Babylon 5 is one of my favorite television shows, so it would seem that I would have gotten into the books much sooner than now, but it just never happened. I guess I had too much else to do. I learned about this book when I became involved with The Babylon Project Podcast. As my co-host and I discussed several of the first season episodes, Raul would mention To Dream In The City Of Sorrows and he kept telling me that it was an essential story that I should read to answer some of the questions that were raised in the first season. Some of the questions I had were…
- How did Sinclair become Ambassador to Minbar and how did he become Eltil’zha?
- How did Sinclair appear as his older self on Babylon 4 at the same time he was commander of Babylon 5?
- Sinclair proposed Marriage to Catherine Sakai, did they ever get married?
All of these questions and more are answered in this story.
[With the beginning of the second season of Babylon 5, command of the station is taken over by John Sheridan. Ivanova tells explains that Commander Sinclair has been permanently reassigned to another post, there is no more to that story until later in the series. So, City of Sorrows picks up where the first season leaves off.
Not only has Sinclair been reassigned to earth, he is made Ambassador to Minbar. As he goes about his duties there, he finds that he is being sequestered for some unknown reason. He is unable to contact anyone to get advice and orders. Mainly his duties are to meet and greet visitors to Minbar from Earth. When he decides that he is not able to function effectively as ambassador, he decides to resign and leave, but before he can get away, he is informed by a member of the Grey Council that he is to become the head of a highly trained group of people known as the Rangers.
Meanwhile, Catherine Sakai is busy running her business doing planetary surveys looking for the mineral known as Q-40 that is essential in the construction of jump gates. She has no idea what is happening to SInclair.
This book also covers the back story of Marcus Cole, who isn’t introduced as a character in the television series until the third season as an important Ranger. Marcus runs the family business of processing the Q-40 for use. When his facilities are attacked and destroyed by the Shadows, who at this point are only making attacks on smaller targets, Marcus not only sees his family fortune go up in flames, but he sees his brother killed. With nothing to lose, and as his dying brother directs with his last words, Marcus proceeds to Minbar to enter Ranger training.
With difficulty, Catherine manages to avoid being killed by the shadows who pursue her through hyperspace, and is eventually, with the help of Garibaldi, reunited with Sinclair on Minbar, where she enters Ranger training.
When a rift in Sector 14 is discovered that might allow Shadow ships to get through, the action of the story escalates to an even higher level as the trio set about finding a solution to the problem.
As far as I am concerned, This is essential reading for fans of Babylon 5. It is a great story and one of the strongest points is that it is completely accurate as far as the portrayal of the characters and in their voice. As one reads, one can hear the voices of every character that appears in the series. That action is fast paced and I would love to think that it would have made an awesome television film.
This should come as no surprise when one considers that the author, Kathryn Drennan was married to the creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS). According to JMS, Drennan is the only person who knows as much about the B5 universe as he does, and this story came out of the authors affection for the Sinclair character as well as her affection for Michael O’Hare, the actor who portrayed him.
If there is any question about whether this book is canon or not, it can be put to rest. In the introduction to the book, JMS writes that the book is indeed canon and should be read with that in mind. This is confirmed in an interview in which JMS states, “this one is 100% canon...it's also the most exhaustive attempt to tie in all the storylines done to date. Anybody wants to know what happened to Sinclair, it's in the book. That's a genuine chapter of the story arc.”
Along with penning the B5 first season episode, By Any Means Necessary, Drennan has a few other impressive credits including working with Carl Sagan on Cosmos, and for working with Michael Piller on Star Trek: TNG. I find it very unfortunate that she has not written more extensively on other projects, whether they are B5 related or not. This lady has some great writing chops.
Raul (Babylon Project Podcast co-host) and I discussed this book briefly and we are at odds (however friendly) as to when this book should be read. I think that one should read right after the end of the first season, but Raul thinks that one should read just prior to the third season because of the introduction of the Marcus character. Either way, even the casual B5 fan will really enjoy this story and it comes with my highest recommendations.
One day, I hope in the not too distant future, Raul and I will cover this book on our podcast. Please stay tuned.
Well, there it is…