A number of reviews of Blake’s 7: The Forgotten by myself and Mark Wright have started to pop up online.
Jackie Emery, reviewing for Horizon, the Blake’s 7 fan club, gave it a thumbs up:
It’s an ensemble adventure, similar in style to Seek-Locate-Destroy and Project Avalon. Each of the crew has a role to play, with additional appearances from Servalan, Travis and Secretary Rontane. Some of the situations encountered in the story are typical Season 1 fare, such as the Liberator being flown into a nebula, Zen shutting down and Gan’s limiter malfunctioning. However, these familiar elements are woven into an original tale that works very well on its own merits and would have made a first class Season 1 episode.
The question, ‘It’s good – but is it B7?’ is answered with a definite ‘Yes.’ The interplay between the characters – at this point still getting to know each other, and unsure who to trust – is spot on, and the dialogue is excellent. An early example in the book occurs when Blake and Avon are sabotaging a Federation communications base.
Blake: “Avon?” Avon (working on the controls): “I’m concentrating.” Blake: “Concentrate faster!”
The narrative is fast paced and action packed, and the descriptions of the locations are very much in keeping with what we used to see on screen. Most important of all was the tone of the story – there was a satisfying amount of the moral ambiguity that was one of B7’s greatest strengths.
While Jackie does have some criticisms along the way, she concludes: “The story is very true to the series in all important respects, and fits nicely into the first season story arc.”
The novel’s closeness to the series does seem to be splitting reviewers. Our aim was to make this as reminiscent as possible to the first season, especially as it was the first book in Big Finish’s series. Some reviewers think we played it too safe. In the latest issue of SFX, Saxon Bullock calls the book a “lively but over familiar tale”. He says:
“A no-nonsense retro SF adventure, it feels like a genuine lost B7 story, but that ends up as both a strength and a weakness, with the language and execution of the whole story feeling extremely clunky and dated. As usual, Avon and Villa are the most enjoyable (and morally ambiguous) of the characters, but the attempt to draw parallels between Blake and the chief villain doesn’t come off, and the ultimate lack of any surprises leaves this dangerously close to nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake.”
I think this highlights the problem of writing tie-fiction, especially for a property like Blake’s 7, something that is tied into the time it was produced. You’re damned by some if it’s too close to what was on screen and damned by others if it is too radical. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Luckily most reviews so far seem to think we managed it, although I know Mark and I have learnt a lot in the process.
Over at Sci-Fi Bulletin Paul Simpson comments that although “occasionally slipping into B7 cliché” The Forgotten “is a good start for the new written adventures.” Paul writes:
Big Finish’s first B7 novel features the original Liberator line up, as well as Servalan and Travis, and fits neatly into the early adventures. Scott and Wright capture the personalities of the crew well – the POV scenes featuring Vila are especially noteworthy – although, perhaps appropriately, Gan is rather underused.
The Forgotten emulates the structure of the series at that point, with scenes for Servalan and someone for her to butt heads with separate from the main storyline, but takes it into more grey areas of morality than the broadcast show did – something which is also a hallmark of the new audio adventures.
Meanwhile on Amazon the readers’ reviews seem largely positive, with most enjoying it as a ‘trip back in time’. Tommy Donbavand, author of the wonderful Scream Street kids’ books says:
This is a fabulous book. Mark and Cavan have written what reads like the novelisation of a missing Blake’s 7 episode – and I mean that in the best possible way. The action sequences are exciting, edge of the seat stuff, and the character scenes are so spot on that it’s almost impossible not to read the dialogue in the original actors’ voices. It can’t be easy adding fresh characters to Terry Nation’s universe, but Scott and Wright give us new faces who, somehow, have always been there – just waiting to be discovered. I don’t want to give too much away regarding the plot, but the chance for Blake to hold a mirror up to his ambitions gives us a rare glimpse into the darker recesses of his personality, and Avon’s self-serving works on many levels. Add to that Vila’s not-quite-cowardice and space for the much-maligned Gan to stretch his oversized muscles, and you’ve got a book you’ll find difficult to put down – all written in a style you would easily believe was hammered out of Nation’s own 1970’s typewriter. In short – if you were ever a fan of the Liberator crew, reading this is like teleporting back to the golden days of the Federation. Nostalgia – standard by 12.
More reviews as they happen.