Stargate SG1: Hydra – Book Review
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to start on the SG1 tie-in novels. Actually, I can believe it. I still haven’t read more than one or two of the Supernatural tie-ins, ditto for Angel, and I haven’t even started on many other series’ novelisations. Hydra was published in 2008 and is the thirteenth SG1 book to have been written.
Hydra is set somewhere around Season 4 of the series. There aren’t many direct allusions to this, besides mention of Sha’re and the deaths of the original SG1 duplicates in the episode ‘Double Jeopardy.’ The date stamps are what really give you a timeline. Despite its release date, the book is set in 2001. It’s handy for envisioning the correct versions of the SG1 team, or more specifically the correct version of Daniel Jackson, as he’s the only one who ever really changes.
The opening is very well executed. We aren’t told right away that the characters we’re following aren’t the real SG1, but the tension between Jack and Daniel, along with the way they’re being addressed –O’Neill and Jackson, rather than Jack and Daniel- gives you the distinct feeling that something’s not right. The disbelief builds when ‘Jack’ kills a defenceless alien, and the others, especially Sam and Daniel, do nothing to stop him. They then proceed to burn down the village. Bra’tac comes to the real SGC to find out what the hell went on, and SG1 are just as surprised as he is. From there we have a lot of jumping back and forth in time (the reader, not the characters,) and not just one but three main SG1 duplicate teams.
The NID are responsible (big surprise) and they’ve been messing with the programming. Taking out the ethics and trying to make them more compliant. The ethics bit works, but the compliancy doesn’t. It’s possible they forgot who they were dealing with there. One team goes way, way off the reservation. The Theta team. They’ve got all the moral compunction of a Bond villain and the speed, strength and general super-ness of, well, robots. The Alpha team, who are as close to the originals as the first ever duplicates on Altair were, i.e. pretty much exactly the same, send their Daniel –floppy hair and all- back through the Stargate with the real SG1 in order to tell them what’s going on.
As for what is going on: the Theta team doesn’t want to be puppets anymore, so they’re stealing some magical doodads, which is Theta Jack’s word for them and I love it, to help run a power source for them. They don’t seem all that bothered about the rip in the very fabric of reality that it might cause, but then no sci-fi bad guy ever does. They’re willing to go to any length to get them, and that includes kidnapping and trying to kill the real SG1. All the duplicates at the NID thought SG1 was dead and the SGC was shut down. They were lied to and they didn’t appreciate it. While the Alphas decide to fight back by going to SG1 and spilling the beans, the Thetas take a more murdery approach.
Amidst all of this is the real SG1. The existential crises are flowing freely between all versions of themselves. Jack is insistent that they’re just machines, and Daniel wants to believe they can be people. For the most part Teal’c and Sam try to stay out of the argument. From a fandom point of view, the characters are written very well. They are more or less perfectly in character, even to the point where my own personal ‘ship flared up a few times while reading. I also loved the little added extra of the Alpha team’s Sam and Teal’c possibly being in a relationship. Without the complication of Teal’c wife and child, they would make a great match.
If I was going to complain, and since this is a review I pretty much have to, the story itself is pretty standard. Bad guys want the powerful thingy so they can have unlimited power. Evil Jack even thinks about taking over the world. That being said, the nuts and bolts of the story aren’t nearly as important as the characters. Fans read tie-in novels for the same reason they read fanfiction – we want more of the characters. The situation isn’t all that vital, as long as the interactions are handled properly. In this case they are. Even our own Teal’c and Jack’s little trip to the darker side of interrogation is believable.
In the end it’s the Thetas’ lack of team spirit that leads to their downfall. The one thing that sets SG1 apart is their love for their fellow teammates; without that they’re pretty much doomed. Out of all the duplicates, it was Theta Daniel that scared me. We’ve seen Daniel’s capacity to be fairly disturbing on the show, but imagine a Doctor Jackson who has the speed and strength of a machine and a love of torture. All the sarcasm and dismissive attitude is imbued with socipathic intentions and the ability to know what SG1 are thinking and use it against them. It’s creepy.
I’m definitely going to be diving in to the SG1 novel series, and now I’ve just discovered there’s a comicbook series too. Damn. Anyone know a way to get more hours in the day?
Rating: 4/5 Raging Nerds