Stephen Furst, the guy I knew best as Babylon 5's Vir Cotto, has died. :-(
This final part of the Centauri trilogy is perhaps the weakest one - it's a fast read, suspenseful and, of course, leading to the prophesized conclusion... but maybe that's its problem right there: it's too straight-forward, too predictable.
While Durla, the prime-minister, gains ever more power, and starts to resemble Cartagia in his power-lust and self-aggrandizing folly, Londo's getting weaker by the year. Vir's busy leading the resistance-movement (getting veiled hints from Londo), and David Sheridan turns 16 years old. Honoring Londo's request his parents gift him with an old urn, unleashing the ultimate battle for the boy's soul, and, on a larger scale, Centauri Prime.
Much of the culmination was already shown within the series, so that's turning practically the final third of the book into a retelling (In the Beginning, War Without End, just to name a few), albeit with some interesting insights. And of course, the Drakh aren't eliminated yet as a species, they're just driven away at the end - and they might well have lost their hold on Centauri Prime due to their arrogance.
This trilogy definitely was the story of Vir Cotto, coming into himself, much more so than it was Londo's, even if he's the tragic figure who perhaps started all this by allying himself with Morden. But it was also the story of unlikely allies, Centauri, techno-mages, a Narn, a former Hitler Youth-member, in some ways even the President of the Alliance. And it was a story about redemption and finding rays of light where you wouldn't have been looking before (such as Londo and his wife, if just for a short time); but also about overreaching and blinding arrogance and thinking that you can do no evil because you were chosen (such as with Durla, his wife Mariel, and his followers who all turned on him in the end).
But actually, the question of why Londo didn't interfere earlier, was not quite answered. He let himself be bonded to the Keeper because of the Drakh threat to detonate bombs on Centauri Prime... his life and service so that his people may survive. And of course, there was always the threat that they'd turn the next emperor, Vir, into their puppet if he refuses. The decline of his mental faculties was rather drastic, especially in this last novel, but did it have to take another 5 years, after Vir discovers the Drakh with the help of the Technomages, up until he helps Vir reveal the Drakh presence on Centauri Prime to the public? Or did he time it with David's "infection", knowing Sheridan and Delenn would rush after their son and come to Centauri Prime, enabling him to show them what's going on and therefore securing their help? And the other interesting question that wasn't quite solved was whether or not the Drakh plague or Earth could be cured - I realize that they possibly didn't know yet how Crusade would fare in the ratings, which would after all have told that story, and that's why David couldn't explore that facet a bit more, but since Crusade was cancelled, this didn't get resolved (unless it was in the Psi Corps-trilogy which I haven't read yet).
Overall, a good novel which brings all the plotthreads to a neat and plausible conclusion, even if it can't quite keep up the suspense till the end (but again, that's more due to the fact that the end was already known). A definite recommendation for the entire trilogy because one of the main questions, what happened next on Centauri Prime, is finally answered here.
This book covers the years 2268 to 2273 and focuses more on Vir and his "growing-up" as it's called.
Vir allies himself with Technomages (among them Galen from "Crusade") who, already in the first part, helped him prevent an assassination attempt on Sheridan. Together they manage to destroy a Shadow base on a border world that the Drakh, with Centauri help, began to put into use again. But not before a bioweapon is launched towards Earth. Also with Galen's help Vir manages to get his exile overturned and slowly learns what's really going on on Centauri Prime and with Londo.
Vir really grows up from the bubbling buffoon, afraid of his own shadow, to a sarcastic, battle-weary tactician who has to weigh the ongoing existence of the Centauri against the threat posed by the Drakh and their associates and who is willing to stretch, if not cross boundaries (such as coercion and even murder) - and who's not afraid of dying yet because of a simple prophecy that shows him succeeding Londo to the throne. And somehow, he convinces the Technomages and Sheridan, who catches on that something is not right on Centauri Prime, to let him fight from within first - and so it comes that he's forming his own rebellion movement.
Meanwhile, Londo's adversaries within the Centauri government are gaining power, but they are not willing to remove him... yet. But otherwise, they're ruthless in their brainwashing the general population against the Alliance and secretly (and often unwittingly) working to further the Drakh's agenda, removing every obstacle, one of those being Lou Welch, a welcome cameo, who's investigating and later killed by one of the Hitler Youth-members. A chilling glimpse into the making and sustaining of a dictatorial state with a puppet as leader.
This is a pretty intense 2nd part of a trilogy, filled with regret, grief, manipulation, self-disgust and sacrifice, fleshing out especially Vir and also the Technomages. On to the conclusion.
It took only the n-th rerun of Babylon 5 for me to finally pick up this first part of the Centauri-Prime-trilogy...
... and I'm glad I finally did. "The Long Night..." picks up from Londo's coronation to Emperor up till 2267. It shows how Londo's keeper and the Drakh influence him and Centauri politics, how they turn the Centauri Republic into some form of police state (even with some parallel to Hitler's Youth), how Londo internally rails against this but is powerless to actually interfere. And the book ends on a bleak note: Vir and Londo's wife are essentially exiled because they came too close to discovering what's going on, leaving Londo even more isolated with only Reefa's daughter Senna as some kind of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. But how long will that last inkling of light be allowed to last - especially if it leads to Londo being recalcitrant?
Londo never was one of my favourite characters in the series, but David manages to breathe life into the background of events that were depicted in the series and/or the movies, such as Londo's leaving the urn with a keeper for Sheridan's son on Minbar. And he even lays the groundwork for the Shadow-weapon that's deployed later on as revenge already. Somehow, the most cruel part is that the Drakh, except for Londo whom they control via the Keeper attached to his neck, everyone else on Centauri Prime just plays into their hands with their ambition, hurt pride and jealousy. Isn't that kind of a parallel to how things often work in politics in the so-called real world?
Definite recommendation here - I'm looking forward to the next part.