It’s been a while, but we are back with another Fandemonium review, and it is Sacrifice Moon by Julie Fortune.
Just four days after Major Kawalsky’s death, Colonel Jack O’Neill leads the newly commissioned SG-1 on their first mission through the Stargate.
Their destination is Chalcis, a peaceful society at the heart of the Helos Confederacy of planets. But Chalcis harbors a dark secret, one that pitches SG-1 into a world of bloody chaos, betrayal and madness. Battling to escape the living nightmare, Dr. Daniel Jackson and Captain Samantha Carter soon begin to realize that more than their lives are at stake. They are fighting for their very souls.
But while O’Neill and Teal’c struggle to keep the team together, Daniel is hatching a desperate plan that will test SG-1’s fledgling bonds of trust and friendship to the limit…
Synopsis (** SPOILER ALERT! **)
This story is set right at beginning of the series (just four days after Kawalsky’s death), so SG-1 is still very much a new team and – in the grand scheme of things – they don’t really know each other. Remember, even Daniel and Jack have only, technically, known each other for three or four days at this stage.
The team are preparing to head out on one of their first official missions as SG-1 and are eating together in the mess as they discuss a range of topics – while Jack also silently observes his new teammates and their different personalities (even if he is slightly mean to Daniel at times).
A couple of hours later they travel to P3X-595 – a planet that is later identified as Chalcis. The planet’s culture and customs appear deeply rooted in ancient Greece and the people initially appear friendly and hospitable. They soon meet with the planet’s leader and discover that it is a prosperous place, as well as a hub for travel between other planets within Chalcis’s area of the galaxy – the Helos Confederacy. The locals are also aware of the Goa’uld, but insist they have been left alone for many, many years.
A decision is made to spend the night on the planet and it’s mostly uneventful. The next morning, the team are getting ready to head back to the SGC when they accidentally witness a sacred religious ceremony that is taking place at the Stargate. They watch as a group of locals are herded towards the gate and notice that they are all wearing a necklace – almost like a metal choker – with a white stone in the centre. Once they step through the wormhole and the gate shuts down, SG-1’s presence is discovered and the local hospitality is immediately replaced with anger. The team are quickly subdued and given a similar necklace before they are crudely shoved through the gate to the same place as the previous group.
On this new world, SG-1 immediately try to dial home, only to discover the control crystal to the DHD is missing. They are now stuck there until they can find it – or find another way home. But then things start to go really wrong.
After stumbling across a few individuals from the group SG-1 saw go through the gate, it’s revealed that Chalcis, as well as the other planets in the Confederacy, regularly send a human ‘tribute’ through the Stargate to the planet. The tribute is meant to appease the Goa’uld, so that the planets in the Confederacy are left alone.
The team are immediately on alert, but then it is revealed the Goa’uld in charge of this new world is Artemis – the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, and the moon. She’s also insane and twisted and has a real thirst for blood in this story. And as night starts to fall, everything changes: opinions, behaviours, dreams…
It turns out that the necklace donned by everyone is controlled by Artemis and as her hold starts to tighten on the latest batch of tributes, lines are drawn. They are now part of a hunt and are either the hunters or the prey (in this case, Sam and Daniel are the hunters; Jack and Teal’c the prey), and when the team starts to turn on each other, it quickly becomes a fight for survival.
The hunt takes place at night (when the moon appears), so in the day time, when Artemis’ hold isn’t as powerful, the team make their way through the desolate and deserted streets where they not only make some horrific discoveries, but they meet a few more of the other ‘tributes’ that have been sent through the gate. Most of them can’t be trusted, but some admit they do what they have to in order to survive the barbaric nightly hunt of the Goa’uld.
Now, with the victims’ help, SG-1 set out to track Artemis down and finally free the people on her planet before any else is killed.
* Before I go any further, I want to flag up a trigger warning. Sacrifice Moon does include a discussion about suicide, as well as an act of it, and a brief reference to this is made towards the end of my review below. *
Overall, I did enjoy Sacrifice Moon, and I think one of the things I enjoyed the most is the portrayal of the characters. For the story to be set so early in the timeline, Julie has done a great job with their voices; their inner thoughts; how they work around one another; the way they are learning to trust each other.
Jack’s sarcasm and quips scattered throughout the book sound just like him and I enjoyed how the narrative often described his thoughts regarding his fellow team members. There’s also a brilliant exchange between him and Sam in the first chapter that reminds me of the ‘briefing room’ scene in Children of the Gods. Another stand-out moment involves a really important and honest conversation between Daniel and Teal’c on P3X-595 regarding Daniel’s wife Sha’re; and (within the context of canon) is what establishes the foundation of friendship between the two. For the shippers, there’s also a funny line (think it’s in chapter 7, IIRC) when Sam puts her arm around the Colonel to help him up a flight of stairs and he mumbles, “people will talk”. He receives an amused smile in response and it was just a nice moment between the two, considering everything else that is happening in the story.
Be warned: the plot is dark in places; e.g. the violence that the hunters use against the prey. The descriptions Julie provides are vivid and with Sam’s character in particular, there is a drastic change in her behaviour (there’s one scene with her and a little child) that left me spooked. So, while the story did have an episodic feel to it, I felt it was darker than a lot of the episodes tended to be. The tension remained throughout and I did want to keep reading, but if I had to pick faults; two spring to mind.
While I appreciated Julie using the theory that the Stargate (via the DHD) translated languages – thus explaining the common ‘aliens wouldn’t speak English’ argument within the fandom – there was no further detail as to how that actually worked. It’s likely because the team’s knowledge of the Stargate and its technology was still very primitive at this point, but it’s something I wanted to read more about.
My second issue is regarding the suicide of Daniel and Sam. The whole discussion, and subsequent situation, sat really uneasily with me for personal reasons and I didn’t like its inclusion, nor the way they had to die. At all. I understand (given the story elements) why Daniel suggested that particular course of action, but I would have preferred an alternative solution.
Finishing on a more positive note, I really enjoyed the opening paragraphs with the team bonding together over some rather unappealing-sounding food, and the closing paragraphs had them bonding over pitchers of booze. It felt true to the team and shone a light on one of the elements that eventually fuses the four of them together and into the team we know and love from the show.
Oh, there’s also a reference to an “incident” on P3X-595 regarding Captain Carter. It’s mentioned in the episode Emancipation (which takes place shortly after this story), but there is no real further information provided by Julie regarding the incident. All we are told is that Sam drank some of the alcohol on -595, only to take an “allergic reaction” to the beverage when the team arrived back at the SGC. Oh, and Jack wasn’t present when it happened… which is a little strange since he’s the one who later teases her about it.
All in all though, Sacrifice Moon is one Stargate novel I would happily read again.
Chevron Rating: 5/7