Customer Reviews: Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester (Babylon 5)
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The year is 2271. The telepath war is over, and many of the old Psi Corp leaders are on the run or in prison as war criminals. Bester has managed to evade his pursuers. But with Garibaldi using the Edgars' fortune to find him, can he stay hidden for much longer?
I will admit I didn't enjoy the other two books in this series as much as I had hoped I would. But, being a fan of the TV series, I kept reading. This book is much better then the others, partially because the author has a definite story to tell. The plot was engrossing, and I had a hard time putting it down. Keeping the tradition of the series alive, it doesn't give pat answers, but raises some interesting questions about telepaths and their treatment. The characterizations are top notch, and there are times I could "hear" Bester, Garibaldi, and Lise from the show.
This book may not break any new ground plot wise and probably won't appeal to anyone who hasn't watched the show, but for those who have, this is must reading that will hook them from start to finish.
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on February 22, 2004
This book, based on an outline from Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski (so you know it's official), covers the period in B5's history detailing the final years in the life of Psi Cop Alfred Bester.
There are many parts of the Babylon 5 story that have only been hinted at throughout the series, the Telepath War being one of the biggest. Not many questions are answered about that in this book, being that it's set after the war and it's obvious Bester was on the losing side. Now hiding out as a literary critic in Paris, Bester actually makes an effort to put all that behind him, but Michael Garibaldi is soon on his trail, not forgetting what Bester did to him long ago and is out to settle the score.
One thing I liked is how grounded on Earth the Psi Corps Trilogy was. There were scenes on other worlds and brief appearances by aliens, the first book briefly touching on Earth's first contact with the Centauri, but for the most part it concentrated on humans, on Earth, and how all the various peoples and factions involved dealt with "the telepath problem." This book wraps up the life of the Babylon 5 villain you just love to hate, and it's a must-read.
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on January 15, 2001
Spin-offs from television series usually leave a lot to be desired. But Babylon 5 was no ordinary series. And while the five year series was complete unto itself, questions were left unanswered and fascinating side trips were unexplored. This isn't a complaint, it's part of what made the series so unique and special.
The Psi Corp trilogy (made up of: 1) Dark Genesis: The Birth of the Psi Corp; 2) Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant; and 3) Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester) provides critical background B5 fans will relish and entertaining insight into what made Al Bester one of Babylon 5's most fascinating characters. The fact that they're based on an outline by J. Michael Straczynski makes all three books "authorized" B5 history.
The first book, Dark Genesis, is the weakest of the three. While the topic will be of interest to Babylon 5 fans (and of little interest to anyone else), it can't help but come off as anything more than a travelogue populated by cardboard characters. Too much needs to be explained to allow much focus on plot or character development. Instead, the book often comes off less like a novel and more like a "script bible" for the television series, painting the back story for episodes featuring the Psi Corp.
In the final two books of the trilogy, however, Keyes does a fine job of capturing Bester, one of the series most intriguing characters. He not only relates his life, but he even makes him likeable - at times. Deadly Relations takes place before most of the events covered by the television series; while the majority of Final Reckoning occurs subsequent to the series' timeline. And, as is a prerequisite in books of this genre, he weaves in events and characters from the series. But Keyes does it very well without the cameos seeming out of place at all.
I'm purposefully not addressing the story line. If you're a B5 fan reading all three books is almost mandatory. It adds greatly to the saga. If you're not a fan of Babylon 5, you can definitely skip Dark Genesis. However, you may find Deadly Relations and Final Reckoning worthwhile. This isn't Nebula material, but it's fun.
FYI: I gave Dark Genesis just two stars as it was less a novel and more a quick overview of the birth of Psi Corps. I gave Dark Genesis three stars because it's a solid, stand-alone novel, but fairly basic science fiction. Final Reckoning gets four stars because: a) it's better than the other two; b) it's a good standalone novel; and c) its got Garabaldi in it. Need I say more?
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on September 15, 2004
Alfred Bester, played by Walter Koenig, was one of the best "bad guys" on the TV show. His flat sense of humor showed a darker side to him - a side that we became quite familiar with during his forays onto the station. Yet there was always a sense of tenderness underneath the character, a glimpse of someone whose heart wasn't blackened by the hatred he felt for those who aimed to hurt him. This book explores that side of Mr. Bester. The side that wanted to come out from the dark recesses of his soul, and smile at the simple beauty of life. Mr. Bester is eighty-two at this point in his life, on the run from his nemesis Mr. Garibaldi, and beginning to feel tired at the prospect or repeating his hiding cycles for too much longer. Yes, Mr. Garibaldi is still trying to catch up with Mr. Bester - to visit his endless thirst for vengeance for what Bester had done to him in order to have Sheridan betrayed. The story attacks the plot, initially, from the vantage point of both of these individuals. Towards the end, a police inspector is added to the mix of vantage points - to help play a good old-fashioned morale to the plot. An excellent read and the best of the Babylon 5 novels that I have read to this point.
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VINE VOICEon June 14, 2012
This book mostly takes place in Paris, France. To give a quick wrap up of the prologue Bester has spent decades being chased from one station to another and then decides to return to Earth. He wants to enjoy the skies of Earth and figures - somewhat correctly - that he can hide fairly well among 10 billion souls.

A person might want to watch the old movie Ronin, about a gathering of cold war era spies in France, to get in the mood for reading this book. I had less of an impression of reading about a Babylon 5 character than reading the narrative of an escaped spy/criminal in a hotel and that is exactly what Bester had become.

Bester escapes to Earth and takes up residence in a hotel in Paris. He lives under an alias and has more than a little help from former Psi-Corps friends. However, these is an saying from an old movie that helps Garibaldi find Bester:

"He isn't a hard man to track.
He leaves dead men where ever he goes."
Captain Terrell
"The Outlaw Jose Wales"

Bester is one of the most wanted men in human space. But he walks in Paris with abandon. Of course he is spotted and he has to engage in a mind wipe. Bester moves into a hotel with a widow, has the time of his life, wages a minor war with some local thug, and becomes a book critic working for a fair amount of money. The author shows Bester becoming one thing he used to loathe: a mundane. Bester is no different than any of the other millions of people going in and out of Paris.

Garibaldi has long since settled down to family life on Mars. Lyta Alexander has removed the blocks that kept Michael from hunting Garibaldi down. Garibaldi knows Bester has to take a drug, uses his wife's fortune to buy the firm producing the drug, and then tracks down all the users. When the factor of "the bodies" is figured into the hunt then finding Bester does not seem that hard at all. The rub comes when Bester is engaged is so much carnage that it makes him weak in the climax of the book.

The book is about 250 pages but the action really does not start until the second section. The first two dozen pages are spent on a Babylon-5 like getting away from fugitive hunters and then Bester working with people on returning to Earth. When Bester arrives in Paris he becomes a mere mundane. Honestly, I never thought Bester was that old in the T.V. series and Walter Koenig was only in his mid-fifties. So, it was weird to read that Bester was well over 80. Also, Bester gets into a one-on-one fight with a considerably younger Garibaldi and nearly beats him. I sort of found that more incredible than most of the science fiction elements.

