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Old June 18 2013, 04:54 PM   #415
Charles Phipps
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Re: TNG: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack Review Thread (Spoile

I absolutely loved this book.

It's also discontinuity for me. It is exiled from my Trekverse, never happening in a way which even "Threshold" and "Profit and Lace" fail to occur ("Dear Doctor", of course, is still out). I am going to recommend it on my blog and to others, I may even re-read it but I have problems I can't reconcile.

A Persistence of Memory is funny, interesting, easy to read, and enjoyable. So why, pray tell, is it out of the Phipps Trekverse? Well, it boils down to two factors. Not the resurrection plot. People come back from the dead all the time in Star Trek. Only novelists and nerds like me care whether Miles O'Brien is actually the same man as his past self or Harry Kim is on his sixth or seventh life. All I care about is Spock being alive and, as far as I'm concerned, Captain Kirk was taken by the Nexus to Iotia where he founded his own Starfleet. Only a Nexus-created copy died in Generations.

No, my problem is the character of Emil Vaslovik and his relationship to Doctor Soong as well as the portrayal of the latter. They... rub me the wrong way in a manner which is hard to define. Vasilok demeans Doctor Soong's importance in the Trek canon not in any direct manner but in a subtler one which irritates my inner nerd. Doctor Vaslovik is the greatest cyberneticist ever, literally da Vinchi, and can do more with his left pinkie than Soong could with his entire brain. Soong was inspired by him and spends his entire life trying to catch up.

And well, he doesn't.

The best way to illustrate how this makes me feel is through analogy. Imagine you're reading a book about the Original Series and Captain Kirk comes up. You'd expect that. After all, Captain Kirk is the star of TOS period (as are the rest of the Enterprise's crew). He is the first starship captain in canon and all others flow from him, just like Superman and superheroes.

Now imagine that this book is from Captain Kirk's perspective and that he's stated to be the second greatest captain in Starfleet. There's this other guy, Steve Armstrong, and he's the captain of the U.S.S Curbstomp. Captain Armstrong does everything Captain Kirk does only better. He has bigger adventures, prettier girls, and more respect from his crew.

This isn't to set up a conflict where Kirk eventually proves himself better than Armstrong, it's just concrete fact that the U.S.S Curbstomp's crew is the Enterprise's superior in every way. Oh and Carol Marcus plays a role in the book too, she's Captain Armstrong's new wife.

Finally, just to put the cherry on top, we discover Captain Kirk is motivated by a life-long envy of Captain Armstrong and his career. Captain Armstrong even taught Kirk everything he knows! The book ends acknowledging Captain Armstrong is someone Kirk will never be able to catch up to, but he needs to accept doesn't mean he's not awesome in his own (lesser) way.

Yeah.

To me, Noonien Soong is the greatest cyberneticist in the Star Trek universe. It's his thing. He's by no means as famous or popular a character as Captain Kirk but it's his hat. That Doctor Soong was a genius in robotics and was able to create an android no one in the world was able to replicate. His hat, on his head, says, "I am the best roboticist ever." Seeing him reduced to living in this other guy's shadow in such a ridiculously painful way is heartbreaking.

My next problem is that David Mack's Noonien Soong is a character I simply don't associate with the one on TNG. The saintly Doctor Soong, who is a figure of inspiration to Data throughout the novels and left civilization to work on the pure science of creating an android brain (based on Isaac Asimov's works no less) is difficult to reconcile with a guy who makes his fortune with a holographic casino. Because, really, that's what I associate with Noonien Soong: blackjack and hookers.

(I'm kidding, I just couldn't get that phrase out of my head. That was one of my favorite parts of the book)

I would have had no problem with Doctor Soong having created a Doctor Soong android. In fact, I would have been surprised if he didn't given all of his androids bore his likeness. However, I can't imagine Doctor Soong faking his death after Lore "killed" him only to never visit Data again. Had this just been something programmed to activate post his death, I could have written off his bizarre behavior as a quirk of the memory trasfer process, but this is as close to scientific immortality as we're going to get. Doctor Soong is, and always has been apparently, a wild partyman who manipulates everything around him.

That doesn't mean the character is badly written. I could easily imagine Brent Spinner playing this character but I find it difficult to take him seriously as Doctor Soong. It's a bit like discovering Doctor McCoy having spent his time in-between TOS and TMP as an agent of Section 31. No, actually, I'd find that easier to believe. They, presumably, gave him the disco outfit.

I'm fine with Data returning, I just can't think of this as "my" vision of Soong.

Thanks still for writing it!
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Last edited by Charles Phipps; June 19 2013 at 12:17 AM.
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