This tale opens on Crichton’s toothache. Not being a fan of dentics, he hasn’t been keeping up with his oral hygiene, and his face stings with pain every time he does anything but keep it still. And even then, it aches. So Zhaan gives him a stronger dentic. Which takes one nibble on his tooth, then dies, leaving his mouth tasting even funkier than usual. So John tosses it in the recycler. Unfortunately, John didn’t know that YOU NEVER THROW A DENTIC IN THE RECYCLER, because Moya consumes that matter and John’s toothache bacteria has now blown up into a necrotic virus eating away at Moya’s muscle tissue and nervous system. If they don’t do anything about it, she’ll be dead in about a day. And even if she does survive, she’ll be severely crippled for life. All because John had a toothache.
So they go for the closest help they can find, a floating pirate city assembled from inter-docked black market trade crafts, hidden near the corona of a dying sun. The place is run by Jansz, a being mentally interlocked with a community of assorted dealers who all act as his eyes and ears within the city. John figures this means Jansz is a tiny being, all brains, no brawn. In reality, Janz is a massive, clawed, bearlike coil of muscle with not one, not two, but three mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth. But at least he’s a polite bundle of killer physique and mental abilities, provided the trade the crew offers is enough to barter the stem cell grafts for Moya’s wounds, which one of his ships excels in.
And leave it to Rygel to screw things up. Why? Because he comes across a slave girl in a golden bikini – a Hynerian slave girl in a bikini – and recognizes her as Nyaella, the love of his life, who he was forced by his father to abandon so he could enter political marriages as part of his grooming to be Dominar. He never stopped loving her, though, but his attempt to free her goes bad and Jansz ups his price. He wants Chiana. Since this was from late in season 1, Chiana still has her doubts about the rest of the crew and sees a chance for wealth and action, so she agrees. Then Rygel actually succeeds in breaking Nyaella free, leading to John and Aeryn being captured, so Chiana, as part of her initiation, is ordered to shoot John (she does), then watch as Aeryn fights to the death with a scorpion being who leaves her poisoned with a lethal toxin.
I went waaaaay beyond the setup there, but I just wanted you to get a nice taste of this story, and tell me that doesn’t sound like it would make for a great Farscape episode. All the trust John’s earned up until this point is tossed aside when he does the stupid human thing and brushes his teeth in a way that leaves Moya hopelessly infected with leprosy. Rygel becomes the dashing (if you give him a second to catch his breath) adventure hero, finally able to reclaim the life and love he was forced by familial obligation to abandon, as he and his bikini-clad bride-who-once-was flee and con their way through a pirate city, at one point escaping multiple gangs of goons by triking them into taking each other out. John and Aeryn get to make out in the heavens with a dual dogfight before both are captured and Chiana is forced to make some tough choices she instantly regrets, leaving John on life support and Aeryn losing the fight against the poison in her blood.
And it all culminates with a massive action sequence as everybody has guns pointing at everyone else, Aeryn goes on a brutal last mission to get John out alive because, dammit, if she’s going to die, she’d not going to let him join along, and Chiana tries like hell to make everything right again. Oh, and the sun starts going supernova. And oh a Peacekeeper Armada shows up and starts shooting everything. So, yeah, great setup, some great action bits, and one hell of a climax. Andrew Dymond’s prose is what some might call purplish, but there’s a vividness to it that really juices up the action and gives the characters a pulpy spark that captures the show.
Where it didn’t work so much are the flashbacks. And there are a lot of flashbacks. Every single one of the leads gets to dwell on their past and how it somehow reflects what they’re going through now. Sometimes this works, like Aeryn focusing on the hardships of her training to push through her own impending death, or Rygel and his past with Nyaella, where we learn about the honorable man he lost the opportunity to be. Other times, it just drags, like John pondering his dad, or Zhaan and D’Argo pondering the murders that led to their imprisonment. Oh, I haven’t mentioned Zhaan and D’Argo yet, mainly because they don’t do much of anything. D’Argo stands around, then spends half the story unconscious. Zhaan uses her abilities to try and comfort Moya, then also spends half the story unconscious. Because I guess there wasn’t enough action filling the massive climax to slip D’Argo into it in any way? And why couldn’t Zhaan have been the key influence that turned Re into helping the ship?
Ah, Re. The biggest flaw of the book.
Re is a collective hive mind of small aquatic organism, centered around the first member of their species to have created a religion. There was war between their kind and many were wiped out, but all that remain are now for and of Re. Unfortunately, they’re on a water moon about to be swallowed up by the dying sun. So they reach out. There’s a prologue bit, but they otherwise sit out the majority of the story until they set up some kind of deal with Jansz, but then reneg when they instead latch onto the dying Moya and, for some reason, sacrifice themselves to swarm all over the dying craft and fix everything that’s broken. We knew Moya had to be cured by some point, but this is beyond convenient, especially given how late Re came into things and how it took very little convincing for it to decide to do so.
So, yes, miracle dues ex machina ending, the low-point of the otherwise thrilling and deep climax.
This is a good book. If you’re a Farscape fan, absolutely track it down. The characterizations are great and the story reads like something straight out of the show. Just be prepare to slog through a dozen too many flashback sequences, and the eyerolls induced by Re. But if you can get through all that, I think you’ll have a fun time.