Just finished Brinkmanship
an hour ago. It's been a while since I last read anything by Una McCormack, having skipped The Never-Ending Sacrifice
, but ended up reading this one almost in one go. It was that
good. I'm not going to cover everything but here's some random thoughts.
SPOILERS START FROM HERE
First, I want to applaud making Beverly Crusher the PoV character for the Federation side of the story. I feel that out of the original TNG characters remaining at the forefront in the novelverse, she's often the one with the fewest "screen time" (or page space, if you will). It made for a very refreshing perspective, that I found somewhat reminiscent of "Suspicions", an episode which I've always enjoyed (and which of course also had its theme of Doctor Diplomacy). These parts really felt very true to character to me, from the scenes where she befriends Ilka (great character btw!) to her obvious outrage at Akaar at the end. It also resonated quite well with my own feelings on how TrekLit has shifted to this darker universe of late, where Our Heroes spend much more time preventing war than they do exploring as they did before. Having both Crusher and Dax voice this same concern felt right to me, like the characters themselves have noticed and want to take action to change things. It makes the ending very bittersweet, as despite all the machinations - nobody wins.
Second, somethat in response to Mage
's post above, I'd like to comment on the Venette. While reading about their city and their physiology, especially the furred Venetans like Hedron, I settled on something like forest lemurs. We have this rather idyllic setting of a capitol city without any hustle and bustle, where even buildings have an organic feel, and where people seemed to lead uncomplicated lives. (Which might contrast with certain lemurs I've seen, who can get quite lively after all). Having this peaceful society become a focal point for interstellar conflict made for a very "paradise lost" kind of story, and I really felt for them, in over their heads as they were. For in truth, the Venette wouldn't have much say in their own future if the Tzenkethi and the Khitomer allies had really gone to war here. All they'd be able to do was try and survive the onslaught. I quite liked this focus on the "lesser powers" caught in between the Pact and Accords powers, forced to pick sides or being fought over without any real choice in the matter. It's something I'd been contemplating earlier, nice to see that I wasn't the only one.
Lastly, something about the Tzenkethi. I much lamented the limited focus on them in Paths of Disharmony
, given I got kind of excited with the tidbits we did get. Brinkmanship
made up for that immensely. The Tzenkethi been one of the major unknowns for a while now, and getting this glimpse into their society and their motivations for opposing the Federation was very welcome. I've also begun to see a pattern unfolding in the different powers that make up the Pact here: many have some kind of "comformism" (I hope I'm using the right word here) in their society, as opposed to the Federation's diversity. The Romulans have long had a tightly regulated society, the Breen have their repression of individuality and the Tholians have their xenophobia. I also appreciated seeing into the "cracks" of Tzenkethi society though, for example the discussion of "genetic anomalies" between the two enforcers, Cory's dreaming beyond her station and even Alizome's "how did it come to this?" discussion with Beverly at the end. It makes the Tzenkethi as a whole really come to life.
So, we come to scoring in the poll. I don't deal out "Outstandings" easily, but I'm going to make an exception here. Thanks to Una McCormack for a great read!