The adventures of Egyptologist Daniel Jackson and marine commando Colonel Jack O'Neil continue in the fourth novel based on the film "StarGate." Survivors of the planet Abydos, destroyed by the power of the StarGate, colonize a new planet – only to find out they're not alone!
The McCay series of "Stargate" novels was begun after the 1994 film but before the 1997 premiere of the SG-1 television series, and follows a different line of continuity.
This book takes place several months after the events of Retribution, yet still under two years after the start of the original film.
Months after the defeat of Hathor, the StarGate coordinates found aboard the Boat of a Million Years are to be put to good use. The Abydans are going to get their own new world, the planet Ballas, unknown to Ra and his godlings. Jack O'Neil heads up the first highly-publicized recon of the world, bringing with him Ferretti, Porro, Roberts, and the Abydan translator Imiseba. Daniel Jackson (who is still estranged from Sha'uri, even after their partial reconciliation during Hathor's attack) is there to see them off, as is the President.
Shortly after the return of the recon team, Imiseba, who figures that on a new world the Abydans will need a new leader (he's a power-hungry Abydan of Skaara's generation), starts to go to the press and call for relocation to Ballas immediately, rather than after a few more months of preparation. Public pressure ends up forcing their hand, leading to the mission going ahead to Ballas early.
Once on Ballas, the new settlement is made up of all of the Abydan refugees (including Kasuf, Skaara, and Sha'uri), plus a contingent of U.S. military personnel (O'Neil, Ferretti, and others), and Abydos Foundation head, Daniel. Once there, Imiseba begins pushing his supporters to get rid of the Earthmen, and things start to break into factions all over again, just as on Abydos before Hathor's final assault. On the plus side, the tension eventually leads to Sha'uri to again move toward reconciliation with Daniel. It's a start, at least.
Several weeks after their arrival, with financial support from Earth nearly cut off, a group of Setim come to check out the new settlement, so they can see how hard it might be to set up their own colony on a new world. Then, with the Earth contingent and the Abydan settlers all on the Ballas side of the StarGate, Imiseba's followers try to use C4 to blow up the StarGate, in order to cut themselves off entirely from other worlds and let Imiseba assume leadership of an entirely independent Ballas. Only a surprise attack from a large cat creature that they'd been trying to find, referred to as a "hoodat," stops the destruction of the Gate, as the gunfire of the dissidents alerts the military men to trouble at the Gate. The Gate won't be blown up, and Imiseba's sentiments are out in the open, but the factionalism is still a huge problem, and now they really need to find the hoodat (or hoodats, plural) and kill it.
A team is assembled to begin a hunt for the hoodat(s), only to discover that a cave they think is a hoodat lair is actually an old, buried building with advanced technology, apparently built by Ra's race (which they have taken to calling the "forerunners"). They don't get time to investigate, though. The settlement is set upon by the "hoodats," which aren't feral wildlife, but armored, masked feline warriors of great power, which were apparently on their own recon mission through the StarGate. They were removing technology from the forerunner buildings, but they were cut off from the StarGate with the arrival of the settlement group. Now, they pounce upon the settlers, forcing them to defend the StarGate and the settlement at all costs.
Our heroes are able to stop the cats (mostly), and Daniel even saves Sha'uri, which puts them on much better ground, but one cat gets through the StarGate, and since no one saw their exit coordinates (but the cat probably saw Earth's coordinates because the Gate was basically preset to only need a tiny change to activate for Earth), Earth may now be in danger from the cat race as well. That fact changes O'Neil's latest orders (to evacuate the Earth personnel, leave the Abydans behind, then blow up the StarGate to cut off invaders from getting to Ballas).
In order to protect Ballas, reinforcements are sent (including helicopters, tanks, blast-rifles, and more). The primary reinforcements are Colonel Dale Gunther's 371st Special Operations Capable Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC-MEU), better known as the "Space Marines," an outfit that debuted during the defense of Earth from Hathor. Among the Space Marines is Abydos alumni Major Adam Kawalsky.
Before the last reinforcements can come through, though, the StarGate becomes active again. The cats are attacking again via the StarGate, and that means a "busy signal" for those on Earth trying to contact Ballas. The Ballas forces are on their own...
- This title was also released on audio cassette, read by John Kenneth.
- One might find it interesting that Reconnaissance is the first (and only) one of the StarGate novels by Bill McCay, which follow non-SG-1 continuity, to advertise itself (on the book's cover) as a series that is "now an original series from MGM Television." One wonders how many angry fans there were out there when they realized that the new novel had nothing to do with Stargate SG-1.
