This review contains a lot of spoilers and is a long text:
After having read the first book of the Destiny trilogy I was very much looking forward to the next book. Also “Mere Mortals” is excellent and a lot is happening in this second part.
There are four main storylines in this book:
AVENTINE (Captain Ezri Dax)
I liked the meeting of Dax and Worf. There wasn`t anything that surprised me but nevertheless, I think it needed to be said in the book and it made me smile. I still think Worf did what was right when he saved his wife and accepted the consequences. That he sees Dax promotion as further confirmation that he made the right choice is a nice way to look at it. Worf would be an excellent captain, I have no doubt about it. I don`t want Picard to leave or even die which means I hope that one day Worf will be offered a different ship. I don`t see any good reason why Starfleet shouldn`t give Worf his own ship after the Federation lost so many qualified captains in the war against the Borg.
This book also showed Worf`s abilities as a warrior. But it also showed the bravery and determination of many other people, on the Aventine and the Enterprise. The battle against the Hirogen was well written and it was a good idea to include this Voyager element into this trilogy. The Hirogen would be excellent allies against the Borg if they could be convinced to join. Unfortunately that doesn`t seem likely, at least not until they themselves are being threatened by them.
Ezri Dax is an interesting combination of a very young passionate woman with an ancient symbiont. I think at the end it was more Ezri acting than Dax when she was determined to continue the battle and return to Earth, no matter what. I can understand that decision. I just hope that her determination will also be combined with wisdom.
TITAN (Captain William Riker)
I am glad that my worries about Melora are being addressed in this book and that she started using her supporting exoskeleton again.
Riker`s part is short but what a part it is! The appearance of Hernandez on the bridge also surprised me but Riker`s decision was what I expected. This was not the same situation Worf faced years ago when he was forced to make the decision to leave his wife behind or to finish his mission that would save others. Deanna was not alone on this world. On the other hand I wondered if the special connection Riker and Deanna have had been blocked as well because otherwise I would have thought Riker would have felt Deanna`s turn for the worse. Maybe because he didn`t feel anything Riker thought that Deanna is stable and in no immediate danger. Or maybe he did and decided to leave anyway.
I think at the end it doesn`t really matter because staying wouldn`t have helped Deanna but by using this unique chance maybe there is a way to make some difference in this war.
ENTERPRISE (Captain Jean-Luc Picard)
In this second part there is not a lot I can write about his part of the story. He played a good part but there is nothing new and nothing unexpected. That doesn`t mean I was less fond of this part of the book. Again he showed his long experience as captain and his special knowledge when dealing with the Borg. Picard and Dax were a good team and I think this will continue in the next book.
I very much enjoyed the parts with Geordi La Forge and Mikaela Leishman. I welcomed it because inserting some humour into this serious trilogy
is a very good idea and I found it very funny! But I also welcomed it because it is about time that also Geordi finds a love interest. Well, it is not a love interest yet but at least it is a start.
COLUMBIA (Captain Erika Hernandez)
I could understand very well how much the few survivors of the Columbia and captives of the Caeliar must have struggled with their captivity. Although they were not physically mistreated the psychological strain must have been enormous. I already noticed in the earlier chapters that whenever Hernandez appeared outside of the flashbacks there was no appearance of other crew members. I learned that one of them already had severe mental problems at the beginning of the book and had a bad feeling of what happened to the rest.
The longer the story continued, the more it gripped and moved me. In many ways it showed a mirror image of what I have read in the first book when Dr. Ree was close to force an abortion on Deanna. I know that he wants to do this for her own good but what about her right of choice, her right to refuse treatment? Until pretty much at the end of the book Deanna was stubborn, emotional and, yes, also irrational but she was mentally able to make her decision. I am still amazed and shocked about the statement that Starfleet doctors have the legal right to do this.
The Deanna story has a dramatic cliffhanger in this book but it seems we readers have to wait until the third and last part of the trilogy until this topic gets explored further. After having read an excerpt of book 3 I think I can say that Dr. Ree did the right thing to save her life. I could see that he acted out of desperation. I will wait until I finished the trilogy before I add any more comments about this topic. I admit that the Deanna story has a stronger emotional impact on me than it probably should also because of my personal history but I don`t apologize for it.
