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Old January 9 2014, 04:41 AM   #108
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Re: TF: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Thrawn wrote: View Post
Often I'm on a pretty similar wavelength to Sci, ss seeing him vigorously defend this when I thought it was, by TrekLit standards, pretty irredeemably atrocious has been a little odd.
Mind you, I'm mostly defending it against criticisms that I think are unfair or disproportionate. There have been a number of posters who have posted what I thought were fair criticisms, and I haven't argued with them.

I've had my critiques of Dayton Ward's writing myself -- I think he has a habit of spending a lot of time on set-up and rising action, and then rushing his climaxes and resolutions, for instance. One thing that I appreciated about Peaceable Kingdoms was that the rising action didn't feel like it squeezed out the climax and resolution, the way it often did in his Vanguard books and in Paths of Disharmony.

I did think the climax itself was a bit rushed, but still ultimately satisfying. I would have preferred to get a stronger sense of the general public reaction to Baras's arrest and his deception being uncovered; what happened to the Federation Councillors who had thrown their support behind him, for instance? Who were the other candidates, how did the Special Election work -- did they throw him off the ballot, for instance? Etc.

In some ways, I recognize, though, that this is a function of Ward choosing to focus his Star Trek novels on the more familiar paradigm: I get the sense that his Star Trek is like the canon, in that he prefers to write straightforward, starship crew-focused action-adventure; he's not the kind of writer who would even want, I infer, to write a novel like Articles of the Federation that breaks with the paradigm. (This is my inference from how he structures most of his plots and from his writing style; I don't know this for sure.) It's not necessarily always the kind of Star Trek I want to read, but the fact that he has different creative goals than I do is not necessarily a bad thing -- even if I don't always find it satisfying personally.

I didn't find it as satisfying that Ishan Anjar turned out just to be a warhawk who took things too far; something like an Obsidian Order agent might have been more dramatically satisfying... mostly because I loved Bacco as a character so much that if she had to be cut down, my impulse would be to have her cut down by a tried-and-true, good old fashioned villain. Not to say that Ishan isn't himself villainous -- but he's a more down-to-Earth sort of villain, you know? Mind you, that's not to say it was the wrong choice for Ishan to be a warhawk who goes too far; my creative impulses can run towards melodrama sometimes, and it's more realistic to imagine a domestic warmonger going all Oliver-Stone-JFK than it is to imagine a hostile foreign agent infiltrating the Palais. It's still a bit unsatisfying to imagine that so awesome a character could be struck down by someone so mundane -- but then, I imagine that must be how people who watched JFK or MLK felt about those assassins. Those who are larger than life are often taken from us by those who are very, very small.

I would have preferred a greater emphasis on those legitimate questions raised by the "warhawks," but I also think that The Fall treated them more even-handedly than many of our posters are implying. We had plenty of scenes where characters like Vale would hear "Ishan"'s speech and think, "I agree with that." Even Baras himself wasn't two-dimensional -- his willingness to be persuaded by Picard in The Crimson Shadow comes to mind, and he raised legitimate concerns about Bashir's actions in A Ceremony of Losses. (David Mack, in a podcast interview, compared him to former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, whom he argued always felt like he needed an adversary to function.)

And there were several characters that people have accused of being two-dimensionally evil who I don't think were at all -- the captain of the Warspite, for instance, whose attitude and behavior I suspect we the audience would be thrilled by if the narrative had framed his side as being "right."

Still, I think it would have helped if there had been a primary character who was himself firmly in the "let's be more military-oriented" side, who was firmly in "Ishan"'s camp before being disillusioned by the reveal.

My score: B-. Not the best, and driven by creative goals that are perfectly valid but not always as satisfying to me. And I can see where some might be disappointed in it after the A+ and A++ efforts we saw in A Ceremony of Losses and The Crimson Shadow. But I also think it's stronger than some people are giving it credit for, and smarter, too.
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