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Old July 19 2008, 04:44 PM   #11
Christopher
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Thrawn wrote: View Post
I have to admit, I didn't think this one was quite up to CLB's usual standards. I loved the thematic nature of the story and the emphasis on family, and how that was manifested in so many different ways (Picard & Crusher, Geordi alone, Guinan's past, T'Ryssa's past contrasted with Kadohata's present, the Borg, the giant intelligence, and Hugh - they all had something to contribute to the theme), so the core of the book was quite wonderful. But, well...
Well, I'll take that as an overall compliment.


Ok. So, first of all, this deals with the Einstein, which it looks like doesn't have anything to do with the Borg invasion in Destiny. I was hoping there'd be some kind of ongoing thread throughout all this, and while there might be, it certainly isn't apparent in this story. It certainly seems like we follow a standalone Borg story with... another, unrelated Borg story. I'm not one of the people that thinks the Borg are tired and lame, but this is a mite excessive. If all of the TNG books so far involved Romulans and no other enemies, I think people'd have the same reaction.
Well, the job I was hired to do was to wrap up the leftover threads from Before Dishonor and set up the board for Destiny. So it is kind of a betwixt-and-between story. But that's just the plot. What matters isn't the Borg; what matters are the characters and their arcs. At its heart, this was a story about Picard and how he's affected by the Borg threat. GTTS was about him finally reaching a point where he could feel that the threat had been resolved, his crew/family was in a good place, and he was ready to move on with his life -- only for the universe to yank the rug out from under him and kick the real threat into gear with Destiny. So there is an ongoing thread, but it's more thematic.


Two, I didn't really get T'Ryssa. She seemed too much like the standard, idealized female character that guys tend to invent in, for instance, very bad computer games - horny, loose, constantly cracking puns, beautiful, and brilliant, not to mention that she ends up prancing around naked at least 3 times.
Idealized?? If someone that neurotic and annoying is your ideal, you have low standards. Okay, she's witty, but so's Geordi; so's Tom Paris; so's Fabian Stevens; so's virtually any New Frontier character. Okay, she's attractive, but so are most other characters in a TV universe, and so are a number of the book-only characters. (Heck, Dina Elfiki's the real mega-babe among the new crewmembers. And Choudhury's a striking, statuesque woman as well. Trys is more cute than glamorous.) Okay, she's smart and capable in her field, but so is everyone else in Starfleet. And as for her active sexual life, that's not so different from various other characters in the literature these days, like Lavena and Ra-Havreii in Titan, T'Prynn and Sandesjo in Vanguard, etc. And it's more a manifestation of her fear of commitment than of my fantasies. I'm not the type to fantasize about a woman who'd probably dump me the moment I tried to get serious with her.


And, of course, whilst being unconventional and irritating, she eventually gains the love and respect of her new crew. I predicted her whole story from the moment Picard saw her application.
It's not that hard to predict the overall arc of a new character being added to a cast. There are only so many story structures in the world. What matters is the execution. I wasn't writing a story about "Will she or won't she join the crew?" I was using her process of integration into the crew as a means to the more important end of exploring character -- not only her character, but the characters of Picard, Worf, La Forge, Kadohata, Choudhury, Guinan, etc. as revealed through their interactions with her. This was a book about the Enterprise crew trying to achieve a new balance after the turbulence of recent months, and how better to explore that in microcosm than by adding a character who shakes things up and isn't a natural fit into the group? As you said, this was a book about family; and it was also a book about Picard confronting the prospect of fatherhood. So I gave Picard a surrogate daughter figure who was a real handful, so as to create challenges for the crew as they tried to recapture that old sense of family.

Not quite Mary Sue, but a related phenomenon... author's fantasy, perhaps, as made whole in a novel.
Maybe a little; she is very closely based on a character I originally created for a role-playing game a few years back. (It was an e-mail game, with a friend as the game master and me as the sole player. I played a Starfleet officer transported into a Dungeons and Dragons universe -- hence the recurring themes of dragons and elves herein.) But being a writer, I tried to create a game character with flaws and complexities that would be interesting to write about, rather than an idealized alter ego. And Trys actually turned out rather more neurotic than the original T'Lyssa character was.


Three, I really didn't like the way the aftermath of the mutiny plot was handled. Seemed like the first third of the book was little more than lots of characters apologizing for acting like idiots and then promptly exiting the story. T'Lara and Leybenzon pissed off so many people that I can sorta see shuffling them aside just to not ruffle feathers, but it seems...I don't know...selfish, somehow, like CLB took all the characters he didn't like and replaced them with his own just because he could.
Actually T'Lana's departure was established at the end of Before Dishonor. Otherwise I would've gladly kept her around and tried to rehabilitate her -- something I did attempt to do in the brief scene I was able to give her. And Leybenzon's departure was decided on before I was hired to do this novel. I was brought in just after Destiny had been outlined, and Dave had already created Jasminder Choudhury as Leybenzon's replacement. Not that I had a problem with that, since I find Choudhury a far more interesting and enjoyable character to write than Leybenzon was.

And Leybenzon didn't apologize for a thing, as far as I can recall.


Oh, and it also seemed odd to me that the primary emotional conflict around our Captain in this series involves having a child, just like it does in Titan at this point. It makes sense for both characters, and when they meet up in Destiny I look forward to some interesting conversations on the subject, but it did seem repetitive. This is a minor complaint, though.
I think of it more as a thematic parallel. Actually in my first draft, Picard's arc was about whether or not to marry Beverly, but Margaret convinced me it was better to make that a fait accompli and move him on to the next phase.

I did like the other new characters, the scientist and the security chief, and look forward to where Mack takes everyone. I also thought the idea for the giant intelligence was fantastic, and the interactions between it and the crew were cleverly written. Most of the plot itself was great, really, just the context was really irritating in a lot of cases. If you remove the general TNG-Relaunch sloppiness and its aftereffects, and the character of T'Ryssa, and this happened to not be immediately bookended on both sides by more Borg stories, it would've been pretty fantastic. As it stands, maybe 7/10.
Well, I appreciate that, and I'd be happy to talk at greater length about the parts you did like.
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Last edited by Christopher; July 19 2008 at 04:50 PM.
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