Finished the book in short order...mixed feelings on this one...
Before I get into it, for the record, I was among the many disappointed with Seize the Fire
. My initial reaction was extreme disappointment, which was tempered after a second reading a few months later. But tempering "that sucked" is a slight improvement.
For what it's worth, the concept behind this version of Titan's "Alien of the week" had a LOT of potential...the science implications with the pulsar, radiation, how life on the planet evolved, and how that impacted local space...there's a lot of potential there. I'm not sure the full potential is realized...I don't necessarily associate Martin with "high science" sci-fi. Whether it's fair or not, I tend to associate his writing with political/military/conflict plots, and that ends up being reflected here. We are posted a conflict that is interesting based on the science implications, but devolves into a pretty typical "here's the destructive baddy" type of story. I'm not the only one that thought twisting the plot to say the Destructicons were right and the Autobots were wrong...wait, I mean, Destructionists were right in that the technology was creating the problems with the pulsar, etc? THAT would have provided a much more intriguing moral choice than what we're left with in the end.
Also, I will completely echo what someone else said...Titan is way too damn somber. There's an "end of the world" scenario in every book, and it's getting a little stale. At the risk of sounding a little cynical, is every Titan outline supposed to be "pose an interesting science anomaly. put a civilization in some sort of serious risk because Titan observed or was in the area of the anomaly. Have a series of incredibly angsty Prime Driective discussions that always end in some sort of loophole. Provide the opportunity for some sort of relatively heroic happy ending."
OK, I know that's a bit unfair as there has been some quality in the Titan series, but I'm worrying that the series is losing some of the joy it was supposed to contain. The idea of exploration or the sake of exploration, the interesting diversity concepts...it all seems a distant second place to the "alien of the week" setup.
Anyways, beyond the science/political plot of the week, there's the Typhon Pact side of the plot. At that, I can pretty much only say WTF? The Tholians are either talking in the ear of rouge Andorians and/or mentally manipulating them? And to solve the population process, they're simply going to transporter-duplicate Andorians that don't want to repatriate and kidnap them? And this makes sense as a plot development? Wait...WHAT?
I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I understand "desperate times/measures" and such. But this just doesn't seem believable. How is there any expectation of cooperation from the duplicates? Sure the technology is feasible, but how is it personally feasible? Plus, how is there ZERO leak of this by the time of Plauges of Night/Raise the Dawn (speaking of, how far out of sync is the "alpha quadrant timeline" and Titan now? It seems like it should be a few years separation. Is it just me or are we slowly returning to the pre-Destiny/Typhon Pact setup of differentiating timelines for each series?)
So final verdict - meh. Interesting science and cultural implications for the alien of the week, but missing the potential. And the Federation/Typhon Pact developments are incredulous at best, utterly nonsensical at worst.