“Mere Mortals” showed that the Caeliar are very much pro-choice when it is about the right to die with dignity, the right to choose how and when to die if that is possible and what treatments to offer. They are certainly not saints and I never forgot that they put heir prisoners into this position in the first place but I welcomed it that they, especially Inyx, didn`t deny them this choice in spite of being extreme pacifists. Inyx gave Hernandez a choice that would tempt most people, I think. The longer I read her story the more I admired her for her strength and bravery. Erika Hernandez is indeed a remarkable woman and now that I have reached the end of book two, I can only hope that she will survive the trilogy. What would be even better is if she will also be able to regain her freedom.
It was interesting to learn that Hernandez would be able to leave the planet but would lose her virtual immortality. I don`t think I have to guess what she would choose. But what I have learned also shows that it is possible for Caeliar knowledge and technology to repair a lot of damage to a humanoid body without automatically forcing him or her to live with them. That means, theoretically they could repair the damage done to Deanna Troi and maybe even to the baby without turning them into prisoners.
As a prisoner my first priority would be to stay alive and to stay sane. Escaping would be my second priority. I have no problems with any of Hernandez decisions. I don`t know if I would have the strength to go on for years, not to mention the length of time she has been imprisoned, but I would have tried.
The confrontation between Hernandez, Inyx and the ruling body of the Caeliar was very interesting. I very much agreed with what Hernandez had to say. I also think (I am guessing here) that without the Caeliar there is no way that the Federation and all the other civilizations threatened by the Borg can survive. I hope it is not that simple that the Borg are related to the Caeliar and that they feel responsible because of it. I hope the reasons that the Caeliar will help are going deeper than that, that a genuine understanding between this advanced civilization and others on a less advanced level will develop. And that this will also be the reason why they will let their prisoners go. Of course there is also the question if the Borg are indeed eliminating all the lesser developed species, where will new more advanced species come from, the ones the Caeliar want to make contact with? Hm, speaking of more advanced species, is the mass extinction of lesser developed species really in their interest? I wonder if that topic will be mentioned in the next novel.
I see the irony that I was first opposed to see any character of the Enterprise time frame placed into present day and now I am hoping Hernandez stays. Sometimes it is nice to be wrong and this time I was definitely very positively surprised. The Deanna and the Hernandez threads are the elements in the trilogy I am most curious about how they will end in the last book.
I like President Bacco a lot. She was also an impressive leader in this book. The way she dealt with the various ambassadors in the meeting about finding allies against the Borg showed this again. Meeting Garak as the Ambassador of the Cardassian Union was unexpected. I loved it! Garak is a natural for that job and like Bacco, I wonder what he is up to. I am sure, he will continue to be full of surprises.
But this book also showed how heavy the burden of command can be. I could see again what a remarkable woman Bacco is.
Garak`s part did not only make me curious but also provided the entertainment I enjoyed so much in the past whenever he appeared. Speaking of entertainment, it was a nice change to meet a Jellico who didn`t annoy me at all but who even provided more precious entertainment in this book. It is good to see that Jellico and Nechayev work well together.
I don`t think Seven was out of character at all. If you don`t want to consider morality but nothing else but survival her suggestion to use the thalaron weapon makes a lot of sense. I think these scenes were a missed opportunity because during the Dominion War Starfleet had much less scruples and you could argue that the threat of the Borg is much bigger than the threat of the Dominion was. At least under the Dominion people would still be alive. What about the attempted genocide of the Founders? Wasn`t that illegal and immoral, too? “The Federation won`t endorse the use of genocidal tactics”. I welcome that but I think it should have been mentioned that they don`t endorse them any more. The way this confrontation was written gives a wrong impression. The Federation is not as innocent as it might look when reading this book.
By the way, the scenes with Chakotay and Paris in this book were very touching. What I regretted is that there was no mentioning of the Excalibur this time. I hope that will change.
I also hope that it won`t be long now and I can read the last book of this trilogy.