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Old July 16 2008, 04:34 AM   #1
Mike Winters
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Location: Bensalem, PA
Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

SPOILER SPACE
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Ok, I was lucky and my wife let me go to Shore Leave this year (usually falls during our anniversary) and get my copies of the early release books. I devoured this book and was done by Sunday. All I can say is W O W !!!! Christopher Bennett comes through again. He did a wonderful job building on the fallout of Before Dishonor and provided believeable (for the most part) explanations for everyone's atypical behaviour in the last novel. I love how he did not sweep it all under the rug which was what I feared was going to happen.

While the novel was more Borg heavy than I thought it would be, I was impressed at how it was done so that it wasn't overwhelming, and was used to further the story, but was not the focus of the story.

As to the final sequence and the lead in to Destiny... All I can say is
HOLY ****!!!! Now I know what Margaret meant when she said the proofreader of this novel told her she would be very angry if she didn't get to do the next novel.

Christopher, thank you for a wonderful novel, each book I read (just finished Buried Age) of yours keeps getting better and better.

Mike Winters
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Old July 16 2008, 05:20 AM   #2
tenmei
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

So, how is the fallout dealt with?

Me and Christopher might have our disagreements but he's still one of the best Trek writers out there - and that's taking into account that all of the current crop are pretty damn brilliant - so it's nice to hear he maintains his reputation here!
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Old July 16 2008, 12:22 PM   #3
FatherRob
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Definite spoliers here... you have been warned!
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Mike Winters wrote: View Post
While the novel was more Borg heavy than I thought it would be, I was impressed at how it was done so that it wasn't overwhelming, and was used to further the story, but was not the focus of the story.
I didn't feel that the Borg were all that heavily used, though, to be fair, I was so shocked at Hugh's presence that the Evilborg (TM) pretty much faded into insignificant oblivion... well... until...

As to the final sequence and the lead in to Destiny... All I can say is
HOLY ****!!!!
Yea, tell me about it. Usually it's David Mack you can count on for a bloodbath, but CLB definately stuck it to him there. I can't really remember a bigger slaughter in the novels... though I am sure there has been one.

I'll admit, in the line, "Resistance is futile... but you are welcome to try" (or something like that, I don't have the copy in front of me at the moment) I kept hearing a Clint Eastwood-esque Borg voice. Not sure why.

Rob+
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Old July 16 2008, 01:28 PM   #4
Christopher
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

tenmei wrote: View Post
So, how is the fallout dealt with?
It will only cost you 7.99 to find out...


FatherRob wrote: View Post
Yea, tell me about it. Usually it's David Mack you can count on for a bloodbath, but CLB definately stuck it to him there. I can't really remember a bigger slaughter in the novels... though I am sure there has been one.
Well, in The Buried Age,


Anyway, I can't really take the credit for that, because I was just depicting an event that Dave had already postulated in the outline for Destiny. And it's just a harbinger of what's to come...
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Old July 16 2008, 02:21 PM   #5
FatherRob
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

In response to my notation of Christopher's sadistic bloodbath he reminded me...
Well, in The Buried Age,
[b]Good point. It's hard to remember all the details of every book, as I read so much (fiction and non-fiction). I retract my accusation of David being the biggest mass murderer in galactic history. Did anyone get the license plate on that starship that Christopher was driving?

Anyway, I can't really take the credit for that, because I was just depicting an event that Dave had already postulated in the outline for Destiny. And it's just a harbinger of what's to come...
You are such a tease... you really should explore a future in said line of work.

Rob+
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Old July 16 2008, 03:32 PM   #6
Kopernikus
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Mike Winters wrote: View Post
As to the final sequence and the lead in to Destiny... All I can say is
HOLY ****!!!!
Since this is a Spoiler-thread, you surely can say more. Please....
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Old July 16 2008, 03:55 PM   #7
Brynthe2
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Mike Winters wrote: View Post
SPOILER SPACE
Ok, I was lucky and my wife let me go to Shore Leave this year (usually falls during our anniversary) and get my copies of the early release books. I devoured this book and was done by Sunday. All I can say is W O W !!!! Christopher Bennett comes through again.
Okay.. well that's all I need to know in order to go ahead and set aside some time to start harassing the local bookstores on a regular, daily basis.

