So, how does this particular tie-in measure up to the Farscape Phenomenon? Pretty darned well! True, it's a Marketing tool intent on getting all the dollars and cents out of the fat fans like me, but this particular tie-in was written very well by a guy who understood the characters and the theme of the show incredibly well! While this is not a stand-alone novel for just any reader out there, Fans of the Series should be very pleased by the capabilities of author Keith R.A. DeCandido and delighted by the continuing adventures of the "Moya Cru!" It might venture a little into the predictable, and just a tad into the formulaic, but all in all House of Cards is a rewarding read for the fans, by a fan!
During a relatively (for them) meeting with a Luxan ship, the Crew of Moya agree to transport a Lian (a humanoid bird-alien) back to his home planet of Liantac. Liantac has become essentially a Corsuscant of gambling, like Las Vegas and Atlantic City to the Nth Degree. Unfortunately some schmuck released microbes into the atmosphere that gum up and destroy any normal ship's engine and exhaust so only Living Ships with decent immune systems can traverse the journey through the stratosphere. Because Moya herself is one such living ship, it's incumbent upon her and her crew to deliver our new friend back home... for a Healthy Sum.
Ka D'Argo votes yes, Zhaan votes yes, Rygel Votes yes (of course), Pilot doesn't care as long as he gets to go, Chiana votes yes, and Aeryn votes not only no but frell no!
The "Ayes" have it, so to the Gambling world they go. Fans of the series don't have to guess that on a Gambling Planet with Money in his Pocket, Dominar Rygel the XVI, deposed Monarch of the Hynerian Empire is the one who gets the old Gang into trouble. Rygel loses not only his share of the dough, but a tidy sum of his own possessions as well and... well... he loses Moya also to a Lian casino owner named Netoros. Rygel gets the crew into this jam, and it's up to Zhaan, D'Argo and Crichton to get them all out.
What follows is a gradual unraveling of a mystery of deceit and greed while Rygel fights a control collar, D'Argo serves as the body guard for a Vegas-Diva, Zhaan assists a Botany Cataloguer and Crichton works on the "impossible" solution to the planetary infection. The ultimate roll of the dice is still to come! Let's see something this interesting on CSI!
One really great thing about Farscape: House of Cards is how very well DeCandido really understands the show. The subtleties of the characters from mannerisms to expressions to what they might do in a certain situation are all nailed here. This is no small tasks with the complexities built upon episode after episode. DeCandido has constructed a very good novel in the spirit and theme of the original series with care for fans and not a single Gregory Benford Moment (the events of this novel take place between the episodes Won't Get Fooled Again and The Locket and it fits... perfectly). It's safe to say that Fans will love this.
To an extent, as a fan, this elevates the enjoyment of this novel, but it also might confuse new readers. Not that I believe that there would be many who would pick up this book without already being a fan, but there's a lack of character exposition here for those new readers. Like Denny O'Neill's Batman: Knightfall, this novel assumes that the reader does already know most of what he or she needs to in order to enjoy this book. Still, there are some good exceptions here in which DeCandido gives some back story. New readers wouldn't be totally lost, but it's clear that the Fans are the main target audience (as they should be, natch!).
Being a fan of the series does cause this book to feel a trifle predictable at times. Any fan worth their salt would certainly recognize the plans of a duplicitous Botanist who wants "one of every species of Plants" in his collection. It surprised me that the characters took so darned long to recognize this! Like any good mystery the fun here is finding out how Aeryn (who has problems of her own there), John, D'Argo, Rygel, Zhaan, and Chiana get out of this mess. There's no real tension for fans who know that everyone's still alive in The Locket! Basically an Episode's Formula is used to connect the dots between the Show, the Book and the show again. That's not to say there aren't surprises! Whoa, Nelly! They kept me guessing through most of it, with only a few exceptions. DeCandido knows how to frame a story all right, all right! It's hard to imagine House of Cards being better without actually being filmed.
If there's any actual problem with House of Cards it's that it makes one long all the more for the great show Farscape really is. Without the subtle puppetry of Pilot and Rygel as well as the great acting and voices of Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Virginia Hey, Anthony Simcoe and Gigi Edgley House of Cards remains a great book that really makes one want to see it acted out. Still, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of capturing the theoretical performances of this excellent cast as DeCandido does here. He knows the show inside and out, and any reader would be excited to see how well he pulled this off! Kudos!
Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Farscape: House of Cards! Keith R. A. DeCandido has created a very fun book that compliments a wonderful series with wit, humor and a great understanding of the material upon which this is based. Makes me wonder what I could do with a license to create Farscape memorabilia. I see a Dashing, Young Internet Critic in every scene... Hmmm... maybe I should write myself into Lexx too while I'm at it!