REVIEW OF

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 12:

DIE, CHAMELEON!


Starbuck is running away from a tall, gorgeous cadet named Hera from the planet Vaille. She wants to initiate a romance with Starbuck, but he is upset that she is making the first move instead of him, so he is determined to avoid her. A mutiny on the Colonial vessel Eureka results in Apollo, Sheba, and Croft being taken prisoner after they make the mistake of trusting the mutineers. The Eureka leaves the fleet and Starbuck, Boomer, Bojay, and several other viper pilots pursue it. The Borellian Nomen are aboard the Eureka as well as Chameleon, and the Nomen still want to fulfill their blood hunt.

The best original Berkley book yet!Lucifer arranges to have himself temporarily transferred from Baltar's basestar to work on a Cylon prison ship. He discovers Spectre to also be on the ship, and not long after they are taken prisoner after their ship is attacked by the Image Lords who are from a planet called the Joyful Land. The Image Lords use mind control to run the lives of all the human citizens of the city. The humans have been kidnapped and programmed to believe that they are a part of this world. One of the video entertainments is the adventures of The Starbuck, a blonde, handsome warrior who was created based on the legends of the Starbuck of the Galactica. Apollo, Sheba, Starbuck, and Chameleon almost manage to escape from the Eureka but then the ship is captured by the Image Lords. They, along with the mutineers (and the Nomen) are taken to the Joyful Land.

Starbuck and the other pilots follow the ship to the Joyful Land, and Cassiopea tells Starbuck before he leaves that Chameleon really is his father. After landing far from the city, Starbuck and Boomer set out to try and find Apollo and the others. To his shocked surprise, Starbuck discovers that he is a celebrity in the Joyful Land (because of The Starbuck character from the video entertainments) and a mob comes after him. He is led to safety by a group of children who idolize him. Starbuck and Boomer manage to free Apollo and the others (except Chameleon), but Starbuck gets captured during the escape. Lucifer is delighted to see Starbuck again and would like to play Pyramid with him because Lucifer is confident he has developed a system that will insure victory.

Apollo and Croft inspire the citizens of the Joyful to create a plan to revolt. The Image Lords approach Starbuck about playing Pyramid with Lucifer (because they enjoy games). Starbuck gets them to agree that if he wins, everyone in the Joyful Land will be set free. Lucifer feels the need to have something at stake so he declares that Starbuck must deactivate him if he loses.

Chameleon deals the cards during the game, but is caught slipping a good card to Starbuck. The Image Lords are going to punish him severely, and Starbuck, in desperation, gets them to agree that he and Lucifer will play one more hand once the first game is over. If Starbuck wins, Chameleon is spared. If Starbuck loses, then he will receive Chameleon's punishment (which will mean his death).

In the final hand of the first game, Lucifer reveals a perfect pyramid! Starbuck is shocked that he lost, and Lucifer is disappointed that he did not feel the thrill he had imagined winning would bring. The second game begins to decide Chameleon's fate. In the final hand, Starbuck reveals an almost completed pyramid. Lucifer throws his cards face-down and declares Starbuck the winner. At that point, Apollo and the other citizens burst into the room, and one of the Image Lords takes Chameleon hostage. Starbuck follows him to the ship on the landing bay, and then the Nomen appear (having been freed). Starbuck and Apollo hold the Nomen back, but Chameleon is taken away by the Image Lord.

The city is finally free, but Starbuck is saddened to lose his father. Lucifer insists that Starbuck deactivate him, but the lieutenant refuses. Lucifer then deactivates himself and has mechanisms installed that will not allow him to be turned back on. The Colonials head back to the Galactica.

Spectre takes the body of Lucifer on a shuttle and heads for Cylon territory. He stares at the cards Lucifer threw face-down and is baffled. Lucifer had a perfect pyramid! Could Lucifer have cheated? Spectre is determined to find a way to revive his rival and, most of all, to solve the mystery of Lucifer. On the Image Lord's ship, Chameleon escapes and steals a shuttle. He does not know where the fleet is, so he rolls some dice and uses that to determine which heading to take.


This is my favorite of all the original Berkley novels. It is fascinating how the legend of Starbuck has spread throughout the galaxy (even if it is a little unbelievable). But what I love most is that Cassiopea tells Starbuck that Chameleon is his father, and Lucifer and Starbuck finally meet again and actually get to play cards. Lucifer's sacrificing the game to save Starbuck is very touching, and it shows that Lucifer has evolved greatly despite that he is a machine. Spectre also returns, and it is fun to see him and Lucifer stuck with each other throughout the story. Some of the most fun scenes come from these two. Also, the Borellian Nomen return and go after Chameleon again (but we are never told how the fleet managed to recapture them).

Almost everything in the book works fantastic despite the fact that we are once again given the plot of a warrior/warriors stranded/captured on a planet. The one major drawback of the book is the inclusion of Croft as a major player. Thurston apparently likes Croft, but the character is dull. He doesn't do much except act like a jerk and lust after Sheba. It seems a shame to make him a featured character when the show had so many other better underutilized characters such as Tigh, Athena, and Boomer.

I also like the introduction of Hera. She is a very strong-willed character, unlike most of the other Colonial women. Her coming on to Starbuck is pretty funny, and it makes for a nice subplot. I usually don't care for brand-new characters, but this is an exception.

If there is one part of the book that is completely ridiculous, it is that Apollo, Sheba, and Croft would travel to the captured colonial ship and attempt to personally negotiate with the mutineers under a flag of truce. Adama should have realized that they would be taken as hostages. Besides, if Apollo and Adama wanted to negotiate, couldn't they easily do it at a safe distance over the fleet comline?

Another part of the book that bothers me is that while Thurston acknowledges that Sheba has feelings for Apollo, he never bothers to follow up on their relationship. What is really disturbing is that, at the end, Sheba almost decides to have a fling with Croft! (Ugh!) Perhaps it's for the best. Leave the Apollo/Sheba romance to the great fanfic authors like Sharon Monroe. (You can't go wrong with Second Coming and Joint Maneuvers from Clean Slate Press!)

Still, these are fairly minor flaws in an overall outstanding novel. If there is one original Berkley novel that I would recommend as a must-read, this is the one.


Robert Thurston wanted the title of the book to be Deal, Chameleon!, but the publisher felt the title was not interesting enough. The novel is Thurston's favorite out of all the original Berkley stories he has written.

Chameleon tells Starbuck about a dream he had where Starbuck is stranded and alone on a desolate planet. This has to be foreshadowing for the classic Galactica 1980 episode The Return of Starbuck.


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