Battlestar Galactica 2: The Cylon Death Machine (1979) – Robert Thurston and Glen A. Larson

Robert Thurston delivers another adaptation from Glen A. Larson’s classic science fiction series, Battlestar Galactica. This time it’s the huge two part episode called Gun On Ice Planet Zero. Much like the adaptation of the original series launch, Saga of a Star World, Thurston’s novel has a number of differences from the episodes (and wasn’t constrained by a budget either).

As the Galactica continues its journey and quest for Earth, it, and the ragtag fleet of humanity it protects, continues to be harried by cylon forces, who seem to be manoeuvring it to a certain corridor of space. This region has a rogue planet, converted by cylon forces, blown out of orbit (turning it into a frozen wastleland), while still maintaining a centrifugal spin to create gravity, that houses a gigantic pulsar laser canon – and the fleet is heading right for it.

Captain Apollo, and Lieutenants Starbuck and Boomer draw an assignment, as well as some cold weather trained mountaineers, turned criminals, draw the assignment to reach the planet before the fleet and destroy the weapon.

But not everyone on the team can be trusted, and these prisoners may use the first chance that comes along to slip the chains of their jailers. Or will they all work together to save the fleet. Things get complicated when Apollo’s adopted son, Boxey, and his robotic daggit, Muffit, sneak aboard the Colonial shuttle and end up on the mission with them.

Throw in harsh weather, a dangerous atmosphere, and the surprise revelation of a colony of clones, and their creator, the man who designed the laser canon, and you’ve got the setting for a fun story. The action is bigger and more epic in scope than what ended up on the screen, though I remember enjoying the episodes, and the really interesting part relates to the cylons.

In the television series, Apollo points out to Boxey that the cylons are mechanical, though they don’t know who created them, while in the original version of the story, and the one carried on through the novels, is that under the metal shells, and sliding red lights, are organic beings (not unlike the Imperious Leader, who is a three-brained cylon) who are intent on destroying humanity.

It allows for some of the cylons to have their own character and not be confined to the robotic nature of those encountered in the show. In fact Imperious Leader spends a large portion of this story interacting with a simulated version of Starbuck in an attempt to understand humanity better, even as they work to destroy it.

We also learn about the cylon running the laser cannon emplacement, Vulpa, who is a two brained cylon, and has ambitions greater than his current assignment. Unfortunately, the good guys are going to do more than ruin his chances for the future.

It was a fun read, puts a different perspective on the episode, one of the prisoners, Croft, actually gives a first person narrative through a number of sections of the book, while delivering the spills and thrills we expected from the television series.

There’s still more to come.

Fleeing from the Cylon Tyranny, the last battlestar Galactica leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest… a shining planet known as Earth…

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