Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have (especially in this chapter, which will also be a huge movie spoiler), and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Here we are at the big climax. At least it should be since there is only this and the next chapter to review and the book is done. Plus they’re at their destination, the blood clot…and I know how much trouble those things can be. Mine was in the leg and took a shot at my lungs. Benes’ is near his brain and it’s taken a microscopic surgical team to deal with it if they have any hope of saving Benes and the knowledge he has. Plus as mentioned in the intro there is a huge spoiler coming up, so if you haven’t seen the movie or read this novelization you may want to turn away now and wait a few weeks for the next book to start. HINT: It’s another novelization, but this time for a comic. Yes, those exist.
As for this book, there are things it did better than the movie, like the science and science fiction and how it took advantage of the extra space, and things it did wrong, like character interactions. While Benes and Owens benefited Michaels, Grant, and Duval have been neutral while the additions to Peterson, Carter, and Reid have actually hurt their characterization a bit. But there’s no more time for character development. It’s time for the big event!
Chapter 17: Clot
And here the traitor is revealed, and it’s Dr. Michaels…which should surprise nobody considering he was played by the late Donald Pleasence, a man known for playing villain roles. The bigger twist would have been that it was one of the others. I wonder if Rachel Welch could play a villain? At any rate the big change here is the motivation. Apparently Asimov wasn’t satisfied with the “enemy agent” angle the movie went with. Remember that he added the disagreement between the medical and military sides of the CMDF, and that the doctors weren’t happy with long-term miniaturization being used for potential military purposes. In the original it’s hinted that Michaels worked for the other side but here Asimov decided to make him dying for a more “noble” cause of not letting a potential weapon get into anybody’s hands. Your opinion may differ, but I’m not happy with this approach. It seems to be done less for the sake of the story and more for the author’s personal politics, which is a really big discussion topic right now, especially in regards to Marvel Comics. I don’t see why simply keeping Michaels an enemy agent instead of a murderous pacifist (and it doesn’t seem like those two should go together) was a benefit to the story.
Then there was the reveal. At this point Michaels has pretty much lost his silly little mind, screaming how Duval is the traitor, while Grant now suspects that Michaels is the traitor. How did he come to that conclusion? Not really explained. In the movie Grant DIDN’T figure it out, or really suspect they had a traitor. Grant goes out to help and Michaels turns on Owens like he did here, but there wasn’t a real suspicion he was intentionally sabotaging anything. Meanwhile every sign pointed away from Duval throughout the course of the book so trying to make him look suspicious like the movie did was near impossible. It was Michaels who potentially drew them off-course, only getting away with it when his expertise allowed him to versus the others and what was on the map of Benes’ body. Frankly the audience didn’t see it coming but the clues are there. Here Michaels kept trying to pit Duval as a traitor when facts didn’t show that at all. The movie did the whole reveal better.
There’s one chapter left and Reid has convinced Carter to get the ship out, even if some is left behind. Why? The surgery is a success, Benes is getting his brain activity back (cold sleep aside) and although the ship is stuck there, time remains for them to get out even if it isn’t from the planned escape. They’ve already seen the team inside have been resourceful in getting back on course, what events they were aware of before Grant had to break the wireless to fix the laser. What’s Reid all upset about? Please don’t tell me he was in on this! We’ll probably find out next week as we conclude but that’s not a good way to end this, and the movie didn’t. Now there’s a worry that between the damage to the ship and Benes’ own defenses, which is how Michaels dies in both the movie and book, that the crew will be killed, but they’ve already figured a way out and how are they going to get the ship out of Benes’ brain in one minute? Join us next week for the conclusion!
Next Time: Eye
Which is a spoiler but hopefully you’re somehow reading along or saw the movie. I did say there were spoilers.