- A prequel to the original Quantum Leap
- Published by Boulevard
- First published in 1994
- A Thriller with hints of Time Travel
- 247 pages
Dr Sam Beckett is a genius in his field, and now turns his attention towards highly theoretical research. But his latest project is drawing the wrong kind of attention, and Sam’s enemies are drawing near . . .
Quantum Leap is one of those classic science fiction shows that I haven’t had time to watch yet, even though I’d quite like to. Well, it’s partly due to time constraints. It’s also due to the cost of the boxset. Either way, I like the idea of hopping back into the past and facing misadventures along the way, so I was happy to see this tie-in novel pop up over Christmas. Now, you might think it odd that I’d read a tie-in of a show I’ve never seen. Maybe you’re right, but I’m the man who bought eight Halo novels before playing any of the games. What else can I say? I’m a maverick.
Prelude is, as the name suggests, a prequel to the TV show, taking us through the events of the early nineties that sees Sam Beckett establishing the Quantum Leap project, along with his developing friendship with Al. Highlights include the creation of the artificial intelligence Ziggy, a violent run-in with the terribly-named Nonluddites, and Sam’s dabbling in questionable ethics. Though it covers a period of several years (because getting funding for projects takes time), Prelude seemingly takes us right up to the very beginning of the show, ending with Sam making his first leap.
Like a lot of twentieth century TV tie-ins (and here I am definitely looking at Star Trek), Prelude is decently written, but ultimately seems unclear of what it wants to be. Even by prequel standards, there is far too much set-up here with nowhere near enough pay-off. And yes, learning how the Quantum Leap project got off the ground is interesting, but for the most part, there’s no leaping in this book. It’s a tie-in that is almost totally lacking in the defining trait of the show it’s based on. Again, as a prequel this makes sense, but when Quantum Leap is on the cover, you really expect to see a bit more leaping. The closest connection we get for the most part of several references to other tie-ins and what I assume to be episodes of the show.
Prelude doesn’t increase my desire to watch the original show, which is one of the primary purposes of tie-in fiction. But it does keep Quantum Leap in my mind as we head into a new year. And with a reboot currently on screens, the chances of me actually watching a show of that name have never been higher.
Deeper Dive: TV Tie-Ins
Writers of TV tie-in novels have a rough gig. Not only do they have to go through the usual struggles of writing a book, they have to create a product that fits with what audiences see on screen. And when work on the books begins before the show has even aired, this can lead to inconsistencies. There are Voyager novels where the Doctor is called Zimmerman, and an Enterprise novel where the dates given are completely incompatible with the show.
In her foreword to Prelude, McConnell explains that she shows Sam leaping only in mind, rather than in body as per the show, due to a lack of clarity in early episodes. Interestingly, she makes the choice to keep her novels consistent with one another, rather than revising newer ones to fit the show. In doing so, she creates and alternative take on the franchise that is similar to the original format, self-consistent, yet out of step with the show upon which it is based.
It’s an approach I have not seen elsewhere, as most tie-ins go to great length to remain true to the show. But shows naturally evolve away from the place the earliest tie-ins use as a point of reference. McConnell’s choice raises an interesting argument. Is it perhaps better for each storytelling medium to remain consistent with itself, than to keep changing one to fit the other?
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