BN.com is showing that the book is currently shipping. Anyone order from them and already get notification that is has shipped?

**BTW, Christopher, do you think you could harass whichever department is in charge of getting the Kindle edition out the door, a bit? It seems that the Kindle editions just get put out whenever someone gets around to it, with no sort of reliable time frame (still waiting on Fearful Symmetry too.)
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Old July 16 2008, 04:26 PM   #8
FatherRob
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Kopernikus wrote: View Post
Mike Winters wrote: View Post
As to the final sequence and the lead in to Destiny... All I can say is
HOLY ****!!!!
Since this is a Spoiler-thread, you surely can say more. Please....
Let's just say that the Borg's actions could be rationalized as testing molecular adhesion bond breaking points... on the planetary level. With said planetary unit having a significant number of carbon-based life forms upon it... we can also extrapolate that the Borg are performing a secondary experiment on survivability of carbon based life in extreme and varied conditions. Yea, that's the ticket. The Borg end Greater Than the Sum with substantial imperical evidence for their forthcoming doctoral thesis, tenatively titled "Subatomic Particulate Bonds and Effects of Extreme Stimuli on Planetary Scales" and we'll just leave it at that.

Christopher, any word from Margaret yet on if you'll be writing that piece of in-universe literature for a forthcoming volume?

Rob+
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Old July 17 2008, 04:40 AM   #9
JD
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

^Wow. Sounds like they were right when they said the Borg were taking things up to a whole new level.
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Old July 19 2008, 11:18 AM   #10
Thrawn
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

SPOILERS. BIG BIG SPOILERS. LOTS OF THEM. IN A VERY BIG REVIEW.
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I have to admit, I didn't think this one was quite up to CLB's usual standards. I loved the thematic nature of the story and the emphasis on family, and how that was manifested in so many different ways (Picard & Crusher, Geordi alone, Guinan's past, T'Ryssa's past contrasted with Kadohata's present, the Borg, the giant intelligence, and Hugh - they all had something to contribute to the theme), so the core of the book was quite wonderful. But, well...

Ok. So, first of all, this deals with the Einstein, which it looks like doesn't have anything to do with the Borg invasion in Destiny. I was hoping there'd be some kind of ongoing thread throughout all this, and while there might be, it certainly isn't apparent in this story. It certainly seems like we follow a standalone Borg story with... another, unrelated Borg story. I'm not one of the people that thinks the Borg are tired and lame, but this is a mite excessive. If all of the TNG books so far involved Romulans and no other enemies, I think people'd have the same reaction.

Two, I didn't really get T'Ryssa. She seemed too much like the standard, idealized female character that guys tend to invent in, for instance, very bad computer games - horny, loose, constantly cracking puns, beautiful, and brilliant, not to mention that she ends up prancing around naked at least 3 times. And, of course, whilst being unconventional and irritating, she eventually gains the love and respect of her new crew. I predicted her whole story from the moment Picard saw her application. Not quite Mary Sue, but a related phenomenon... author's fantasy, perhaps, as made whole in a novel. Maybe I'm being unfair, but either way, she didn't work for me at all, despite the interesting idea of an undisciplined half-Vulcan. Maybe Mack will take her interesting places.

Three, I really didn't like the way the aftermath of the mutiny plot was handled. Seemed like the first third of the book was little more than lots of characters apologizing for acting like idiots and then promptly exiting the story. T'Lara and Leybenzon pissed off so many people that I can sorta see shuffling them aside just to not ruffle feathers, but it seems...I don't know...selfish, somehow, like CLB took all the characters he didn't like and replaced them with his own just because he could. Especially with T'Ryssa seeming like such a stereotypical fantasy girl, and then Leybenzon in his brief appearance being one-dimensional and unrealistic... I didn't much like him either, but I thought there was a real story to tell with him. Turning him into 100% Violence Boy, and then having him screw up and die 10 pages later, seemed lame. A waste of resources.

Oh, and it also seemed odd to me that the primary emotional conflict around our Captain in this series involves having a child, just like it does in Titan at this point. It makes sense for both characters, and when they meet up in Destiny I look forward to some interesting conversations on the subject, but it did seem repetitive. This is a minor complaint, though.

