Rey Books
Publication date: 12th Nov. 1999
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Private Collection
The Psi Corp’s reign of terror reaching new heights and a civil war developing to overthrow Alfred Bester’s monstrous regime. As Interstellar Alliance President John Sheridan intervenes to stop the bloodshed, his first mission is to hunt down war criminals. Bester goes from dreaded hunter to fleeing prey and must confront the hell he created, choosing between surrender or survival.
The final book in the Psi-Corps Trilogy, you expect it to be an exciting , action packed thrill ride, much like sections of the second book in the trilogy. You expect a bit of enlightenment into the large-scale telepath war that has been hinted at in the synopsis.
Alas, this book is set some 40ish years after the second book in the Psi-Corps Trilogy, the Telepath War has happened already and Alfred Bester is now hunted as a War Criminal. There is scant details of the Telepath War aside a few references to the heinous acts committed by Bester. This is itself is a bit of a middle finger to the reader who was expected some of the gapping holes left by the series to be filled in.
Sadly, it gets worse. Considering that Bester is on the run you then expect a long standing game of hunt he rogue telepaths or Teeps vs Blips. Again, as hinted at in the first two books in the trilogy. For the vast majority of the book we don’t really get that. Don’t get me wrong, there are hints of it spread throughout the book. We’re shown the levels of deception that Bester has implanted throughout the newly formed Earth Alliance and the contacts that he has remaining in order for him to stay one step ahead, but nothing really comes of it.
At this point, Bester is in his 80s and is pretty much done with it all. He wants to go back to Earth on the flimsy reasoning that he can hide better in a crowd rather than base-hopping throughout known space. So, off he pops, very easily through interstellar security and finds a home for himself in Paris and does some very out of character things. Settles down with a normal – which he has proclaimed to hate throughout both series and previous novels – becomes a book critic!
I think the most tragic thing about the conclusion that Final Reckoning offers is the plain and simple fact that it becomes a romantic sub-plot. Bester sure knows how to go through the ladies despite being written as a man who has never really known love – Montoya, Carolyn, Alisha are clearly forgotten at this point. While we, as humans, can fall in love with anyone at any point, there is a rather hefty age gap between Bester and the love interest too, it all just rings a bit hollow somehow. I think for a character that has been presented to us as highly intelligent and able to covertly escape the clutches of the law so many times to go down this route on a whim seems to break all the foundations of his being. Much like the relationship, it all feels hollow.
Louise, the love interest, as a character feels flat and somewhat lack-lustre. Bester is attracted to her sense of life, much like Elizabeth Montoya. Yet, this sense of invigoration doesn’t come across too well in the writing. She comes across as easily-led, dispassionate and lonely. I fail to see why Bester would find her an appealing partner and one that he would throw all sense of fleeting rationality away for.
Also on the scene is Micheal Garibaldi; I was non-to-fond of Garibaldi in the Babylon 5 series, but there was a grudging admiration for his plight. In Final Reckoning he comes across as a selfish, spoilt bully that pushes his weight around to get what he wants. It’s not an attractive read and and any sympathy I could have felt for what Bester had done to him in the series was quickly squandered by his actions and irritating mannerisms. I don’t recall him as being over-zealous in Babylon 5 itself?
The plot is dire. We miss the fun and action of the Telepath War and in it’s place are given a somewhat creepy, predatory romantic sub-plot. The book improves slightly well after the 50% mark, where Garibaldi is gaining grounds on Bester and they come to the inevitable head to head.
There’s also a very bitter-sweet note to the very end of Final Reckoning, but you have to get through a lot of dirge to get to it. Is it worth it? Maybe if you’re a sucker for punishment.
Honestly, for me, there was a lot about Final Reckoning that was a let down, especially after the build up of the previous two books. I’d much have preferred to read a book about the much hinted at telepath war and feel somewhat gypped by what I was given in it’s place.