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The Chosen: it probably could have been worse.

I've finished reading the most recent Stargate: Atlantis pro novel, The Chosen by Sonny Whitelaw and Elizabeth Christensen, and I thought I would do my civic fandom duty and write up a little review. After all, I was impressed with the previous novel (Reliquary by Martha Wells) and I said so and hopefully it encouraged people to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, I can't find many good things to say about The Chosen. It's a rehash of the episode The Tower (although The Chosen is set in early Season One; I suppose we have to accept that there are only so many ideas to go around) with a society founded by an Ancient long ago, and ruled by those with the ATA gene. Only sometimes it's ruled by people who hate the people with the ATA gene. These Dalerans are superstitious, petty, violent and split into more warring sects than your average population of middle schoolers.

McKay decides that the hierarchy on Dalera is more than he as a self-respecting Canadian can handle, and spends the first third of the book speaking out of turn, ticking off the locals and garnering nasty looks from the rest of his team. Only Sheppard seems to just go along with it, cause, well, he's Rodney, he's special. So special, in fact, that when Sheppard is incapacitated later in the story, McKay is the one everybody looks to to continue defending the populace from ravaging hordes of Wraith. Not the Dalerans, whose planet it is, not Ford, who's a Marine and could be expected to know something about military tactics, and not Teyla, who's been dealing with the Wraith her entire life.

The siege and defense of the Daleran's primary structure, the Citadel, takes up a little more than half of the book, involves oil fires, tar pits, strategically-located clouds of noxious smoke, complicated systems of transports similar to those used to move around Atlantis, personal EM-emitting devices modeled after the personal shield from the episode "Hide and Seek", and ultimately a Magic Secret Ancient Weapon that apparently all of the locals had heard about but neglected to mention and that Sheppard uses to whisk away the threat in the space of a few paragraphs.

The book tries to incorporate some character development, which is laudable, but it's too heavy-handed and ponderous to make any real impact. Much of it involves the various moral quandaries associated with a caste system; McKay slips into the Daniel Jackson Role of moral authority. Sheppard doesn't want to rock the boat. Ford's main role is as the object of a Daleran girl's short-lived crush, and Teyla beats some people up, gives a stilted motivational speech and gets mad at McKay for his continuing bouts of verbal diarrhea. Elizabeth has a cold, and otherwise doesn't do a whole lot. Beckett? Was he in this?

I got the feeling from reading this book that the authors were trying to go for something epic, sweeping, and complex. Sadly, the cast of original characters is forgettable, the attempts at drama transparent (nobody really believes that you're going to kill off major characters in these kinds of books, so stop trying to talk the readers into it), and the action sequences, once they finally begin, are just too long. McKay gets the best lines, because he gets to be snarky and disruptive, but snarky begins to wear thin after the first 200 pages, and the constant lack of any kind of professionalism is just annoying. My personal pet peeve: the Magic Secret Ancient Weapon that's mentioned only after the oil fires, dramatic quicksand rescues and thrilling McKay derring-do.

The Chosen has gotten (two) good reviews on, and Fandemonium keeps asking Whitelaw to write books. So maybe it's just me. Feel free to read and find out for yourself. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
  • Current Mood: cynical critical
Hear from the newsletter
I heard the writer mostly wrote for SG-1 novels, and that it shows in this book.

Re: Hear from the newsletter
lol, I saw the title of the post and wondered who I was 'hear'ing from ;)

The author in question has written one SG1 book, which I never ordered because (1) the excerpt didn't interest me and (2) until recently, it was a real bitch to get the SG1 books as they weren't being sold in North America. Whitelaw is a 'published author' which is apparently Fandy's #1 requirement for the SGA novels, and they've already lined her up to write another. Maybe this is just the snob in me talking, I'm just not all that impressed with her writing. In general Fandy's SG1 and SGA books have been 1/3 enjoyable and 2/3 meh.
You know, as much as I love SGA, I never got the novel. I got kind of soured on the PRO novels after the first couple SG1 books. Though there was a good whump in the one and actually something I had thought about doing to Jackson.

I am not totally anti-pro novels. Shoot, that's how I first got into the fandom! I read the novelization of Children of the Gods and was hooked and started watching and Yum@ bribed me into writing fanfic. The only thing is, the first novel was the ONLY good pro novel I've seen since then.

I know they work from early version of the scripts and such so what they write doesn't exactly match what's going on, but lousy characterizations and blatent errors kill me. Like SG-3 having 21 members...umm..that's the Marine team. *sigh*

After the second or third book, I just gave up and stuck to fanfic.