Book Review: The First Amendment

We’re back with another Stargate novel review and taking centre stage on this occasion is the third book by Ashley McConnell, The First Amendment.

A photograph of Colonel Jack O'Neill on the front cover of the Stargate SG-1 companion novel The First Amendment by Ashley McConnell

Blurb

From the very beginning, the success of the Stargate project hinged on one vital factor – absolute secrecy. The world remains ignorant of the Goa’uld and the war being waged in space, and that’s just the way the Stargate Command wants it. But their secret may not stay that way for long.

A young reporter has been smuggled into the most restricted area of the Cheyenne Mountain base. He’s witnessed the Stargate in action, and wants answers. But he’ll get much more than a headline when Col. Jack O’Neill and his team decide to show him exactly how dangerous the universe can be…

Synopsis (** SPOILER ALERT! **)

The story begins with an insight into the daily routine of General Hammond, his thoughts about running the SGC and his schedule for the day ahead (he basically has a lot of meetings). It’s only when we get a few chapters in, that the central plot is introduced.

This storyline focuses around a news reporter – the son of Senator Kinsey – who manages to get access to the SGC, courtesy of his father pulling a few strings. Following his initial introduction to the Cheyenne Mountain complex, young Frank Kinsey thinks he’s wasting his time. There’s nothing (he believes) worth reporting, and certainly nothing that he couldn’t have discovered himself with a quick trawl through Google. But then he’s goaded into entering part of the complex where he isn’t allowed and he’s promptly taken hostage by a member of SG-2 (Major Dave Morley). Morley recently returned from a failed mission to recover a missing SG team (SG-4), when some of his own team were killed in action. It appears he’s suffering from potential PTSD as a result, but he also now believes that the public has a right to know what is actually going on in the mountain.

Morley intends to take Kinsey through the Stargate so the reporter can see the horrors for himself, but before he can do so, another SG team dials in. As a result, Kinsey inadvertently sees the Stargate in action, Morley is overpowered by Colonel O’Neill and the situation is diffused. Kind of… because Kinsey now does believe there’s a story to be told.

After a little discussion, the SGC feel they might be able to convince Kinsey to say nothing – by letting him go off-world. SG-1 is the chosen, if somewhat reluctant, team to babysit the reporter and they gate to the planet Etaa. It’s a planet they’ve previously visited, but it is also the planet Morley and his team were sent to retrieve SG-4.

Upon arrival to Etaa, the planet is quiet but things quickly go south; it turns out a war has broken out on the planet but no-one seems to have any explanation as to how (or why) it started. The warring parties subsequently appear to be these odd alien creatures; one sounds like a praying mantis, the other is so eloquently described by Jack O’Neill as Mothra.

With their access to the Stargate cut-off, the team decide to have a look around and see if they can find any survivors and any answers to what has happened. The reality of the situation shakes the entire team and as they are exploring, Daniel is captured by one of the creatures. He’s badly injured and his teammates now have to race against the clock to get him back. 

Review

First published in February 2000, the timeframe for this story is season 2 and it’s a little on the boring side if I’m being completely honest. For fans wanting to read the novel, you can skip the first 100 or so pages. Honestly, aside from an insight into the daily workings of the SGC (with Hammond going from meeting to meeting) and a whole lot of paper-pushing going on, nothing happens.

Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to see General Hammond take a lead role at the beginning of the story, but the author goes into painstaking detail about NORAD, the appearance of the SGC and the Stargate, etc. The fans don’t necessarily need all these details; they know these details and if it was to fill page space, I’d rather more time had been taken on the actual action and ending of the book. Speaking of…

When the action does eventually kick in, it doesn’t really fit within the context of the story. I mean, SG-1 has been to this planet before and yet they never saw any of the creatures around – nor heard them mentioned by the people of Etaa. It raises the question then, where did they come from? They obviously didn’t come via the Stargate because shortly after the team’s arrival, it’s made clear that the creatures have no idea what the gate is or how it works. A theory is given that the people of Etaa were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and this is what caused their demise. With no clear answers to their questions, this seems to be what the team choose to believe… which is obviously what the author chose, but I would have liked a little more time spent on this issue.

Again, there are some continuity issues with The First Amendment. For example, when Morley is recalling the failed mission to Etaa, it sounds like there are 20 members to an SG team. When did this happen?! Also, the SGC supposedly has an officers’ club… I’d love to have watched those scenes on the show!

Looking at the depiction of the characters themselves, Jack appears distrusting of – and rather brusque towards – Sam. He makes a snide comment about how “she always argues”. He then puts her character down, only to add, “but she did stop a grenade from going off, so I’ll let her away with it this time”. Sam also addresses Dr Fraiser with a “yo” at one stage. If we go by the TV counterparts, the characters don’t interact like this. Daniel is continually referred to as “blond” too, but unless we’re dealing with an AU version, he’s never been blond, while Carter’s rank changes two or three times within the space of a page. It’s these mistakes and incorrect characterisations that make it really difficult for me to enjoy these early novels. 

Unfortunately, this story left me asking a lot of questions. What became of Major Morley, for example? What did he really see on that planet? What made him go crazy? Did he go crazy? Did he get the help he needed? Does the SGC really have an officers’ club? 

I guess we’ll never know…

Chevron Rating: 3/7

Miscellaneous

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: