The story of Owen Paris, the bridge scene on the Ranger, the Columbia's engineer and his moments with the Caeliar scientists -- these are all intimately told story beats that are all happening within scenes of massive-scale destruction. The novel is richer because we, the audience, are "with" these characters -- experiencing what they experience -- instead of purely witnessing the destruction from "outside." The character moments of this book, in post after post on this thread, are the most fondly remembered sections of the story for most readers in this forum. This is no accident and deserves to be noted as a fine bit of business on Mr. Mack's part.
Having just finished these scenes, I would have to agree. The Owen Paris death scene is another high-ranking favorite scene for its sheer dramatic tension and realism. Here's a man who we've known to be a complete hard-ass fumbling around like an idiot, essentially (Mack uses words to this effect, iirc). The scene on the Ranger
, too, with the crewmen who couldn't bring himself to push the red button; we don't see that enough...
Example: the scene with Geordi walking through the torpedo factory/bay and then talking with Crusher. <snip> What's happening between the lines and left to the reader's intuition is much more powerful an experience than the author having Geordi come in, think "Boy, I sure am lonely and strained" and tell Beverly that very same sentiment in dialogue a few pages later.
That said, contrast that with the description of Tom Paris, where he practically says "look how lonely and depressed I am." One isn't better than the other, but the fact that both are present, and (I haven't quite gotten to the scene you mention yet, hence) (theoretically) work also speak volumes about Mack's ability to craft a powerful story.
The more I read, the more this is become one one of my favorite Trek books of all time!