The Nightmare Machine

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The Nightmare Machine
The Nightmare Machine
A book of the Berkley Books line
Book No. 11
Author(s) Robert Thurston
Adaptation of
No. of Pages {{{pages}}}
Published December 1985
ISBN 0425086186
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The Nightmare Machine is an original Battlestar Galactica novel based on the Original Series that was first published in December 1985. It was written by Robert Thurston who had collaborated with Glen A. Larson on earlier Galactica novels.

Plot Synopsis[edit]

During a battle between Colonial Vipers from Galactica and Cylon Raiders, Greenbean is separated from the group and captured and brought to a Cylon basestar. After considerable torture, Greenbean reveals the location of the Fleet to his captors.

Aboard this same baseship, Baltar is being tormented by nightmares, in which he relives his betrayal of humanity and feels great guilt. Lucifer reveals to him that he is, in fact, testing a machine known as LEADER on Baltar. LEADER is designed to cause intense emotions to arise within people and in so doing, debilitate them. Scheming, Baltar has Greenbean's memories of being captured erased and has the LEADER machine wired into the buttons of Greenbean's uniform.

Greenbean is set released aboard his Viper, and returns to Galactica. His colleagues and crewmates are overjoyed at his return, having assumed he was dead, but soon the LEADER machine begins to take affect. People across Galactica become depressed and feel guilt about their pasts. Starbuck feels guilt over his treatment of women in the past, and Adama eventually descends into a coma where he relives the destruction of Caprica and the death of his wife Ila.

Apparently unaffected by the machine, Sire Uri wants to be allowed to settle on the habitable planet of Vaile, and when Adama takes ill as a result of the LEADER affects, Uri decides to try to stage a mutiny in the fleet.

Specter, the IL-series Cylon who had been assigned to Attila, arrives on Baltar's basestar to make and inspection, and flatters Baltar which annoys Lucifer. Specter announces that the Imperious Leader will be coming to visit, and when Imperious Leader finally arrives, Baltar suggests that he was the inventor the LEADER machine, and not Lucifer.

Back on Galactica, Starbuck is having great difficulty under the influence of the machine, and determines to go after Greenbean, who he has managed to determine is central to what is happening on the ship. Greenbean flees into the lower regions of Galactica into an area called the Devil's Pit. Starbuck follows and tries to kill Greenbean, but an old man living in the Pit interferes with Starbuck and Apollo is able to disarm his fellow warrior. Greenbean starts to recollect what happened to him - that he was captured and that his clothes are somehow causing all the problems. The clothes are then incinerated, and everyone recovers immediately: Adama's coma is ended, and Sire Uri's rebellion is stopped dead in its tracks.

The emotions of Galactica crew improve, and, after debriefing Greenbean, the Colonials are able to estimate where the Cylons are located and determine to launch a preemptive attack.

On the basestar, Lucifer is using LEADER to inflict guilt on human prisoners while the Imperious Leader observes. Baltar orders Lucifer to increase the power of the machine and LEADER goes out of control. The Imperious Leader is affected, and starts to feel great pangs of guilt for destroying the Twelve Colonies. Leaping from his pedestal, the Imperious Leader lashes out at the centurions around him, and smashes and destroys the LEADER machine. The influence of the LEADER gone, Imperious Leader's guilt disappears and he quickly departs with Specter in tow.

Suddenly, the basestar picks up the approaching vipers, and Baltar launches his raiders. The vipers devastate the defending Cylons and swoop in on the the basestar, inflicting considerable damage. Baltar orders the basestar to retreat. Returning to base, the Colonial warriors celebrate their victory.


Robert Thurston returns to the Berkley Battlestar universe, and it is truly a breath of fresh air. Best of all, we are given an entirely original story. Thurston writes an exciting tale, finding a way to use Imperious Leader and bring back Spectre, a devilishly fun character from The Young Lords episode who had a lot of potential.

I know some fans don't like this story, but I really enjoyed it. I admit that part of the reason I enjoyed the Berkely novels more than most is because I didn't have access to any Galactica fan fiction until the mid 1990s, so these stories were all I had. But there's a lot of exciting things going on here. First, there is Adama's journey into the past through his dreams. This allows us to see, in effect, "Untold Tales From Saga Of A Star World" such as the death of Adama's wife, Ila (although since Adama never witnessed the event, it's hard to believe that the dream could be accurate, but we are given the impression that it is). Then there's Starbuck slowly going crazy from his guilt, Spectre's hilarious manipulation of Baltar, Lucifer's observations about everyone around him, and Imperious Leader driven by an insane, raging guilt due to the LEADER machine. Lucifer continues to be the most interesting character in the Berkely version of Galactica universe. The battle with the Cylons at the end is done really well, and I feel this is one of the best Berkely books yet.

If there is one major flaw with this book, it is that it is unclear if the story occurs after the events of the original series or before War of the Gods (when Baltar is captured by the Colonials). The next novel reveals that it definitely occurs after the events of the original series, but then how did Baltar get back with the Cylons again? Did they rescue him after the Colonials dropped him off on some planet? Thurston should have addressed this.

Still, the book manages to succeed. And as good as the story is, Thurston would outdo himself with the very next novel.


  • Baltar is getting frustrated over his inability to defeat Galactica. His body is extremely thin and gaunt because he hardly eats anymore.
  • It is revealed that Greenbean secretly loved Serina.
  • Adama is very reluctant to let any of the Colonials leave the fleet to settle on any of the habitable planets they pass because the fleet is badly understaffed as it is.
  • A Cylon squadron is often called a wall because of the tight way its raiders fly together, looking at times like a solid wall.