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Old August 3 2013, 08:27 PM   #214
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Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

I thought it was Outstanding. I'm actually a big ENT fan, but I thought that after The Good That Men Do the novel line kind of floundered and didn't really live up to its potential. I was excited when I found out that Christopher would be writing the continuation of the ENT line, mostly because I had just recently finished reading The Buried Age (which quickly became one of my favorite Trek novels), so I was looking forward to seeing what Christopher could bring to the ENT era.

I'm pleased to say that I was not disappointed. I can understand where people are coming from with their complaints about "small universe syndrome," but none of that bothered me at all because I love "continuity porn." I think it adds a certain level of fun to the story. And I don't see such references as Samuel Abraham Kirk, the Williams' family proclivity for Roman names, Tobin Dax, Caroline Paris, Maltuvis, and so on, as being a symptom of "small universe syndrome" so much as the author sort of "filling in the cracks" of the Star Trek universe, so to speak. Like Christopher has mentioned several times in this thread, just about all of the little continuity nods he made in this book were based on or inspired by minor references peppered throughout Trek, both on-screen and in other novels. I don't see the problem with him taking those hints and fleshing them out. It makes the Trek universe feel more alive, rather than a series of totally separate events which all occur in a vacuum.

I enjoyed how there were several different facets to this story. There was the political/military storyline featuring Archer, T'Pol, Hoshi, Phlox, and Shran as Endeavour sort of takes over for Enterprise in being the focal vessel during the major socio-political events of early Federation history (i.e. the stuff that kids will be reading about in history books in the future). It was cool to see Garos again; he seemed like a prime candidate for a recurring antagonist in ENT, but that story thread was never picked up in the show. I also thought it was nice to see the Malurian species get a little fleshed out and developed some, so that they (and Garos) were more than just a basic reptilian-ish species who liked to wear masks and deceive people. It looks like Garos is going to continue to play some kind of role in ROTF, which I'm looking forward to seeing.

I also liked seeing the Orion triplets again, and I'm curious to find out how their role as leaders in the Orion Syndicate will continue to affect interstellar affairs in future ROTF novels. Again (and this is all just my personal opinion, of course) the Orions were someone I was expecting to play some sort of recurring villain role when ENT first premiered. I was disappointed that it didn't happen, and moreso that they didn't even appear until Season Four, so I'm glad that Christopher decided to expand their role in this story.

My personal favorite storyline was that of the U.S.S. Pioneer, which covered the scientific/exploratory aspect of the novel, something that the ENT era desperately needed after the last six or seven years spent focusing on the Romulan War and its build-up. Malcolm Reed is actually one of my favorite ENT characters, so I was very happy to see him take center-stage in this subplot. I felt for the long-suffering Malcolm when he discovered he would never father any children, but I thought that was a brilliant addition by Christopher. Malcolm was already hard enough on himself, and with the family name and passing it on being such a big deal to the Reeds, the fact that he can't do that only adds to Malcolm's mostly self-imposed burden. It reminded me of Picard's reaction to the deaths of his brother and nephew in Generations.

It's great to see a Trek captain who has doubts about himself, instead of the typical self-assured, commanding presence we're used to seeing. That works well on a TV series that requires the status quo to be maintained from episode to episode, but for an ongoing narrative in a novel it wouldn't work as well. That, and it would have been very much out-of-character for Malcolm. He treated his captaincy as something that required automatic obedience and respect; and it does, but that kind of respect isn't the sort that brings out the best in your crew. To obtain that, you need to truly earn their loyalty and their trust. And Malcolm was able to learn that, thanks to a combination of the Pioneer's dire situation and Travis Mayweather's guidance. Pairing the optimistic, effusive Travis with the cynical, reserved Malcolm was a stroke of genius. Malcolm probably went through the strongest arc and development in this novel, something he sorely needed after being criminally underused in ENT, which instead focused most of its attention on the Big Three of Archer, T'Pol, and Tucker.

Speaking of Tucker, I, for one, am curious to see where his story goes from here. It's clear that he doesn't entirely like working for Section 31, but he also believes that their presence is a necessary evil in the current political climate. Based on where he ends up in the epilogue of To Brave the Storm, though, I wonder if something will eventually happen that causes him to change his mind and get out of the spy game.

The diplomatic storyline with Soval and Bryce Shumar trying to salvage the Federation's first contact with Sauria was interesting, too. I liked seeing the Saurian species and culture get expanded upon, and I'm definitely curious to see how the Orion Syndicate's new "friendship" with Maltuvis plays into the next novel, if at all.

Well, that went on a lot longer than I thought it would. My post, that is, not the book! Suffice to say that I loved A Choice of Futures, and if Christopher is able to carry the same qualities that made me enjoy this one over to Tower of Babel, then I'll be a very happy reader indeed.
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