I've just finished it, and I very much enjoyed it. A lot of satisfactory answers to a lot of questions. I'm pleased that the studio allowed it all through, because I've been quite eager to get those answers. I can't tell you how pleased I am to have the Temporal Cold War finally explained. I agree with JD
that while Enterprise
Season Four was a success, it's irritating that they had to drop the TCW to achieve it. The silver lining was, of course, that it meant the novels could eventually deal with it, and hopefully in a better-plotted manner than the show did. And Christopher
was the right choice for this topic; tying all those time travel stories into a reasonably coherent plot must have been quite a headache, and given his previous work on the galactic ecosystem and distant Trek history it makes sense that he'd be suited for this one. And, of course, he explains the science well.
The characters were interesting, and since they're almost all new creations or minor guest stars it's definitely worth noting as a success of the novel. Seeing how the established canonical information for the two leads is all variation on the basic theme of "they're dull", it's impressive how Dulmur and Lucsly were made so likable. It must have been challenging, but using their slightly aggressive blandness as an advantage (demonstrating how and why it suits them to their jobs, etc) worked quite well. Of course, D and L are doing that themselves, aren't they - cultivating their dullness as something beneficial? I particularly liked the note that Ranjea's demeanor was that of the glamerous "secret agent" that D and L "aggressively deconstruct".
Its also a point worth making that, as I assume is true of most people, I think of them as "Dulmur and Lucsly", but the novel made it more "Lucsly and Dulmur".
There was some good humour in there, too. "Madams President" snarking at one another. The calendar dates near the climax (which I particularly liked because Lucsly would have a fit if he saw them. I hope he was too busy in those chapters to notice...). The best line in the entire book was Lucsly's "that was the advantage in having a partner".
How very Lucsly. And I hope the "Day of Release" doesn't mean what my mind keeps insisting it means. It's a spiritual
release only, right Risans? There were also parts that were darkly comical in their way; there was something bitterly amusing about poor Cyral Nine and her inevitable sense of betrayal. No wonder she's now a drunken mess. That was a memorable scene - although I do have a soft spot for Cardassians, which helps. And it served the purpose of reminding us that "preserving the timeline" can't help but leave a fair number of losers in its wake.
I liked (as always) the little continuity tie-ups and unexpected links; explaining the Endicor anomaly and linking it to an earlier episode, etc. And I guess some Caitians are Regulans after all. Good one
. Oh, and, Christopher
, would I be right in assuming the Shirna are the "Bucktooth" aliens, they of the infamously hated makeup?
It was nice to see the Vomnin again, and I appreciated the hints that they're going to become a part of the extended community in known space; it gives added meaning to the exploration stories to see the discoveries followed up on elsewhere. Having the political situation change and grow, even in minor ways, is an important part of that.
The Axis races weren't as developed as Bennett's aliens usually are, but I acknowledge that they're not the main focus, they're more a side mission. And I must say, I quite liked Evil!Giriaenn
said he wasn't too pleased with her for that very reason (she's close to the Giriaenn character in some regard) - but I actually enjoyed the parallels. Having her come close to an "evil cackle" was good; you see, I ended up thinking that she was a great character for someone familiar with Christopher Bennett's work - precisely because
she's a familiar character in several ways while also having a far
more straightforwardly villainous motive than usual. It could almost work as a self-parody if you read it the "right" way.
Speaking of the Selakar, there was a strong reoccurring interest throughout the novel of exploring empathy and connection with others (the Deltans, Clare Raymond's role in the DTI, the Selakar's perveted version) that was very interesting to consider alongside the DTI aggressive blandness. Emotion and raw empathy is celebrated so often in the novel that it makes a fascinating contrast with Lucsly's narrow, objective, just-the-hard-facts clockwork mindset. And yet Lucsly is of course extremely passionate in his own way, and you might even say he has something comparable to empathy with time itself. As the novel says, his highest purpose and goal is protecting the timeline. And of course the DTI agent essentially sacrificing connection and unity with others in order to be effective at their job resonated with the Deltan sacrifice in leaving home for any number of offworld duties. It seems such an odd pairing - Deltans and DTI - but it really works when you consider that common thread of empathy, unity, contact and the sacrifice of it.
It was also nice to have a Suliban character, though I suppose given the nature of the book it was (happily) inevitable...It would have been nice to have a Suliban character; shame we didn't. Oh well.
I appreciated the general portrayal of the DTI, the sense of dignity and purpose in their work and their approach to it, particularly given the frequent reminders that it isn't a glamerous or exciting job. If you're doing more than filing paperwork and interviewing people, you've scewed up (I was going to say "already screwed up", but DTI complicates this too much that I won't risk the "always"). And the ending (which was also really the whole point of the plot) was hopeful and inspiring, a fitting monument to the idea of the "unsung" worker, the unglamerous labour that gets things built and maintained. It made the point well without being direct about it, and without taking anything away from Trek's celebration of the exploratory spirit and urge for discovery. Hopefully, if I might be so bold, this will further weaken the impression some readers have that post-Nemesis
Trek is all doom and gloom. I found the ending a very satisfying nod of appreciation to the harnessing of dedicated minds to building something great. To cross sci-fi universes for a minute, I'm reminded of a reoccurring phrase on Babylon Five
: "What is built, endures". That seems quite fitting to the novel's conclusion, in more ways than one.
Also, the conclusion contributed further to the idea that the 25th century is going to be a time of peace and prosperity (as the Enterprise relaunch promised). That just reinforced the positive feelings.
Oh, and Christopher
I recall you mentioning how you generally dislike time travel in Trek. So now you're setting up a situation where before too long there won't be any
time travel shenanigans in known space, because everyone will be protected by the Grid.
Felt the time had come* for drastic measures, eh?
* That wasn't actually a pun. don't sic Lucsly on me.