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Old April 5 2010, 10:38 PM   #55
Thrawn
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Re: Seven Deadly Sins Discuss/ Grade

***VERY LONG, VERY SPOILERIFIC REVIEW AHEAD***




Hm. I’m not sure I…get it. Like, with Marco, usually the short story collections Mean Something. The TOS anthology was nicely constrained; the DS9 was sort of multi-faceted but so was the show; and Lives Of Dax was breathtaking in its scope and multilayered meanings. Even Marco’s miniseries – Worlds of DS9 in particular – tend to behave like perfectly constructed anthologies.

So when he announced something called Seven Deadly Sins, I was expecting this theme to really have some kind of enormous impact and meaning that the individual stories would all play into, something like anthropology or untold dark secrets or each sin being that race’s downfall…some kind of way in which the unifying Deadly Sins theme would have some impact on which stories were told. But it totally didn’t.

The sins didn’t even have much to do with the Borg story, were presented as villainous things our heroes were fighting in the Mirror Universe and Klingon stories, were presented as humorous cultural touchstones in the Pakled and Ferengi stories, and were presented as cultural downfalls in the Romulan and Cardassian stories. All in all, the tonal variety was so totally all over the place that it’s hard to take this anthology and pin down any particular point to the whole thing, aside from a survey of stories about famous Trek villains…and when it comes on down to it, that doesn’t really work either, because the stories are for the most part really same-y.

Only three stories really gave us cultural explorations beyond what we’d already seen – Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans. And Wardilmore’s Romulan story did actually work beautifully, becoming I think easily the high point of the collection (surprising, for me; I have mixed feelings about their other stories) – it explained a huge hole, tied in brilliantly with existing Vanguard continuity, and actually used the Pride theme in a way that made sense and worked as a moral message. KRAD’s Klingon story was pretty neat, fleshing out some of the cultural problems in the TOS era that hadn’t really been explored, but the ending was a little too perfect and happy to really be a believable exploration of prejudice. Just a little too trite. So that wasn’t as interesting as I wanted it to be. Swallow’s Cardassian story gave us a nice backstory for Setlik III, which gave me some nice seeing-the-dots-connected fanjoy, and a compelling emotional arc for the main character, and so on its own was definitely worth reading, but as an analysis of Cardassian culture was very similar to the ones we’ve already gotten (Terok Nor, A Stitch In Time) and so the theme of Envy wasn’t particularly well used here either.

And the other four just told us stuff we already knew. The Ferengi story was the worst offender here; it’s another Ferengi farce written exactly the same as every DS9 Ferengi farce was, and with no particular narrative flair. The end might lead to something if it’s actually followed up on, but mostly that whole story was a serious meh. The Mirror Universe simultaneously presented a story much less interesting than the extrapolations in Dark Passions (again, a surprising thing to say), a story that undercut its own fundamental premise (by showing Sisko wasn’t motivated by lust, and neither was anyone else besides Kira), and an emotional arc that was profoundly uninteresting either way. The rest of the official MU stuff had seriously better be much more interesting than this (I haven't read it yet), because ugh.

The Pakled story gave us a couple interesting tidbits, I suppose – I like the idea that the Pakleds are good at visual processing, accounting for their ability to travel in space at all – but mostly it was exactly the same story as Samaritan Snare all over again. The dialogue was cute and the story was entertaining, but I feel like someone else could’ve really gone somewhere way more interesting with this; it just hit far too many of the same beats the TV episode already did.

And that leaves us with the Borg story, which is…an interesting piece of work. It’s really unclear how exactly it would fit in with the surrounding continuity, especially the Caeliar in Destiny, but that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, and the story on its own is a remarkable little thriller. I mean, again, lots of same-y beats; the engineer climbing into the tube to be assimilated is straight First Contact, and the traitor on the team is straight Aliens/all assorted rip-offs. But the writing was excellent, vivid and descriptive, and the emotion created was really spot on. I loved seeing what happened to Nick Locarno, and I loved very much the progression of the story; I definitely want a sequel! …but again, there was actually nothing here that had anything to do with Gluttony. At all. That could’ve been the theme for Destiny, but it sure as hell wasn’t here.

So, overall, two great stories (Romulans & Borg), three flawed stories still definitely worth reading (Cardassians, Klingons, Pakleds), and two total tankers (Ferengi & Mirror Universe), and that’s pretty average for a short story collection, but it’s all further lessened a little bit by the fact that the theme just totally isn’t used well at all. It tries to add overarching structure where none exists, and makes the entire anthology seem like a misfire as a result.
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