Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant Review
Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant by J. Gregory Keyes is the second novel in the Psi Corps trilogy from Del Rey. The story spans over 60 years from 2195 to 2258. Unlike the first novel, this story is dominated by a single character: the Psi Cop Alfred Bester.
You can read a sample chapter of Deadly Relations at Del Rey's Web site. Mr. Keyes based his story on an outline by J. Michael Straczynski.
The story is told in four sections, each detailing a pivotal time in Bester's life. The first is his childhood from age six to twelve. The reader is dropped right into the world of a telepath child who is being raised by the Psi Corps. The children have their own perceptions of the world and their own slang... and the Psi Corps is teaching them their unique set of values.
The second part picks up with Bester as a teenager. He learns about adventure, wisdom, and even love during these years.
The third part jumps ahead to Bester as an accomplished Psi Cop. He picks up the trail of Stephen Walters from the first book and makes his first journey to Mars. Readers finally learn why Bester's left arm is lame. When Walter Koenig first appeared as Alfred Bester, he chose to portray Bester with a physical handicap that he compensates for with a superior mind. Now Mr. Keyes gives us the fictional explanation.
The final part of the book finds Bester in his mid-sixties. He is a powerful Psi Cop and the leader of the Black Omega Squadron with an inner circle of loyal followers... but even more enemies. By this time the values Bester displays in the show are firmly established: nothing is more important than the survival and propagation of telepaths - his telepaths. The story concludes shortly before Bester's first appearance on Babylon 5 in "Mind War".
Deadly Relations features appearances by Lyta Alexander and Byron, whose last name we learn is Gordon, as well as several Psi Cops who have appeared throughout the series. Events remembered in "The Face of the Enemy" and "Phoenix Rising" are told in full. The Shadow conspiracy involving the Psi Corps hinted at several times in the series is explored, with particular tie-ins to the novel The Shadow Within.
Mr. Keyes succeeds in presenting a story with Alfred Bester as its hero. The author leads us to not merely sympathize with Bester but to actually see the world through his eyes and understand it from his viewpoint. It's no mistake that the book has an undercurrent of references to the classic Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon, which shows that truth is subjective to the observer.
This book is obviously the middle story in a trilogy. It does not build to a very suspenseful climax. There is no feeling of completion at the end. What it does is portray a series of events in Alfred Bester's life that shape him into the Psi Cop that everyone loves to hate.
Deadly Relations is strongly recommended to any Babylon 5 fan who is interested in Alfred Bester and the Psi Corps. The other two books in the series, Dark Genesis and Final Reckoning, are also written by Mr. Keyes.