I did like the other new characters, the scientist and the security chief, and look forward to where Mack takes everyone. I also thought the idea for the giant intelligence was fantastic, and the interactions between it and the crew were cleverly written. Most of the plot itself was great, really, just the context was really irritating in a lot of cases. If you remove the general TNG-Relaunch sloppiness and its aftereffects, and the character of T'Ryssa, and this happened to not be immediately bookended on both sides by more Borg stories, it would've been pretty fantastic. As it stands, maybe 7/10.

Last edited by Thrawn; July 19 2008 at 11:38 AM.
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Old July 19 2008, 04:44 PM   #11
Christopher
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Thrawn wrote: View Post
I have to admit, I didn't think this one was quite up to CLB's usual standards. I loved the thematic nature of the story and the emphasis on family, and how that was manifested in so many different ways (Picard & Crusher, Geordi alone, Guinan's past, T'Ryssa's past contrasted with Kadohata's present, the Borg, the giant intelligence, and Hugh - they all had something to contribute to the theme), so the core of the book was quite wonderful. But, well...
Well, I'll take that as an overall compliment.


Ok. So, first of all, this deals with the Einstein, which it looks like doesn't have anything to do with the Borg invasion in Destiny. I was hoping there'd be some kind of ongoing thread throughout all this, and while there might be, it certainly isn't apparent in this story. It certainly seems like we follow a standalone Borg story with... another, unrelated Borg story. I'm not one of the people that thinks the Borg are tired and lame, but this is a mite excessive. If all of the TNG books so far involved Romulans and no other enemies, I think people'd have the same reaction.
Well, the job I was hired to do was to wrap up the leftover threads from Before Dishonor and set up the board for Destiny. So it is kind of a betwixt-and-between story. But that's just the plot. What matters isn't the Borg; what matters are the characters and their arcs. At its heart, this was a story about Picard and how he's affected by the Borg threat. GTTS was about him finally reaching a point where he could feel that the threat had been resolved, his crew/family was in a good place, and he was ready to move on with his life -- only for the universe to yank the rug out from under him and kick the real threat into gear with Destiny. So there is an ongoing thread, but it's more thematic.


Two, I didn't really get T'Ryssa. She seemed too much like the standard, idealized female character that guys tend to invent in, for instance, very bad computer games - horny, loose, constantly cracking puns, beautiful, and brilliant, not to mention that she ends up prancing around naked at least 3 times.
Idealized?? If someone that neurotic and annoying is your ideal, you have low standards. Okay, she's witty, but so's Geordi; so's Tom Paris; so's Fabian Stevens; so's virtually any New Frontier character. Okay, she's attractive, but so are most other characters in a TV universe, and so are a number of the book-only characters. (Heck, Dina Elfiki's the real mega-babe among the new crewmembers. And Choudhury's a striking, statuesque woman as well. Trys is more cute than glamorous.) Okay, she's smart and capable in her field, but so is everyone else in Starfleet. And as for her active sexual life, that's not so different from various other characters in the literature these days, like Lavena and Ra-Havreii in Titan, T'Prynn and Sandesjo in Vanguard, etc. And it's more a manifestation of her fear of commitment than of my fantasies. I'm not the type to fantasize about a woman who'd probably dump me the moment I tried to get serious with her.


And, of course, whilst being unconventional and irritating, she eventually gains the love and respect of her new crew. I predicted her whole story from the moment Picard saw her application.
It's not that hard to predict the overall arc of a new character being added to a cast. There are only so many story structures in the world. What matters is the execution. I wasn't writing a story about "Will she or won't she join the crew?" I was using her process of integration into the crew as a means to the more important end of exploring character -- not only her character, but the characters of Picard, Worf, La Forge, Kadohata, Choudhury, Guinan, etc. as revealed through their interactions with her. This was a book about the Enterprise crew trying to achieve a new balance after the turbulence of recent months, and how better to explore that in microcosm than by adding a character who shakes things up and isn't a natural fit into the group? As you said, this was a book about family; and it was also a book about Picard confronting the prospect of fatherhood. So I gave Picard a surrogate daughter figure who was a real handful, so as to create challenges for the crew as they tried to recapture that old sense of family.

