Another of the early Dell books, Accusations actually does have a reasonably interesting plot, and many aspects of the story touch nicely on elements of the Babylon 5 universe. However, author Lois Tilton has an even weaker grasp on the characters than John Vornholt did (with one exception), which makes this a fair book on its own merits - but not a very good Babylon 5 book.
Commander Ivanova receives a message from her old flight instructor, J. D. Ortega. Ortega's in trouble, and has information he urgently needs to pass on to Susan. But by the time Ivanova arrives to meet him, he is already dead, with only a cryptic note reading "hardwir" to help station personnel track down his killer.
When a link is uncovered between Ortega and the Free Mars terrorist group, a team of special investigators come direct from Earth to take charge of the case. Commander Wallace, the chief investigator, does two things straightaway. First, he denies Security Chief Garibaldi all access to the files on the case. Then he insists that Ivanova be stripped of her command, on the grounds that her link to Ortega makes her a security risk.
Meanwhile, Raider attacks have started up again. This time, the Raiders are specifically targeting ships carrying weapons material - almost as if they knew the ships' schedules ahead of time. As Sheridan assigns Ivanova to track the Raiders' movements, Garibaldi finds himself faced with problems of his own.
J. D. Ortega's killer has turned up, it seems. Well, his foot has, in any event. In the station's recycling system...
The second Babylon 5 novel published, Accusations is a solid enough story on its own merits, and certainly a significant improvement on John Vornholt's Voices. Accusations has many, many flaws. But Lois Tilton does pick up on a few dropped threads from Season One, and spins an entertaining enough conspiracy thriller.
The idea of following up on the Raider threat from Season One is actually a fairly good one. Certainly, despite the blow to the Raiders dealt by Sinclair (and then the Shadows) in Signs & Portents, it always struck me as unlikely that the Raiders would simply vanish from the scene altogether. After all, there had to be more than just the one group. Their re-emergence as a threat in this novel is actually quite convincing within the Babylon 5 universe.
Tilton also does a good job of stitching the Raider thread together with the information viewers had already received (in a Voice in the Wilderness and Eyes) about the unrest on Mars. These threads tie together surprisingly well, given that such a link was almost certainly not conceived by J. Michael Straczynski. Add in further hints of Earthforce corruption, and many of the bare bones of the plot actually feel quite convincing.
The early Dell authors seem to be very partial to Chief Garibaldi. He was effectively the lead or co-lead in both Voices and Blood Oath, and he shares the limelight with Ivanova here. Probably a sign of what I noted way back in my review of Born to the Purple: Garibaldi was a character who came across fairly strongly from the get-go, and there were quite a few times in Season One (particularly in the early episodes, where Michael O'Hare visibly struggled to find his character) in which it felt like Garibaldi was the true "star" of the series.
Certainly, it seems that Garibaldi is one of the easier characters for the authors to capture. Vornholt caught him more-or-less dead on in Voices. And though he made Garibaldi far too trusting in Blood Oath, he didn't miss the mark there by much.
Lois Tilton also does very well with Garibaldi. She even manages to capture some facets Vornholt missed. Where Vornholt's Garibaldi veered toward being a wisecracking gumshoe in the Sam Spade mode, Tilton digs a little deeper into the character. She brushes across Garibaldi's insecurities and self-doubts and, in so doing, creates a more interesting Garibaldi - and one far closer to the actual character.
Though Tilton "gets" Garibaldi, she isn't nearly as comfortable with the other characters. Ivanova comes across blandly as best, while the other major characters jar even more than they did in Voices. Even allowing Tilton some leeway with Sheridan (at most, she was probably writing Sheridan based on a brief character description), she doesn't even manage to create a character who convincingly could be the lead in the television series. This Sheridan spends most of the book acting weak-willed, harried, and helpless. Despite his prior relationship with Ivanova, there is even a brief section of the book where he seems to suspect her! If the real Sheridan had lined up with this characterization, one of two things would have happened by the end of Season Two: we'd have had Sinclair back by popular demand, or we'd have seen the show canceled by viewers switching off in disgust. Tilton's overly weak Sheridan is simply not a character I could see anyone following with enthusiasm.
I should also pause to mention the bizarre bit where Sheridan suddenly becomes Sinclair for a paragraph near the end (a sign of a last minute rewrite to accommodate the casting change? And if so - I cannot conceive of a version of this book that wouldn't have been HORRIBLY out-of-character for Sinclair)
Still, at least with Sheridan, Tilton has the excuse of having little to nothing on-screen to work with when she wrote this novel. She doesn't really have that excuse with regard to the interactions between Garibaldi and Talia, or Ivanova and Talia. Ivanova is specifically portrayed here as being outright hostile to Talia. This was true of the television series for exactly 4/5 of Midnight on the Firing Line. Even from Midnight on the Firing Line, it seemed readily apparent that these two characters would form a workable relationship later on. By Legacies - also in Season One - they actively appear to be friends, albeit friends with a potentially combative relationship. Even acknowledging that Tilton had no real way of knowing just how close Talia and Ivanova's relationship would become, there was more than enough screen evidence in the first season to make it seem odd that the two seem to all but hate each other here.
I'm also not entirely certain why this book is set after the start of the Narn/Centauri War. The plot - dealing with Raiders and Mars terrorists - manages the odd feat of feeling like something that falls both too late in the arc and too early. Certainly, it feels much too early for President Clark's administration to be this openly fascistic. At this point in the series, Clark is doing his best to convince everybody that he is simply fulfilling Santiago's legacy; he won't become openly antagonistic toward dissenters for another full season.
The story involving the special investigators is generally handled in far too heavy-handed a fashion. The televised series would later handle investigations with fascist overtones in a far more subtle and effective way, through the insidious Night Watch. Wallace's mass arrests and smug flaunting of his authority reduces him to a one-note Snidely Whiplash figure. Too bad. It would have been more genuinely interesting had Wallace been portrayed as a man genuinely doing what he thought was right for "the greater good," but this cartoonish caricature strains credulity from the character's first appearance.
...Oh, and one final question: Just what is G'Kar doing on the cover of a book he isn't even in?
A passable enough story on its own merits, I suppose, but not a good Babylon 5 story.