I went into Brinkmanship with high expectations. Looking at the cover, I was reminded of our last Picard/Dax tale- Destiny. Perhaps in giving the book this cover, the publisher made an error in leading readers like me to expect a dynamic Picard and Dax story. In retrospect, if I were to put 2 characters on the cover of this book it would be Crusher and a Cardassian disguised as a Tzenkethi as these were the characters that the book centered around.
That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except neither of these characters really gripped me. Whenever I generated a mental picture of events, Crusher always seemed out of character. Sure she was out of her element, but the words she spoke just didn’t seem like the words or manner that I expect from the character. The disguised Cardassian spy didn’t strike me either, I can’t even remember her name! That is the difficulty with Star Trek writers spending a lot of time in an alien culture with new characters, they really have to make them stand out and be memorable. Although the Tzenkethi society is original, I found it to basically be another cliché xenophobic totalitarian society who I found far more interesting in DRG III’s Rough Beasts of Empire.
My chief problem with the book was the pace. The status reports about the Tzenkethi freighter fleet began as an interesting countdown but they quickly become tedious, a seemingly needless break in the narrative. Throughout the book, I found the read to be dry and completely devoid of interesting tension or action. I kept anticipating something to peak and hold my interests but instead, the lack of real developments railroaded my attention span like the Tzenkethi railroading diplomatic progress. Though interesting characters are active in the narrative, their lack of useful interaction and progressive action made their roles dry. The first real moment of tension in the book, where a character really stood out, was nearly 70% through when Picard faced down Alizome in the Venetan council chambers.
Then, after all that waiting, I felt let down by the climax. The solution to the crisis, the Tzenkethi manipulating Cardassian embassy staff, came in abruptly and I was unconvinced that this piece of information would resolve the situation. I’ll admit, maybe this wasn’t the writer, it may have been my limited understanding of diplomacy and affairs of state. But, with all the time spent building to that resolution, I felt the resolution needed to be better developed and explained instead of the crisis being put behind so quickly and characters moving on like the ending of a Voyager episode. The Cardassian spy’s ending also made no sense to me. The Tzenkethi and Cardassian biologies are so different. She can made to look like a Tzenkethi but the type of examination that probably comes with a reconditioning would probably reveal the different biology. Then the Tzenkethi lower echelons would know they have been contaminated with a Cardassian spy. No doubt an autopsy of the dead human would reveal the same thing. So I anticipate the bitter sweet ending the writer was going for would actually end with the spy being tortured to death.
So after another Typhon Pact book about the UFP teetering on the verge of war instead of about explorers making peace with strange new worlds, Dax’s words pretty much summarize my feelings on where the Typhon Pact series continuing theme. “Rushing from crisis to crisis, we’re changing. And what will we become? Will there be any room for those of us who want to understand other civilizations? Am I overreacting?”