Man, my reviews have been longwinded lately. Here's another one: I had two simultaneous, totally separate reactions to this book, and I'm still working on reconciling them.
It basically went like this - on the one hand: HELL YES. ONLY REALLY GREAT TREK BOOK IN ALL OF 2010. On the other hand: Star Trek has a really annoying problem right now.
Let’s start with the bad news first – holy crap does the Star Trek universe have no idea where it’s going. It’s strangely almost palpable, what’s happened since Marco left the line. He juggled Vanguard, Titan, DS9, Mirror Universe, Lost Era, Voyager, and various other linked things, all in different time frames no less, and STILL made them feel like part of an evolving and unified narrative going interesting places. Then, he leaves, Margaret Clark decides to bring all the series up to the same time frame – something that you’d think would help coordination – and now all of a sudden it feels like authors are just grabbing whatever plot threads they feel like grabbing and making a giant clusterfuck out of the entire enterprise.
Like, the Typhon Pact's purpose was to examine these alien societies, and that's been going pretty well. The problem is that totally random character threads have been used around them. Tuvok is now the repository of all terraforming knowledge, which works with his time on the Excelsior in some way… Bashir is joining Section 31, somehow… and now we have Sisko, leaving his wife and rejoining Starfleet, in a plotline that tangentially and awkwardly touches the overarching narrative twice (remembering Tzenkethi, speaking with Donatra) but has no comfortable place in this novel.
And look at what's happened to DS9! Now we have Bashir on a random irritating cliffhanger from a book that had nothing else to do with DS9, a major conflict behind us with no real hint at its impact (Ascendents), several stories totally hanging from several years prior (Taran'atar, Dominion), and now Sisko leaving his wife... It’s just a mess, quite honestly; a complete mess. It’s just destroyed the through-lines of the DS9 stories almost completely, and I have no idea how we’ll be picking up the pieces after this. Sisko's story is so completely connected to the DS9 mythology that it needed to happen in a DS9 novel, with the other characters reacting and being a part of it. Right now, it feels like it's going nowhere. Is this setup for Sisko to be an adversary to the Tzenkethi later, outside the DS9 stories? For his wife to get him back, in a story about the Bajoran religion? No idea.
Come to think of it, that might actually be the reason all this plot intertwining is bothering me; it’s completely unclear where they’re trying to go. Sisko is being set up for something here, but what? Bashir…? Tuvok…? Where is all this headed? When Marco did this shit, I felt like he had a plan. Right now, it's just scattershot and confusing, including yet another DS9 plot being grabbed in a TNG story in Paths Of Disharmony. AND we know NONE of this is being followed up on until 2012 at the earliest. At this point, it feels like we need like a 10 book miniseries involving everyone in the whole 24th century crossing over with everyone else just to get the plotlines untangled and sorted back out into individual series. It's frustrating as hell, and all this damage has been done in three books!
But on the flipside...
Everything that happens in this book – disconnected and divorced from context though it is – is AWESOME.
1) The Tzenkethi are freaking brilliant and incredibly intimidating and cold and awesome and I love them. Having one - ONE - genetically predetermined problem solver just totally fix the entire Romulan problem? THAT is how you introduce a bad guy. These are some serious ceiling-walking badass motherfuckers, and I can't wait to see them again.
2) The turns of the Romulan Empire are fabulous (and completely surprising to me). Putting the Romulan Empire in the hands of a new and totally sane Praetor is exactly what should be happening right now.
3) Spock is characterized better than I’ve ever seen him and is starting nicely to move towards canon’s placement for him from JJTrek. I really could practically hear Nimoy delivering the lines; flawless.
4) Finally, in my opinion, Sisko’s story couldn't be more perfect. It’s exactly right in that painful, Joss Whedon way where it’s so totally sad and wrong and upsetting and unhappy for everyone involved, but it’s exactly where Sisko needs to go next. Yes, I understand the awkwardness inherent in turning a black man into a deadbeat dad, but if we could kill off Janeway and still have no problem throwing out the most gender-equal story in Trek history the very next year (Destiny), I think we can get away with this. Because it’s so perfect. I mean, that story really needed to happen in an actual DS9 novel and not here, since leaving out everyone’s reactions is really odd, but as it stands here it still presents a completely reasonable reaction to impossibly bizarre circumstances that took some real guts to pitch and write. I’m impressed.
Honestly: I loved every twist, every turn, and every character. This was written brilliantly.
But: MAN, is it clear what the lack of good editorial leadership is doing. Jesus. This book was great, but this whole miniseries is an absolute disaster, structurally.