Not quite Mary Sue, but a related phenomenon... author's fantasy, perhaps, as made whole in a novel.
Maybe a little; she is very closely based on a character I originally created for a role-playing game a few years back. (It was an e-mail game, with a friend as the game master and me as the sole player. I played a Starfleet officer transported into a Dungeons and Dragons universe -- hence the recurring themes of dragons and elves herein.) But being a writer, I tried to create a game character with flaws and complexities that would be interesting to write about, rather than an idealized alter ego. And Trys actually turned out rather more neurotic than the original T'Lyssa character was.


Three, I really didn't like the way the aftermath of the mutiny plot was handled. Seemed like the first third of the book was little more than lots of characters apologizing for acting like idiots and then promptly exiting the story. T'Lara and Leybenzon pissed off so many people that I can sorta see shuffling them aside just to not ruffle feathers, but it seems...I don't know...selfish, somehow, like CLB took all the characters he didn't like and replaced them with his own just because he could.
Actually T'Lana's departure was established at the end of Before Dishonor. Otherwise I would've gladly kept her around and tried to rehabilitate her -- something I did attempt to do in the brief scene I was able to give her. And Leybenzon's departure was decided on before I was hired to do this novel. I was brought in just after Destiny had been outlined, and Dave had already created Jasminder Choudhury as Leybenzon's replacement. Not that I had a problem with that, since I find Choudhury a far more interesting and enjoyable character to write than Leybenzon was.

And Leybenzon didn't apologize for a thing, as far as I can recall.


Oh, and it also seemed odd to me that the primary emotional conflict around our Captain in this series involves having a child, just like it does in Titan at this point. It makes sense for both characters, and when they meet up in Destiny I look forward to some interesting conversations on the subject, but it did seem repetitive. This is a minor complaint, though.
I think of it more as a thematic parallel. Actually in my first draft, Picard's arc was about whether or not to marry Beverly, but Margaret convinced me it was better to make that a fait accompli and move him on to the next phase.

I did like the other new characters, the scientist and the security chief, and look forward to where Mack takes everyone. I also thought the idea for the giant intelligence was fantastic, and the interactions between it and the crew were cleverly written. Most of the plot itself was great, really, just the context was really irritating in a lot of cases. If you remove the general TNG-Relaunch sloppiness and its aftereffects, and the character of T'Ryssa, and this happened to not be immediately bookended on both sides by more Borg stories, it would've been pretty fantastic. As it stands, maybe 7/10.
Well, I appreciate that, and I'd be happy to talk at greater length about the parts you did like.
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Old July 19 2008, 07:58 PM   #12
tenmei
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Hmmm. A whole new bunch of characters - our third lot in four novels! We're never going to be able to have a character stick around to know them and know what is in character and what is out of character for them!

We've been offered up some excellent candidates for permanent new characters (in Nave especially - if she had survived, her taking part in the mutiny would have made more sense than Leybenzons in BD) and lost them within a book or two with no way to explore dynamics.

Like we got in the DS9 Relaunch where all of our main cast was going to be brought in during the opening duology, I'd hoped the new Enterprise crew would all be present and accounted for by the end of the second novel at least - and now we find they're not.

I just hope this new group don't turn into a bunch of bumbling sycophants. That's one of the things that I liked about Before Dishonor, the fact that Kadohata, Leybenzon and T'Lana were so willing to tell Picard that they disagreed with him and fight for that position especially when Picard contravened Starfleet orders instead of just folding and letting him do what he wanted like the TNG crew.

I thought the scene at the end of BD with T'Lana's request for transfer wasn't set in stone - was hoping that she'd stay and continue to be a bit of a thorn in everyone's side. She was a good character.

So, I'm assuming Leybenzon and T'Lana are gone? Kadohata is staying? The barely mentioned Joanna Faur is STILL at CONN?

Have I understood right that Choudhury is the Security Chief, T'Ryssa is the Science Officer and Elfiki is the new Counselor?
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Old July 19 2008, 08:35 PM   #13
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

tenmei wrote: View Post
Hmmm. A whole new bunch of characters - our third lot in four novels! We're never going to be able to have a character stick around to know them and know what is in character and what is out of character for them!
Not a whole bunch. And they stick around at least as far as Destiny.

