Honestly, this book is such a downer in so freaking many ways, I’m not sure I like it. Destiny
was destructive on a massive level, but at the very least was uplifting in some real ways.
But this… this just felt evil.
First, I should outline the few spoilers I knew going in:
-I knew it was a sequel to Immortal Coil
-I knew Soong made an appearance.
-I knew the Breen appeared.
-I knew Choudhury died.
-I knew Data was brought back, sorta kinda, possibly as some sort of amalgamation of him and Soong.
Where to begin?
For no good reason, I’ll start with Choudhury’s death. Knew it was coming. Still shocked me. Casual brutality. Definitely the heir apparent for the “Most Pointless Death” award, held until recently by the late Tasha Yar. And Worf’s reaction afterward in the ready room really enhanced the effect. Of all the TrekLit only characters, I liked Choudhury the best, and her death was definitely affecting for me.
(Minor quibble: I wish Worf had actually been forced to choose between Choudhury and the rest of the away team. I feel that would’ve fit better into the overall theme of the book. On the other hand, it would’ve eliminated the casual brutality of her death, and wouldn’t have set him on the trajectory he is currently on [which I’m sure will get followed up in Silent Weapons
Not sure how well the extended Soong narrative worked as part II of the book. The conceit was that he was telling the away team all this in real time, which of course is unrealistic. Still, it was always in the back of my mind, which made the sub-story feel like it was going on much longer than it was supposed to. I enjoyed the story, once I got over the blatant retconning of “Brothers” and the almost Mary Sue-like aspects of his character. (That came out passively aggressive, and I don’t mean it like that. I really did enjoy the story after I got over the things that bothered me.)
Soong comes across as an anti-hero, which seems consistent with the other interpretations of him that we’ve seen. Still, it makes the Data-Soong fusion at the end a bit more troubling than I wish it were.
And for the elephant in the room: Data.
As I said in the Brinkmanship
thread, Picard, Data and Garak are my favorite Trek characters, and if I had to pick one from those three, I would probably choose Data. So, as I was with Picard’s characterization in Brinkmanship
, I am probably a bit oversensitive to Data, too.
Before getting to Data himself, though: I realized about halfway through the Soong narrative (before he learns of Data’s death in the Bassen Rift) how Data was going to be resurrected. I’m not sure I quite realized that Data was going to get a bit of a Soong-infusion as well, but I suddenly knew that Data was going to get Soong’s body. And, honestly, realizing that at that point, without even thinking about it, really disappointed me.
It’s worth saying that, while I try to avoid spoilers, if I see them, it can still be okay, because I want to find out how
they came about. And if I see that too, I’ll want more details. So the book will be enjoyable no matter what. Except here, when it somehow became obvious much sooner than I wished. That is too bad.
I must say that Data’s resurrection itself was well-done, and believable, too. It didn’t seem forced, and felt like a logical outgrowth of what had been previously established about all of the characters involved.
(I also really liked Soong’s turning the Breen’s Lore’s into his own army; that was a great moment, although, again, it was rather obvious what he was planning.)
But the resurrected Data… I dunno. First of all, I wish we had seen more of him. Not to start a nuclear war here on the BBS, but Janeway got much, much more treatment in her resurrection novel, and she was much less popular than Data (by virtue of appearing on a less-watched series), and, furthermore, her death was in a novel, not on screen.
But more than that, Data 2.0 seems… well, he’s not Data anymore. He says that much, and I can deal with that. What I’m having a harder time dealing with: he doesn’t seem very likable. He says that he is reconsidering Starfleet in response to the deep offense that his original enlistment was to his father. That seems rather selfish to me. Almost everything Data accomplished in his life, he accomplished in spite of Soong, not because of him. And Starfleet, for all of its problematic treatments of AI, still gave him so much more than Soong did. To say nothing of Picard, Crusher, Worf and especially La Forge. He’s Geordi’s best friend, he’s just returned from the dead, and he can’t even hang around for a bit? I understand his desire to resurrect Lal, but this newfound obsession with controlling life and death seems more like Soong or Lore than like the Data we all know and love. (And anyway, he could stay out of Starfleet while still remaning on the Enterprise
for a while.) His characterization makes sense in-universe, to be sure. I just personally don’t like it.
Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about The Persistence of Memory
. On the one (objective) hand, the novel itself is executed very well, with only a few minors flaws. (Unlike, for example, Seize the Fire
or the last Romulan War novel.) It kept me turning the pages, it filled in some gaps in the Trek universe (Orion!) and it felt like I really was reading the characters I know from canon.
On the other (totally subjective) hand, story-wise, and big-picture-wise (which I assume represents decisions made more by the editor than the writer), I am much more ambivalent. Unfortunately, I must say that, as much as I regret to say this, I found the ending to be such a downer that it really removed any enjoyment I had previously had from reading the book.
(Not even RBoE
bothered me this much, as Star Trek novels go.)
To be sure: I respect and admire Mr. Mack’s story choices. I do not mean to criticize them at all. I am unhappy almost exclusively with the events that are depicted themselves, not the decision to depict them, and I recognize that that unhappiness stems almost entirely from my personal feelings. (And honestly, it seems to me that David Mack
’s ability to draw me into the story so completely is nothing but a complement to him and his writing.)