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A novel by John Whitman (1997, Bantam Skylark)
Galaxy of Fear, Book 3
Soon after Star Wars: A New Hope

Tash and Zak are infected with a virus when visiting a hospital on a heavily patrolled Imperial planet.




Read December 10th to 11th, 2002  
    Another planet, another adventure. This book is probably the best so far in terms of writing, but the plot is very similar to the previous two books.

I would have to recommend avoiding doing what I am doing, which is reading so many of these books back to back. The plot is pretty much stuff we've seen before, though there is a little break from tradition here.

The threat in this book is a little less tangible, in that we are talking about viruses. After Zak takes ill, presumably from the injection he received at the hands of Dr. Evazan in City of the Dead, he is taken to a first-class facility on the planet Gobindi, at a hospital run by an old friend of Hoole's.

We must note that the first thing that Dr. Kavafi does is inject Tash and Hoole with something, supposedly to inoculate them against whatever Zak has. Then, of course, we remember that he is a local of this planet. In Eaten Alive, the locals were lures for a hungry planet. In City of the Dead, the keeper of the Crypts was plotting to kill everybody. I never trusted Kavafi for a moment!

The twist here, however, is that Kavafi has been replaced by a shape-shifter, a Shi'ido like Hoole. It seems to me that one shape-shifter must be able to recognize another, having developed some way of saluting their own species, but apparently not. Anyway, we meet the real Kavafi, and he turns out to be a really nice guy, after all!

The other twist that occurs in this book is that because of what happened in the last two books, Tash doesn't tell Hoole about her suspicions, because he never believed her before. Was that actual character growth? I'll reserve judgment until the next few books to be sure.

Another similarity between the books is a guest role by somebody from the movies. First it was Han, Luke and Leia, then Boba Fett, and now, my favorite guest star, Wedge Antilles! He helps save Tash and Deevee from a giant blob, a mature virus that is infiltrating the city. I wonder who the next guest stars will be -anybody for Lando? I wonder what all these Rebels are doing on Imperial experiments. Did they have some rumor about this? I wonder if Wedge's colleague survived the attack (do we know the man with the scarred face? I'm too lay to trace him back).

The virus is so large that it can digest people, but it seems to be really fickle, in its infant stage, at least. It dies so easily on "good" emotions, like magic I've seen in many fantasy books. The virus also seems to have exclusive rights to the people it infects, as it wouldn't even enter Tash's skin since she had been infected already. Um, that isn't how viruses work. Finally, it didn't seem to like Dr. Kavafi, as it gave him a virus-free pocket for an abnormally long time...

I want to know what Hoole knows about the evil Shi'ido. Apparently they should know each other, but Hoole doesn't give any sign of recognition at all.

Like in the other books, however, this guy is talkative about his work, telling Tash all about it in detail, though not giving up any details about the Imperial Project Starscream. He manages to escape, not wanting to be around when his virus is released into the city, where it can be tested against so many different species.

As in City of the Dead, Deevee comes up with a cure right away. He and Zak managed to escape the hospital, and followed a trail of goo down to the lowest levels of the pyramid structures. At the base, they discovered that the natives, who had died out, had sealed up the viruses in their massive structures, and written the cures on the doors at the base. Kavafi discovered these, and was horrified, but the Imperials saw a real opportunity, something that might have given the Emperor an idea for his various plagues.

What was the scene with Tash's pimple all about, at the beginning? It looks to me like it was supposed to be referenced again when the bump appeared on her arm and then exploded in pus. I suppose it's just another way for teens to "associate" with these characters. I would prefer that the author stay away from such mundane and obvious things.

There is another common thread in these books, which is Tash's obsession with the HoloNet. The Lesson put forward by the author is the typical ones about the Internet, that spending too much time surfing the Net can be bad, that you can meet all sorts of strangers in chat rooms, and so on. They seem an awful lot like Earth's version. The person Tash met, Forceflow, introduced her to the ideas of the Jedi, and now gave her warnings about the planet Gobindi. Tash also sent him a huge amount of data, asking him to crack the encoding, which will presumably play a larger part in a future book. She thought it might pertain to Zak's disease, where likely it deals more with Starscream.  (Speaking of Starscream, that's a pretty poor password to obtain access to so much sensitive data -the project name as password -nobody would do that!) As for Forceflow, for somebody who was being traced, he had a lot of time to tell Tash about it!

It appears that we are alternating between Tash and Zak as main characters. This was obviously a Tash book, so I expect the next one to deal with another of Zak's obsessions. I just hope the story gets a little more original, and we can avoid the locals! This one was fairly well written, so if we can dig out of the clichés, maybe we can tell a really good story.


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