- After three books, in which we heard about (but never saw, minus in flashbacks) the planets Ombos and Wefen, and met the "godlings" on Tuat, we finally get a new planet in this book in the form of Ballas.
- In the StarGate continuity, the Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probe is referred to as a "Maple" unit, rather than a "M.A.L.P." (the SG-1 term for the unit).
- The planet Ballas is in a situation similar to that of the Heliopolis planet in Stargate SG-1's "The Torment of Tantalus," the meeting place of the four great races in the ancient alliance. No, Ballas wasn't a meeting place, but it is similar in that it is a world that the Gate-builders (Ancients/Setim) knew about, but the gods (Goa'uld/forerunners) didn't.
- Possibly a nod to SG-1: The StarGate is housed at the Creek Mountain complex still, not at SG-1's Cheyenne Mountain Complex, but we get a mention that General West once had command at Cheyenne Mountain. The NORAD facility at Cheyenne is also mentioned.
- Ferretti is magically changed from Corporal to Lieutenant in this novel, but wait ...it gets better ...
- Kawalsky premiered in the novelization as a Lieutenant Colonel ...then within that same novel kept being referred to as "Lieutenant." This is not a typical way to refer to a Lieutenant Colonel. After being referred to only as "Lieutenant" (meaning either a mistake in the novelization when he was introduced or a demotion of several ranks between the novelization and Rebellion), here we see Kawalsky referred to by his Stargate SG-1 rank of Major. So either he jumped up from Lieutenant to Major very quickly, bypassing Captain, or he was really a Lieutenant Colonel like the novelization first said, and he somehow got busted back down to Major for some reason. This adds insult to injury, despite the fact that Ferretti still has never been given a first name.
- The President of the United States that appears here (and in previous stories) is very likely meant to be Bill Clinton. One might assume it to be a fictional president, but Retaliation mentions both Reagan and Bush as the two most recent presidents, so barring a change of the presidential line in the 1992 elections, Clinton would be in office at this point.
- We finally have a name for the race that Ra belongs to. Rather than being the parasitic Goa'uld of Stargate SG-1, these beings are Roswell gray-esque (SG-1's Asgard) beings that are being referred to as the "forerunners." (Oddly, that's the same name given to the ancient race that built the seven Halo rings in the Halo video game series.)
- At some point in the past (probably before the use of human slaves, but likely after the original servitude of the Setim) Ra (or Ra's race, the forerunners) made slaves and arena sport entertainment out of the feline race that this novel calls the "hoodats" Resistance will later rename them "the People".
- We will learn more about the "hoodats" in Resistance, but for the sake of clarity, the "hoodat" that escapes through the StarGate in this novel is Sekhmet, whom we spend a lot of time with in Resistance. She escapes to the planet Merimde, also elaborated upon in the next novel.
- Author Bill McCay explains that he originally wrote his follow-up to the Stargate feature film as a trilogy. But the series was extended to five books when publisher Roc saw strong sales.
“Initially, this was going to be just a trilogy. That was why we introduced Hathor: she makes trouble in the second book, and we kill her in the third book and hoorah, we’ve saved humanity! Then they came back to me and said, ‘We’d like to do a couple more stories, as people are still buying the books, even if not as tremendously as the first couple. So can you come up with a sequel to this?’”
“What can I say?” he said of the fourth book, Reconnaissance. “It was the best I could do. Some people liked it, some people didn’t.”(Author Bill McCay, in an interview with The Companion)
Review by Nathan P. Butler
Well, it's not a bad continuation of the series, but after the three-part Rebellion / Retaliation / Retribution story arc, this one sort of falls flat. We see the fallout of Abydans on Earth for over a year, and we get to see the first colonization efforts of a new planet. Heck, we even get a new race of enemies that tie into Ra's background, and we finally get a name for Ra's race, sort of.
However, we also get a story that drags on and on, Daniel at his most self-defeating, and, of course, yet another blasted rank for "Adam Kawalsky, the magical rank-jumping Space Marine."
If you're reading the series, you should continue with this one. There's more background on the history of Ra's race, and it's nice to see the trials and tribulations of starting a new colony. Just don't expect anything even remotely as interesting as the previous three books.
Then again, this book is basically the first part of a two-part story, so perhaps Resistance will pick up the slack from Reconnaissance ...
Rating: * *