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Old September 26 2008, 06:09 PM   #177
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Bec wrote: View Post
It soon became clear to me that this book wasn't about the Borg. No, the story is about family. It'd be hard to miss that point.. what with Picard's fears about starting a family, Chen's abandonment issues, the Liberator's desire to be able to procreate and so on. Family was certainly at the fore here, perhaps a bit too much at the end. It started to feel like that the whole book was connected to the issue. Everything tied in to family. But, then, I suppose you could say that's true of life too. Hmm, anyway, minor complaint.
As I've said before, I wasn't going for family specifically, but for the idea of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, the Trekkish ideal of how we're stronger when we work as one with others, whether in a family, a crew, a community, a nation, or a collective consciousness. T'Ryssa's overriding issue was a tendency to retreat from challenge and commitment and her efforts to outgrow that, and while that's rooted in her family issues, I didn't think of family as being the defining element of it. The Liberated's pursuit of procreation was about enabling their society to endure and unify; family was more a means than an end there.

As for T'rys, hmm... I'm not so sure. I noticed earlier on in the thread, someone said she seemed very Mary Sue-ish and I think I can understand that viewpoint. She was the only one out of everyone who was able to communicate with the creature, she obviously has no problem getting guys and making them fall hard for her judging by Konya's thought near the end, she's perfectly capable in social situations (although, she may have no discernible social boundaries and has a problem with the chain of command, she never seems to be shy or embarassed and is extremely outgoing), she has a sob story that allows her to connect with the one character who seemed to dislike her - Kadohata, she's funny...

In short, this girl is just too good. Everyone seems to love her. And she solves some of the main problems in the story. That's a Mary Sue in my book.
And I think that's selectively interpreting both the portrayal of the character and the definition of a Mary Sue in order to perceive them as equivalent. Yes, she has some attributes in common with a Mary Sue, but a giraffe has attributes in common with a horse. The differences as well as the similarities need to be considered before a fair assessment can be made.

Trys was able to communicate with the entity because of luck, because she'd been through a particular interaction with it that enabled it to understand and contact her mind. Any other telepath, perhaps any other person, who'd been through the same prior contact could've done the same. As for Trys's ability to attract men, she attracted exactly three men in the course of the novel, and we know that at least one man, Geordi, had no romantic interest in her at all, finding her too young and flaky. And nobody "fell hard for her"; two of her partners were casual flings, and the other was a casual relationship with the potential of developing into something deeper. Saying "he knew he would miss her a great deal" doesn't equate to undying love, just strong affection.

Consider: was Ensign Ro a Mary Sue? She's a character who was the focus of her debut episode, who had unique knowledge and experience that made her invaluable to solving the problem, and who won the respect and acceptance of the crew by the end of the story. But that's not a Mary Sue, that's just a new cast member being folded in. Stories that introduce new regular or semi-regular characters to an ensemble quite often follow a similar pattern. The way to get the audience to accept a new character is to show that character's positive attributes and how he or she wins the respect and acceptance of the regulars.

And that's one of the key places where the "Mary Sue" idea falls short here. A Mary Sue is a guest character who inappropriately dominates over the regulars. T'Ryssa Chen is a new regular, or at least semi-regular. So naturally she gets a story whose emphasis is on establishing her value as a team member in the eyes of the characters and the readers. Ensign Ro got her self-titled episode, Ezri Dax got "Afterimage," and Trys got GTTS.

Sure, she's not perfect. But her problems with the chain of command seem only to make her more endearing to the crew by the end of the book.
This is TNG. Part of what defines TNG is that its cast members like and respect each other. Again, what you're describing is merely an attribute of a regular cast member, not a Mary Sue.

Heck, if you define a Mary Sue simply as someone who's highly capable and appealing and well-liked by the crew, then the entire TNG cast consists of Mary Sues. I mean, what about Choudhury? Everyone in the book admires her, she's extraordinarily skilled and gifted -- hell, even I think I made her a bit too perfect.

I still don't think I know what a carbon world is.

The only other criticism I have isn't even a valid criticism. And that's Guinan. First of all, it was a great surprise to see she had a fair-sized role here. I didn't even realise she was going to be in the book so it was a very welcome treat!

But why, oh, why.. did she have to leave the Enterprise again at the end?
Because Dave had already outlined Destiny without her and was rather dismayed to see that she stayed aboard in the initial outline. Since he had such a monumental task ahead of him with the trilogy, I didn't want to put any extra burdens on him. And I decided it worked better if she left after all -- it meant that Picard didn't need her help to bring his crew together anymore, that he'd already succeeded.

Still, there's no reason she couldn't return in the future.

Looking back on what I've said, it sounds very negative. But that wasn't my attitude to the book at all. I thought it was a great read and I really enjoyed it. In fact, I'd say it's my favourite of the TNG-R so far.

Great work, Christopher!!

David Mack wrote: View Post
By the time I realized how important a character T'Ryssa Chen was to his story, it was too late for me to retrofit her into the trilogy in a meaningful way.
But she has a somewhat larger presence in Bill Leisner's Losing the Peace -- last I heard, anyway.
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