We've been offered up some excellent candidates for permanent new characters (in Nave especially - if she had survived, her taking part in the mutiny would have made more sense than Leybenzons in BD) and lost them within a book or two with no way to explore dynamics.
Why not read the book and then say whether the dynamics get explored?

Like we got in the DS9 Relaunch where all of our main cast was going to be brought in during the opening duology, I'd hoped the new Enterprise crew would all be present and accounted for by the end of the second novel at least - and now we find they're not.
And that instability in the crew is a key issue that Picard is trying to deal with in the novel. Again, maybe you should read the book before you judge.


I just hope this new group don't turn into a bunch of bumbling sycophants. That's one of the things that I liked about Before Dishonor, the fact that Kadohata, Leybenzon and T'Lana were so willing to tell Picard that they disagreed with him and fight for that position especially when Picard contravened Starfleet orders instead of just folding and letting him do what he wanted like the TNG crew.
BD was a highly atypical situation. It's the crew's duty to obey the captain's orders, but Picard has always been a commander who sought the consensus of his crew. So I don't think it makes a lot of sense to define the question as being one of blind obedience versus mutiny. There's a lot more precedent to keep in mind than just the previous book.


I thought the scene at the end of BD with T'Lana's request for transfer wasn't set in stone - was hoping that she'd stay and continue to be a bit of a thorn in everyone's side. She was a good character.
It was a little ambiguous, but the gist of that scene in BD was that either she got a transfer or she resigned from Starfleet, so either way, she was off.


So, I'm assuming Leybenzon and T'Lana are gone? Kadohata is staying? The barely mentioned Joanna Faur is STILL at CONN?
Yep. Anything wrong with having Faur at conn?


Have I understood right that Choudhury is the Security Chief, T'Ryssa is the Science Officer and Elfiki is the new Counselor?
Yes, not exactly, and no. We already tried just plugging new characters into the same jobs, and it didn't quite work out. I wanted to try rearranging things a little.
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Old July 19 2008, 08:50 PM   #14
tenmei
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Why not read the book and then say whether the dynamics get explored?
I meant with regards to the characters of Nave, Battaglio, Leybenzon and T'Lana, not with regards to the new characters.

And that instability in the crew is a key issue that Picard is trying to deal with in the novel. Again, maybe you should read the book before you judge.
Right, maybe the instability in the crew is a key issue that Picard is trying to deal with. But it doesn't stop me wishing that we'd got a permanent crew from the second novel or thereabouts and we're getting to the fourth novel - and we're still getting changes. I liked the fact the DS9 Relaunch felt like a new season of the show with a new regular cast and the changes in the first four novels of the TNG Relaunch don't make it feel like a new season of the show

Picard has always been a commander who sought the consensus of his crew. So I don't think it makes a lot of sense to define the question as being one of blind obedience versus mutiny. There's a lot more precedent to keep in mind than just the previous book.
It seemed to me that Picard was quite willing to ingore the views of the new crew in favour of the views of his older crew. Picard expresses his point of view, the older crew agree with that - and the new crew disagree but they're ignored despite them being on the side of their orders from Starfleet.

Sure, the situation might have been an extreme one, but Picard did show a predisposition to listen to his friends and ignore the new crewmembers and he did the same with ignoring T'Lana in 'Resistance' when she reminded him he wasn't supposed to interact with the Borg cube.

Yep. Anything wrong with having Faur at conn?
Oh, no, nothing wrong. I just hope she'll get some decent scene time this time round instead of just being a name.

Yes, not exactly, and no. We already tried just plugging new characters into the same jobs, and it didn't quite work out. I wanted to try rearranging things a little.
Hmmm. I mean, I like the way that Titan doesn't focus on the senior staff but I like the fact we know who the senior staff is - so I'm hoping this won't change and when we get senior staff meetings the senior staff will actually be there (has Rager been in any of the staff meetings on Titan, has she actually done anything in four books ?).
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Old July 19 2008, 09:15 PM   #15
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Yes, Jasminder Choudhury stays on as the new Enterprise-E security chief.

T'Ryssa Chen has a more nebulous job description -- contact specialist, science expert, and relief conn officer.

Lieutenant Dina Elfiki is the new senior science officer of the Enterprise.
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