Sweet book review: Stargate SG1: Four Dragons

After spending more than a decade immersed in another science fiction show’s fan universe, I very carefully steered clear of Stargate, even after the original movie rocked my blocks off. But honestly, if any related novel was going to drag me into the Stargate crew, it would be Four Dragons. The action is non-stop, the characters (even the non-human ones) come across as vividly real, and the situations painted by Diana Dru Botsford’s workmanlike writing are compelling. (Full reveal: Botsford and I attended graduate school together.)

So readers of this review understand the situation, I revisited the original movie and watched several episodes suggested by Botsford prior to reading this novel. I certainly wasn’t at a total loss while reading, but the intricacies that she doubtless crafted into this work very likely escaped me. More importantly, I never felt lost. The characters, particularly Sam’s blissful technobabble, guided me through the plotline’s scientific and philosophical depths without missteps. Casual viewers of the series should not consider themselves underqualified to enjoy Four Dragons.

In the early days of the seventh season, Daniel has just returned from his ascended state and is determined to resume his place on the SG1 team. But Jack isn’t so certain, and he’s just as determined to sort out his teammember’s status on his own terms. At the site of a new archeological dig, where Ancient writing and early Imperial Chinese artifacts are swirled into a mystifying (and for Daniel, a fascinating) hodgepodge, Jack forces Daniel to train rather than dig. But Daniel rebels and escapes to an isolated corner of the site, where transportation rings activate and sweep him away to System Lord Yu’s mothership, just as enemy gliders attack the archaeologists and the SG teams evacuating them.

As the search-and-rescue mission for Daniel is organized, obstacle after obstacle is thrown in the SG team’s path. A mysterious Chinese ambassador refuses to allow the team to carry lethal weapons and endanger the life of China’s most famous emperor. The ambassador also insists the team carry a Goa’uld communications device, so that he can monitor the mission and ensure his demands are followed from the safety of headquarters. (Jack’s irritation and subsequent mounting rebellion and sarcasm add to the story’s background humor, again and again.) But little by little, the command staff at SG headquarters and the team in the field snuff out the complex layers of mystery surrounding the kidnapping, until the final, surprisingly philosophical answer is revealed.

All too often, the problem with fan fiction is an enthusiastic but sorrowfully incompetent writer. Botsford blows that stereotype across the galaxy. The characters aren’t cardboard cutouts but three-dimensional, with the actors’ voices saying their lines in my absorbed mind. There are a few errant typos, common now in all published works, but they aren’t intrusive as the crisp writing style invites the reader to the next word.

Four Dragons can be found at Amazon.

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