REVIEW OF

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 2:

THE CYLON DEATH MACHINE


It is interesting that this novelization of The Gun On Ice Planet Zero is the second Galactica novel. Ironically, Gun was the second episode produced. To be honest, I've never cared much for this particular novel. It is mostly a straight retelling episode except for a couple variations.

This art was done by Frank Frazetta. It was never originally intended for this book. The woman shown is Athena.Croft is fleshed out considerably here (in fact, several chapters are written from his point of view). Apparently, Robert Thurston really liked Croft because he becomes a major character in three of the four later original Berkley novels. Unfortunately, the problem with giving Croft so much focus here (and in the other books) is that the character is dull. Except for his loyalty to the Colonials, there isn't much that separates Croft from the other criminals (although he does rescue Boxey at the end).

Much more interesting is the character of Vulpa, the Cylon Commander in charge of the Pulsar weapon. We learn much about Vulpa's past and his rebellious nature which goes a long way towards giving the Cylons more dimension and moving them away from being a bunch of bad guys that look cool but have absolutely no personality. Imperious Leader also continues to be an intriguing character, and it is fun to watch him talk with the human hologram of Starbuck to try and anticipate the humans' moves.

Still, unfortunately, The Cylon Death Machine is one of those novels where the whole does not equal the sum of its parts.


The front and back cover of this book has an art portrait that was used as an early promotional tool for the TV series. It was not made to be used for this book.

The ice planet is named Tairac, and it is referred to as an asteroid several times throughout the novel.

Leda has short red hair instead of long, black hair.

Vulpa has clear ambitions to one day become Imperious Leader. He was a suicidally aggressive fighter pilot before being promoted to commander. Vulpa was banished to the ice planet after openly suggesting to Imperious Leader that the Cylons let the remaining humans go. He simply did not believe the humans were a viable threat any longer. Vulpa has extra motivation to succeed at his mission because he wants to redeem himself to Imperious Leader.

Imperious Leader, not Baltar, directs the operation pushing the Colonial fleet towards the ice planet. He listens to computer simulations of Adama and Apollo, and then finally settles on talking with Starbuck because the Cylons have more information on him. Starbuck has already achieved a legendary status as many human prisoners talk about him. The Starbuck hologram constantly insults Imperious Leader.

The research ship Infinity serves as a make-shift Academy for training new Colonial warriors. Adama gives a lecture to the greenest group of cadets he has ever seen and cannot believe how young they all are.

The novel does a better job than the TV series ever did portraying the harsh struggle for survival in the rag-tag fleet: "Every person on every ship was putting in double time to improve the efficiency and speed of the overall fleet. Half a dozen freighters had been converted to flying foundries, which in turn converted scrap metals and other materials into vipers for the Galactica's crew of fighter pilots. Everyone in the fleet had become a scavenger, searching for metal and electronic supplies within their ships and on the few planets they encountered with obtainable material. Considering the sources for their construction, the vipers leaving the foundry were remarkably well-manufactured vehicles. It was true, of course, that they were more often subject to technical and mechanical failures than those vipers from the original squadrons."

The camouflage force-field is mentioned again, and Athena suggests they drop it and save the energy because the Cylons always seem to find them anyway.

A number of Colonial vessels have make-shift armament. The Colonial Movers ship once turned back a squadron of Cylon fighters single-handedly, and its achievement was already being transformed into song and legend among all the ships in the fleet.

While plotting a course for the Galactica, Adama says they must avoid the planet Cassarion because it is a Cylon outpost. They must also avoid the Sellian asteroid belt, composed of millions of fragments of a world the Cylons destroyed. (Did the Cylons have their own Death Star?)

On the Galactica bridge, during the review of the data that Starbuck brought back about the gun, Starbuck and Apollo almost come to blows over their frustration.

Athena strongly urges Adama to send her on the mission, but he refuses.

Imperious Leader tells the Starbuck hologram that Cylons write poetry, but it must be preserved orally and not permanently written down. Poets are considered one of the less desirable elements of Cylon society such as criminals.

In the Adama journals, Adama mentions there are many myths and legends about Starbuck during his Academy days. It was said that during off-duty hours he would unlock the war-game room and turn it into an arcade for entertainment, but he was never caught no matter how hard the officials tried. Another legend says that Starbuck created a cheating ring and gave test answers to a group of students. In the last page of their test booklets, those students found a note telling them that all the answers they were given were wrong. The examiner who told Adama the story swore that it could not be true, but Adama believes it.

Apollo is upset to learn that he has not been selected for the mission. After complaining to Adama, he is included with the team.

Athena is angry when she finds out that Apollo is on the mission. Starbuck pretends to act happy that he isn't on the list (even though he knows the computer will select him), and Athena says to him, "Hang around the debriefing room as long as you can. Maybe a little bravery will rub off." He walks off, and Athena curses herself for pushing him away when she had been trying so hard to get close to him again.

Starbuck programs into the computer that he and Boomer spent time at the Aeriana Ice Station even though neither of them had. Apollo realizes what Starbuck has done, but he doesn't say anything because he is glad to have them both on the mission.

The Muffit in the novel looks exactly like a real daggit.

The Cylons fighters that attack the shuttle are remote-controlled. When Killian's viper is severely damaged and about to explode, he purposely crashes it into one of the Cylon fighters and they both are destroyed.

Vulpa worries greatly about the humans on the shuttle because his garrison is understaffed.

In the Adama journals, Adama reflects on how much of their culture they have lost due to the Destruction. He had asked for a book only to learn that there was no copy.

After one of the Cylon attacks, Athena asks to fly a viper, but Adama says no.

One of the planners betrays the Colonials to the Cylons, initiating a Cylon search of the village.

In the village, Thane tries to rape Leda. She grips his throat, forcing him off. He then runs away and gets captured by the Cylons.

Vulpa is frightened when Thane's bomb goes off. He is amazed at what the humans are capable of.

Near the end, Boxey hides aboard a Cylon raider. After the mountain explodes, Vulpa (who was not caught in the blast) takes the remote-controlled Cylon fighters and launches a suicide attack on the Colonials. Boxey is trapped, but Croft rescues him. Hanging by a rope out of the side of one Raider, he blows a hole in the side of the other, swings inside to grab Boxey, and then swings out again (It's all a little hard to believe, of course).

As a reward, Adama reinstates Croft as a full commander.

Imperious Leader asks the Starbuck hologram how the humans managed to win again, and Starbuck mocks him. Imperious Leader angrily smashes the equipment, and the Starbuck hologram disappears.

Vulpa survives at the end but there is nothing he can do but wait for his eventual demise.


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