Here's a copy of my review of the book that I posted on my blog http://fiftytwotwentysix.blogspot.com/
I have always enjoyed watching Star Trek (both the movies and the various television shows) and when my uncles started handing me second-hand copies of the Star Trek novels, I started devouring them at a rapid pace. However, that was when I was much younger - almost twenty years ago. For many years, I avoided reading Star Trek novels until Star Trek New Frontier opened my eyes to them once again in 1997 when I was in my mid-teens. I followed that series and when it debuted, I picked up the Deep Space Nine Relaunch in 2001, Star Trek: Titan (following Riker after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis) in early 2005 and Star Trek: Vanguard (a series set on a space station contemporary to The Original Series) later that year. One thing that occured to me about my preferences regarding Star Trek novels is that I enjoy those that focus exclusively, or largely, on original crews. Events in the recent Trek novels have conspired to bring all of the ongoing series' set in the twenty fourth century together - first in Star Trek: Destiny and now in the ongoing Star Trek: Typhon Pact storyline.
What is the Typhon Pact - and why should we care about it? In short, after the events depicted in Star Trek: Destiny, several hostile alien races came together in a loose alliance to oppose Starfleet and the Federation. This is the Typhon Pact. Over the past several months, there have been a series of four novels, each of which have shone the spotlight on one of the Typhon Pact nations - 'Zero Sum Game' focusing on the Breen, 'Seize the Fire' focusing on the Gorn, 'Rough Beasts of Empire' focusing on the Romulans (and, to a lesser extent, the Tzenkethi) and 'Paths of Disharmony' which turns our attention onto how the Typhon Pact is affecting the member races of the Federation. 'Rough Beasts of Empire' is the third published (but would probably work better as the first read) and has been written by David R. George III.
I've been familiar with David R. George III for several years, since he wrote 'Twilight' one of the novels in the Mission: Gamma section of the ongoing Deep Space Nine Relaunch. He's got a very unique writing style - it's certainly a marmite one, you either love his overly descriptive prose or you hate it. For me, I'm veering distinctly towards the second option. I managed to read both of the Deep Space Nine Relaunch novels he wrote (he wrote 'Olympus Descending' in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume 3, in addition to 'Twilight') but disliked the first of his Star Trek: Crucible novels - and, in reading 'Rough Beasts of Empire', my latest encounter with his prose, I admit that I struggled in parts to make my way through several of the sequences.
The story told in the novel itself is worthwhile and has some compelling moments, characters and ideas. The powerplay between the various factions within the Romulan governments (yes, both of them) and their powerplays against each other are interesting - but where the novel really lets itself down are the chapters in which we encounter Benjamin Sisko and explore what he has been doing in the four years (in universe) since the last time we saw him in 'Warpath' in 2006. Perhaps the radical change in Sisko's situation is part of what jars with the chapters that feature him - the changes, whilst concievable, sit uncomfortably. And the fact that the chapters that feature Sisko seem, for the most part, to be extraneous to the rest of the events in the novel (they only really crossover twice) and could be fulfilled by any of the other ships in Star Trek literature (whether it be the Aventine, Excalibur, Trident, Enterprise or Titan). The updates to Sisko's situation (and, indeed, the glimpses we see of other characters from the Deep Space Nine Relaunch) would have been better told, even by the same author, in its own novel - a true restart for the Deep Space Nine Relaunch.
All things considered, this isn't the worst of the two Typhon Pact novels that I have read (I read 'Zero Sum Game' before Christmas) and the sequences detailing the political machinations in Romulan space are sufficiently interesting that they, more or less, compensate for the lacklustre sequences featuring Benjamin Sisko. It would, as I have said, worked better as the first novel in the Typhon Pact arc - but it works well enough as the third published (and my second read). I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless someone is a particular fan of Spock (who features in the Romulan segments) or Benjamin Sisko, or is a completist (or follower of a particular series, such as the Deep Space Nine Relaunch). It took me eleven days to read the book (I started it on 21/01/11 and finished it on 01/01/11) and I feel that, at times, it was a struggle to get through.