Out of the Darkness Review
Out of the Darkness is the third volume of Legions of Fire, Peter David's Centauri Prime trilogy.
This book covers the time period between the years 2274 and 2278. This period includes John Sheridan's flash-forward experiences on Centauri Prime in the episodes "War Without End, Part One" and "War Without End, Part Two". As Peter David states in my interview with him, Out of the Darkness answers everyone's questions about what happens in the future sequences of "War Without End".
As with the trilogy's second volume, Armies of Light and Dark, a significant portion of this story is told in the form of excerpts from The Chronicles of Londo Mollari - Diplomat, Emperor, Martyr, and Self-Described Fool. Emperor Londo Mollari writes these journal entries while he is intoxicated to prevent his keeper from learning about them. These passages give the reader a look inside Londo's mind as he becomes progressively worried that his declining health may prevent him from saving his world.
Much of the ability to save Centauri Prime is out of his hands, however. That power lies with Vir Cotto. Vir has developed into a hardened resistance leader. His opposition group is called the Legions of Fire, from which the trilogy derives its title. Vir is now a man who commands respect among his followers. He must also deal with the fact that their profession is a dangerous one and his orders may lead many to their deaths. Vir still retains his early befuddled personality as a cover that allows him to catch his opponents off guard. Vir also retains his conscience.
While "War Without End" shows events on Centauri Prime from Sheridan's point of view, Out of the Darkness plays out these same events with Londo and Delenn as the central characters. Sheridan spends most of the time wandering around in a daze asking what year it is. Readers are treated to Delenn's internal struggle with whether or not she should warn Sheridan about going to Za'ha'dum.
Out of the Darkness is very unusual for a Babylon 5 story in that it doesn't leave the reader with a lot of questions. Peter David delivers on his promise. After reading this book you will know what happens to David Sheridan, why Centauri Prime is in flames, why G'Kar is on Centauri Prime, how Vir becomes Emperor, and so forth. It's almost as if this book is a gift to the fans to reward them for their patience.
Perhaps the greatest gift in Out of the Darkness is the final scene between Londo and G'Kar. This scene is first foreshadowed in the very first episode of Babylon 5. By the end of the series, we have come to realize that the meaning behind this scene is very different from what we first expected. That realization comes from watching the years of change that these characters experience. While their final scene takes only a few seconds in "War Without End", the format of a novel gives Peter David the ability to devote six full pages to this event that sums up what is arguably the most interesting story arc in Babylon 5.
One of the most important points about Babylon 5 is that the journey is more important than the destination. "War Without End" reveals that Sheridan wins the Shadow War, but that doesn't make the rest of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four any less interesting. That same episode also reveals much of the conclusion of Out of the Darkness, but that doesn't invalidate the book. The story, which Peter David developed from an outline by J. Michael Straczynski, is filled with twists and turns. Peter David also has a strong handle on many of the Babylon 5 characters. It's easy to hear their voices when you read Peter David's words.
Peter David is also well known for his humor. While much of this story is grim, he still manages to inject a few lighthearted moments. Readers are given a glimpse of the never-before-seen "middle years" of Sheridan and Delenn's marriage, including the trials of parenting a teenager. Also, Michael Garibaldi utters the single funniest line ever associated with Babylon 5. As you near the end of the book, be sure that you are sitting in a stable chair so that you don't hurt yourself when he makes his appearance.
For those interested in Crusade, this book reveals that the Excalibur was instrumental in thwarting the Drakh plague. However, no mention is made of the cost of this success. Galen is conspicuously absent from this volume, leaving his fate in Crusade unknown.
I complained about some possible chronological problems in my review of the first volume, The Long Night of Centauri Prime. This volume sidesteps the issue by admitting in a editorial note to Londo's journal that some of the dates have been changed to make them less confusing to human readers because the length of the Centauri and Earth years are different. References are also made concerning David Sheridan's age and the difference in the lengths of the Minbar and Earth years. Are these comments a cop-out or an effort to make life difficult of the author of the Official Chronology?
Overall, Out of the Darkness is probably the most satisfying of all Babylon 5 novels when judged on the basis of answering questions and covering material that fans have repeatedly requested. Peter David shows himself to have a firm grasp of these characters. Hopefully this will not be the last Babylon 5 novel he writes.