RogerBW's Blog

Reliquary, Martha Wells 13 May 2024

2006 TV tie-in science fiction. The Stargate team from Atlantis explores a new planet…

Well, this is what it takes to get me to read a tie-in book these days: an author of this calibre writing it, so that even after the inevitable constraints added by the marketing people what's left is actually pretty decent. (Is the tie-in novel the new oulipo?)

This novel was published relatively early in the series' run, so this setting is still the scrappy explorers of season 1 rather than the big factional fights of the later seasons. This book in fact was the first original prose material, since the first volume Rising was an adaptation of the pilot script.

There are things here that wouldn't be completely compatible with things developed later in the series. More significantly, the series big villain the Wraith aren't here at all; instead this book deals with exploring an Ancient ruin. (Aha, a recurrent theme in Wells' own writing and perhaps why she got involved in this.)

There is room for a bit more thoughtfulness than a 42-minute television episode can support: if having a particular genetic pattern leaves you able to operate Ancient technology, at a distance rather than just when it's wrapped round your head, that must mean that there's some kind of signal going between you and the tech. So perhaps there's something analogous to an electromagnetic field. And if someone tried to copy that and got it slightly wrong, well, it's reasonable that it might leave you feeling uneasy…

Most of the emphasis is on principal characters from the series, and their personalities are clearly constrained, but Wells manages to get a bit more in too—for example. how Sheppard the Air Force pilot hates having civilians along on missions because he knows he can't protect them when things go bad. The emphasis is on Sheppard and McKay, which was always one of the stronger relationships on the show. (You could pick up what's going on and who's who from context, but this is designed to be sold to fans of the show, not newcomers.)

The only real problem for me is that, by the nature of the tie-in, nothing here can have consequences in other books, so it's all tied off a little too neatly.

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