Still, this is a nice ending to the series. It was entirely plausible in the Science Fiction word of Babylon 5 and it's rather ironic that the series should sort of end in one of the oldest established cities on the Earth.
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on June 29, 2001
The conclusion to the Psi Corps trilogy delivers something that the other B5 books (notably the end of the Centauri trilogy), what most other BOOKS miss completely: the characters were king. The flow of this novel was sufficiently fresh that a non-B5 fan who hadn't read the first two could pick it up and get into it. A cloak-and-dagger, character driven chase turning the classic formula backward -- witty, intelligent, learned *villain* against the world. And, oh yes-- that's the brilliance of the book. You forget at times Bester's the villain. His earnest appreciation of France almost reads like "A Year in Provence" rather than B5. This is why I call it Historical Fiction of Future Past -- if you didn't know better, you'd think you were reading a speculation on the life of a Nazi war criminal. In the last decade several former Nazis, people who did terrible things and allowed terrible things to be done in their name were finally found; often having started a new life, and new family with a loving wife and friends, in places like Brazil, where they weren't recognized for who they were, and became... a person, not a monster. This is what we see in this book -- Bester as a fully-fleshed out historical figure; you forget that he's made up. This book is just deliciously good in it's subtle portrayal of future Earth, with sci-fi tidbits worked into the everday life of 23rd century France, and most of all, the heart-wrenching development of Bester into a person that you'd love to hate. It doesn't leave you thinking about How Fast a WhiteStar Can Go, or Can Telepaths Really Exist, but rather about the nature of people, evil, good, and everything in between.
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on June 14, 2003
This is the story Babylon 5 fans have waited so long for. What happens to the sinister Psi Cop Al Bester. The book went in a different direction than expected, but that's not a complaint. You learn a lot about Bester's character, aspects you'd never expect from someone so vile. First off, he becomes involved with a non-telepath woman while hiding out in Paris . . . and Bester is as bigoted against normal humans as you can get. His love for Louise is real, and makes him re-think his life on the run and all the horrible things he's done. Bester actually showing remorse! Who would have guessed? The man also has a cultured side to him. He loves wine, art and literature, and even becomes a literary critic for a small Parisian newspaper. But just when you think Bester has become an okay person, situations arise that force him to revert to his old ways.
The climax was awesome. I loved the final confrontation between Garibaldi and Bester. There was also a fantastic mind battle between Bester and another P12 telepath. Very descriptive. You could really feel Bester's pain.
If you are a B5 fan and don't have this book, get it.
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on July 31, 2005
This third book about the psi corps is very good because it ties up all the little threads that were in the first 2. Plus it made a monster into a man and you could see the truth of the winners writing history. History would have been very different if Bestor had won. I took a star away from this one because there are still some technical writing errors.
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on January 11, 2013
After all these years being a fan of Babylon 5 and frustrated with the series end leaving a large, threatening story thread hanging, in the form of Bester and the Telepath War that is often alluded to and later referred to in Crusade. What exactly happened? How did the tangled fates of Michael Garibaldi, Lyta Alexander, and the sinister Alfred Bester finally resolve themselves?

Well, this book focuses primarily on Bester and what I got wasn't at all what I expected. This book takes place after the Telepath War has been fought and the good guys won, Bester's already been tried and convicted as a war criminal but is now on the run and in hiding. No real details of the war come out in this book (like, whatever happened to the Psy Corps ships in hyperspace?), and since there's nothing in the previous novel in this series, we've got no joy there.

Bester himself is surviving on the run, but tired of running. So he flees to Earth thinking it's easier to hide in a crowd on the last planet anyone would think to look for him. He settles in his childhood home of Paris, where he falls in love with the city all over again and even falls in love with a normal (non-telepath) woman.

Wait, what?

Bester hated normals. He always stated and clearly believed that telepaths were the next step in human evolution, that in the end the "teeps" and the "mundanes" would fight and the telepaths (being genetically superior) would come out on top. Granted, his background never came up that I recall, so the Paris thing doesn't bother me. But him falling in love with a mundane? Totally against his nature. Now, granted, emotions are by their nature illogical, so it can be argued that his emotions took control of his better judgement and made him act against character - while I can understand that and used it to suspend my disbelief while reading, it still stood out as a glaring deviation from his character. While the author nails Alfred Bester and his line of thinking, the Paris obsession combines with the non-telepath romance is a major distraction.

Garibaldi shows up here too. I actually came away much more satisfied with the wrap up of Garibaldi's story, it fits what he's been through and he reaches the closure he promised Bester so long ago but without loosing his humanity and remaining the hero. Some of his moments are the best in this book.

Lyta Alexander, like the Telepath War, is hardly mentioned, which is a major disappointment.

All told, for a Babylon 5 fan this book is worth reading once, just so you know some of what happened. I'm not keeping this one on my shelf though, as I don't feel it has any re-reading value.
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on December 17, 1999
This book follows Strasynzski's tradition of taking an accepted formula and turning it on it's head. What if the Evil Mr Bester were to suddenly decide to return to Earth and lead a normal life? What if he were to fall in love and find that he still had a soul worth loving? What if his own past, the past that he himself created, tracked him down and tried to destroy his new life? This story shows Micheal Garibaldi's singleminded quest to hunt Bester down and deny him of a peaceful end. We are left feeling that history is truly written by the victor and that no matter where you go or how hard you try to escape, you can never escape the baggage of your own history.
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