Back when Babylon 5 was running on television, creator J. Michael Straczynski used to refer to some episodes as being WHAM episodes, where he would kick over all the tables and knock the characters back on their heels. Usually a WHAM episode would in some way completely redefine what the overall story was about, and it would always spin the story off into some new and unexpected direction. Much like Tomb of Time or Children of the Serpent, Dark Goddess is absolutely a WHAM episode for the Outlanders series.
The prologue of the book serves up the long-overdue demise of Team Phoenix, in a way that is spectacularly and deliciously harsh. To borrow a phrase, I suspect the epitaph on their gravestones read "They died as they lived - stupidly". I was already set to give the book the highest possible rating just based on the first dozen pages, and then it got better.
The first act is set primarily in Florida on the Gulf Coast, with our leads facing off against the somewhat comically named Billy-Boy Porpoise. Although Mr. Porpoise certainly excels in creating a strong brand identity, he is perhaps not the best at correctly predicting the outcome of his actions. Ah, well, live and learn. Or not.
Very quickly the book moves into the meat of the story, with Overlord Lilitu plotting to wrest control of Tiamat from Enlil, a plan which requires the involvement of the Cerberus crew. As always, the story features globe-trotting high adventure with Ellis' trademark alchemy of science fiction and ancient mythology. All of the major characters give great performances, with a particularly strong role for Shizuka. By the end of the climactic battle, the series is once again completely redefined. I would easily rank Dark Goddess as being among the very best of the Outlanders series.
Like most die hard Outlanders fans, I despised Team Phoenix, even before I found out they were thinly disguised versions of characters from another series, long ago (and probably deservedly so) canceled.
It wasn't so much TP's conceited, knuckle-bumping, chest-beating, "Boo-YUH!" personalities, doing everything but flashing gang signs that I found hard to tolerate.
No, it was the dishonest and let's face it, nasty way Victor Milan rewrote the OL series and the characters of the Cerberus warriors so TP could come off as his idea of superior bad-a$$es that I couldn't stomach.
I wasn't alone in feeling that way, judging by the many anti-TP sentiments posted here over the last couple of years.
Dark Goddess is worth buying and reading for no other reason than to be treated to the demise of TP in the prologue--and it's one of the most hysterically funny scenes in all of Outlanders long history.
In fact, there are bits scattered throughout the entire novel which make it quite clear that none of Victor Milan's "contributions" to OL are official.
But Dark Goddess is not just about the demise of TP...it's a big epic book in the ongoing OL saga, dealing with the Overlords and Tiamat. Enlil returns for the first time since Children of the Serpent, but the main draw is Lilitu.
She's a brilliant, vicious Uber-b**ch and makes Erica Van Sloan seem like Mary Tyler Moore.
After a violent opening sequence set in Florida dealing with a scumbucket named Billy-boy Porpoise--which reminded me of the scenes with Jabba and Leia in Return of the Jedi--the book kicks into high gear.
Like the trademark OL books by Mark Ellis, Dark Goddess balances ancient mythology with actual history and builds toward a stunning and totally unexpected climax aboard the sentient starship, Tiamat.
The action is fast and the different locales are colorful. I always enjoy the way Mark Ellis starts out a OL book in a totally different place than where it ends.
Shizuka has a solid supporting role, as do other characters, like Colonel Sela Sinclair.
Dark Goddess is a great book, like a spectacular multi-million dollar movie. It also proves once again that Mark Ellis reigns supreme in writing epic action-adventures that have both brains and heart.
It was over before it truly began.
The reign of the Overlords, after their transformation was record breaking in how brief it was.
See, its things like this that sets Mark Ellis' Outlanders apart from all the vast majority of the other series that are available for reading.
Pretty much everything that is published by Gold Eagle is Episodic, or Stand Alone. They have no impact at all in the overall picture of the series.
Deathlands had it years ago, when Laurence James wrote it, and then the short period of time that Mark Ellis, Mel Odem and another gentleman named Terry were working together to try and keep the continuity intact.
However, that is long since gone, and the other series that GE puts out are suffering from it as well. Rogue Angel, Mack Bolan, Stoney Man, they're all episodic and thus suffer from it.
In many ways, Outlanders has more in common with a Television series than it does a book series. Take Stargate SG1, Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Jericho, and Heroes just to name a couple.
Each show has an overall Story Arch, and in some cases, the entire year is a story arch, such as what you have with Heroes.
But at the same time, each show has individual episodes that don't have much to do with the overall story arch, but still contribute to the series.
Outlanders is just like that. The first thirty or so novels the overall story arch dealt with the Cerberus Exiles attempting to overthrow the powerful Baron's while at the same time learning about Humanities hidden past.
Then the overall arch changed in Children of the Serpent. The Barons became the lost Annunaki pantheon, the Overlords.
Now, the arch has taken a major turn once again. The events in this novel deal a major blow to the Overlords, with the death of not two, but possibly all of them, and the destruction of Tiamat.
Individual episodes are good, but the episodes that contribute to the overall story arch are by far and far the best.
And this novel is one of the best the series has to offer to date.
Don't fret, it has everything that the fan of the series has come to expect over the years. Exotic locals (Egypt, the Sinai desert, even space). Beautiful women (the introduction of another character as well, someone who's true intent has yet to be revealed), adrenaline pumping excitement - especially towards the end... hell, who could ask for anything more?
A SOLID 5 out of 5.
Dark Goddess is another great book in a series that has had so many of them over the last ten years.
Obviously, one of the most enjoyable things about the book was the death of Team Phoney, the cliche' spouting cliche'-ridden characters from an old cliche'-ridden postnuke series from the 1980s.
But the main thrust of the book dealt with the evil Lilitu, the dark goddess of the night also known as Lilith who drags the Cerberus warriors into her own double-crossing scheme to oust Enlil and take control of Tiamat.
The action is fast and fierce, the plot full of unexpected twists and turns. The characters are once again vividly portrayed, from Shizuka to Lilitu's so-called sister, Rhea.
The fates of the Anunnaki Supreme Council are ambiguous, but that was all to the good.
The only thing I disliked about Dark Goddess was the 'preview" the new GE series, Room 59 jammed in the back.
Dull and duller. Does GE really think that fans of the high-adventure Outlanders series really cares about reading an imitation of the 24 television series?
Overall I liked the book,
My only gripe would be the death of Team Pheonuix, Last i read, they were in deep space and turned their back on Earth because there was nothing left for them. So how in the world did they end up back?????
The entire chapter was pointless.
Before this series becomes a complete disaster the authors should really compare notes and keep continuity going.
just my honest opinion.
(Editor's note - the entire point of that chapter was a very pointed poke at Victor Milan for completely disregarding continuity and refusing to compare notes with the primary author of the series. - Lokheed)