Before I get started on my book thoughts, allow me to remind all those in far away locales who are eagerly awaiting possession of their copy that we do live in an age where one can purchase books electronically over the internet and have the work arrive on one's computer/PDA/phone screen practically instantaneously! I'm not trying to reignite the dead tree argument, I'm just saying. I buy all my Trek books as eBooks and it saves me time, energy and often money, too. Not to mention shelf space.
On to the book. I knew going in that there was no way this book would meet my expectations, because Orion's Hounds
is one of my favourite Trek books of all time (easily in my top 5). Christopher's much-lauded skill with worldbuilding as well as his ability to draw out new facets and dramatic arcs from underutilized or underdeveloped characters (i.e., Troi) were only some of the things that made that book an absolute joy for me.
So did I like this book as much as Orion's Hounds
? No. But I still enjoyed it, especially the squales. It is always a pleasure when Trek lit takes advantage of its medium to create new, truly alien species. I really enjoyed the way the squale culture was revealed, from the first indications that they were intelligent when they saved Aili from a predator to the moment when Aili realizes that the squales think that Titan has abandoned her and Riker because they can't fathom (ahem) that intelligent creatures would not be able to maintain communication with one another at all times.
The Tuvok/T'Pel stuff was wonderful. I love the way their relationship has been portrayed in the books, and I think it's been interesting to see a Vulcan in the role of a caregiver, both to a spouse and to children from different cultures than her own. The scene with T'Pol and Alyssa's son was really sweet -- it's always nice to see Vulcans interacting with members of other species without
trying to force the Vulcan value system upon them. That's a charicature that seems to often have been played out on TV, I think.
I didn't see this book as particularly dark at all -- there were lots of light moments. Having Torvig take the initiative to swap out his bionic implants was hilariously in character, and I did enjoy the exchange where Huilan admits to Aili that he perpetuates the false notion that his species is unusually heavy so that he won't end up being "cuddled."
Speaking of Aili, it was great to have her character and biology expanded upon. I have to confess, though, I kind of bristled at the overarching theme of her story. I understand that her personal moral failure did not reside in her sexual promiscuity but rather her neglecting her children and her familial duty while she engaged in that behaviour. But still, as a fan who is really rather tired of the sexual conservatism in Trek, the whole thing put my hackles up. I think I'll need to read the book again before I make a judgment. I especially did not enjoy the scene where Riker basically calls Aili a slut. I just wish that Trek existed in a vision of the future where sexual shame were extinct; it's a tall order, given the enormous role it plays in our current society. I know people will take me to task for being too hard on Christopher and Trek lit in general, especially since the books have made huge strides in terms of overcoming the conservatism with regard to sex and gender which, I feel, was severely detrimental to the latter seasons of Trek on TV. And I in no way want to overlook the work that many modern Trek authors have done to make the vision of the future truly more equitable (Christopher included, natch).
As for the adventures of my beloved Dr. Ree -- reading Christopher's comments above about his fit of parental vigour being comparable to ponn farr, the whole thing makes a lot more sense. I think that could have been better explicated in the book. One thing I will say for all of the scenes with out-of-whack Dr. Ree is that it was a great opportunity to have Ree being his hilarious self, with tons of wise-cracks, often at Tuvok's expense, making them even more hilarious. And seriously, did anyone think that Deanna Troi was going to have a baby in a normal way in a normal birthing chair? I think Christopher did a nice job of making the arrival of little Tasha as unusual and exciting as we'd expect.
So overall, a great read. Lots of the science went over my head, but there was plenty of character stuff to pull me along. I may not have liked it as much as Christopher's last Titan novel, but I was not at all disappointed. Good work, sir!