The Machiavelli Factor

Editor: Judith Proctor
Universe: Blakes7

Fanzine at Reviewed by Kathryn A in 1996

One-story zine by Lillian Sheperd\ illustrated by Jean Sheward\ cover by Jean Kluge

When I first laid eyes on the 1996 edition of the classic Blake's 7 story The Machiavelli Factor, I said "Wow. Oh, wow. The cover. Wow." A colour picture of Blake holding a crystal sphere radiating light. The original looks to have been done in watercolour and pastel, and is just stunning. But you should never buy a zine for just its cover. What of the contents?

It has been a long time since I first read The Machiavelli Factor, more than ten years since I pored over a borrowed copy of it back when I was new to fandom. It was better than I remembered, possibly because the main bits I remembered were the start, and a flaw that I found irritating. But as I read it this time, some bits came back to me, and others I just enjoyed as they came.

To get the criticism over with, the main flaw is still the same as it ever was - that we don't get enough of a hint as to who Valonia is. I don't mean that it shouldn't have been a surprise - I like surprises - but because of the lack of clues, the revelation was not only a surprise, it was also hard to believe. This time around, because I remembered who Valonia was, I picked up the few subtle hints there were, but I don't think they were enough. But otherwise, this was a durn good story, alternative universe set after Terminal.

One could describe this story as a series of leaps from the frying pan into the fire, from the fire to the volcano. Rescues, escapes, captures - I'm reminded of the line in the Princess Bride: "You've kidnapped what I've rightfully stolen." - as Our Heros find themselves pawns (and Queens) in a power struggle in a civilization far away from the Federation. Politics, treachery, duplicity - is there anyone that they can trust? But it's not just an action-politics kind of story, there's good character stuff, particularly for Avon and Blake. Tarrantophiles probably won't like what happens with Tarrant, but I can't really say that it's out of character for a third-season Tarrant, which this is. One has to assume that the author is a Blakephile, since all the bits from Blake's point of view are done in first person. Whether this was a good decision I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem to hurt. There are bits here that are just fun - watch out for the Masters of Illusion (!).

A good read. A spirograph on the Sid & Nancy scale.