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Old January 21 2009, 04:52 AM   #1
Brendan Moody
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A Singular Destiny review thread (possible spoilers)

[This post is pretty much spoiler-free, but I assume spoiler-y stuff may come up in later discussion, hence the warning.]

After months of (often wildly inaccurate) speculation, (often cruelly teasing) hints, and (always incredibly frustrating) anticipation, the Destiny trilogy has come and gone. But as much as Destiny was an ending, it was also a beginning, and the fruits of that beginning... er... begin with A Singular Destiny. And if this book is representative of the post-Destiny Trek fiction, we have a lot to look forward to.

Reading the trilogy late last year, I was ambivalent about Destiny and the changes it purported to bring to the Trek universe. In particular, I wasn't sure that the fiction could communicate the consequences of these big developments in a way that would justify them. The jury's still out on that, but A Singular Destiny is strong evidence for the defense. (My own prosecution in the Court of Over-Extended Metaphors is still pending.) Scarcely a page goes by where there isn't a large or small reminder of the cost of the Borg invasion. More than that, the book is smart about identifying ways the invasion would have affected many different facets of the Trek universe. A universe that is amply explored in A Singular Destiny, by the way- for a book of its length, it covers a lot of ground, including glimpses at the lives of characters from several of the book and TV series, without ever losing focus on its main narrative thread.

Just what that narrative thread is will only become clear over time, as the book is in part a mystery, with the hidden pattern behind seemingly unconnected events gradually emerging. That pattern isn't terribly complex, but there's enough to it to keep the book moving along at a brisk pace. I do wish, though, that the recent 2009-10 fiction preview article at TrekMovie.com hadn't given away a major aspect of the book's ending; it's still satisfying enough to see how the events in question play out, but it could have been even more so.

KRAD's novels often distinguish themselves by their humor and characterization, and while A Singular Destiny doesn't quite reach the heights of some of his other books in this regard, there's still plenty to like. As ever, I really enjoyed the Aaron Sorkin homage of the Palais scenes, and some of the other jokes also hit home, though I'm beginning to find KRAD's sense of humor familiar enough that there's more recognition than amusement when I hit the punchline. Characterization was also something of a mixed bag. The book does more to give Sam Bowers a history and personality than any of his previous appearances, and I continue to enjoy Captain Ezri, but protagonist Sonek Pran feels a little insubstantial, more a convenient way to piece together the plot than a proper character. His racial heritage feels a bit cute, to be honest, and not much personality comes through. He's a big fan of diplomacy, and he talks too much; fine, but I would have liked to see a bit more. His relationship with his son is underdeveloped and feels more like obligatory dramatic business than authentic character work. (That's a comment on how it reads, not a guess at the author's intentions.) I'm also not quite sold on his mad diplomatic skillz, as nothing he comes up with seems especially brilliant. I did appreciate that he was allowed to make an actual mistake at one point, though, rather than being the guy with the answers to everything.

These quibbles aside, though, I found the book thoroughly compelling, as the fact that I read it in the course of a few hours indicates. I've had (more than?) my share of issues with the several varieties of post-Nemesis fiction, but A Singular Destiny is a welcome return to the fundamental stability of the best Trek novels and, I hope, the "sign of things to come" that its back cover suggests.
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Last edited by Brendan Moody; January 21 2009 at 05:37 AM. Reason: wording and whatnot
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