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View Poll Results: How would you rate Zero Sum Game?
Outstanding 38 22.22%
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Average 45 26.32%
Below Average 8 4.68%
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Old July 28 2012, 05:00 PM   #661
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
You're forgetting one very important fact of life: resentment of overt domination. Subtelty is the key to power--influencing without their knowing it, via "friendship".

Tal'Aura, by being so nationalistic--by overtly trying to increase the RSE's standing in the Pact--would have, in so doing, antagonized the other members. Give it enough time, and the members not taking kindly to such domination--read: most of them...would want to thus eject the RSE from the Pact, to prevent that domination from happening.
That's a deeply unrealistic scenario. Many NATO members resent U.S. dominance within the alliance, but that doesn't mean they ever intend to eject the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They know full well that they need us.

So it would be -- and is already, really -- with the Romulan Star Empire and the Typhon Pact. The RSE needs the Pact, sure -- but the Pact needs the RSE even more. The Pact ceases to be a credible counterweight to the Federation and its allies without the Romulans.

Kammemor, on the other hand, being non-antagonistic, becomes a leader, not a dominator--killing with kindness, if you will. After all, though her policies of equality and non-antagonism...the Pact powers do not see her as a threat--and therefore, "open up" to her, more.
I don't think the Tzenkethi have a problem with letting the RSE take leadership in the Pact. That sort of "soft power" on Ki Baratan's part is acceptable to them. Hell, why shouldn't it be? It means that Romulus bears the biggest bulls-eye instead of Ab-Tzenketh.

Their goal isn't to prevent Romulus from being the most powerful Typhon Pact world. Their goal was to prevent out-and-out domination.
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Old July 29 2012, 02:12 AM   #662
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
You're forgetting one very important fact of life: resentment of overt domination. Subtelty is the key to power--influencing without their knowing it, via "friendship".

Tal'Aura, by being so nationalistic--by overtly trying to increase the RSE's standing in the Pact--would have, in so doing, antagonized the other members. Give it enough time, and the members not taking kindly to such domination--read: most of them...would want to thus eject the RSE from the Pact, to prevent that domination from happening.
That's a deeply unrealistic scenario. Many NATO members resent U.S. dominance within the alliance, but that doesn't mean they ever intend to eject the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They know full well that they need us.

So it would be -- and is already, really -- with the Romulan Star Empire and the Typhon Pact. The RSE needs the Pact, sure -- but the Pact needs the RSE even more. The Pact ceases to be a credible counterweight to the Federation and its allies without the Romulans.

Kammemor, on the other hand, being non-antagonistic, becomes a leader, not a dominator--killing with kindness, if you will. After all, though her policies of equality and non-antagonism...the Pact powers do not see her as a threat--and therefore, "open up" to her, more.
I don't think the Tzenkethi have a problem with letting the RSE take leadership in the Pact. That sort of "soft power" on Ki Baratan's part is acceptable to them. Hell, why shouldn't it be? It means that Romulus bears the biggest bulls-eye instead of Ab-Tzenketh.
I would imagine no bulls-eye at all being the ideal. One unified mass, with equally distributed spheres of leadership, rather than a single head of the serpent to be cut off.

But even besides that--again, "soft power," or being the benevolent leader, is a more effective means to the end of dominance than that of aggressive posturing.

Their goal isn't to prevent Romulus from being the most powerful Typhon Pact world. Their goal was to prevent out-and-out domination.
Which would be far less likely to happen were Romulan space to remain divided. The RSE re-absorbing the IRS made the RSE bigger--and thus, the potential for domination increases, much as the USA is the largest power in NATO--and, coincidently...the most dominant. I doubt, were the USA to have been recently split in two, it would nearly have had the influence it does.

But with the RSE re-unified, it now relieves itself

With unity in the Empire, again--it is in a better position to dominate. And with Kammemor being a "nice" person, it would be harder for the other members to see it coming.
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Old July 29 2012, 03:08 AM   #663
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
I would imagine no bulls-eye at all being the ideal. One unified mass, with equally distributed spheres of leadership, rather than a single head of the serpent to be cut off.
That's an unrealistic scenario, and the Autarch knows it. Even divided, the RSE was simply too powerful for it not to end up in a position of greater power than the other Pact members. Power equality among the Pact members was never a viable possibility; the Tzenkethi's plan was to install a Romulan government that would be content not to seek overt domination.

But even besides that--again, "soft power," or being the benevolent leader, is a more effective means to the end of dominance than that of aggressive posturing.
I think we're getting caught up in a difference of vocabulary here. "Dominance" vs. "domination." The Tzenkethi know and expect the RSE to be the most powerful Pact nation and to be in a position of leadership -- a position that can be more cynically described as dominance. It was never their goal to thwart that. Their goal was to thwart Romulan domination -- to avoid an RSE government that used its position of dominance to exercise an unacceptable level of power over the Pact and its other members.

They always knew the Romulans would end up as the leaders; their goal was never to prevent that. Their goal was to make sure the Romulans running the Hall of State would be ones content to treat the other Pact members in a more egalitarian fashion and to respect their internal autonomy.

Their goal isn't to prevent Romulus from being the most powerful Typhon Pact world. Their goal was to prevent out-and-out domination.
Which would be far less likely to happen were Romulan space to remain divided.
You're forgetting their second agenda -- stability. A divided Romulan realm was never stabile, in the long run; the Tzenkethi knew that the longer the Romulans remained divided between the Star Empire and the Imperial State, the more inevitable a Romulan civil war would become. Such a war would inevitably drag the rest of the Pact into it, Tzenkethi Coalition included.

So they're faced with two seemingly contradictory goals -- restore stability to the Romulan situation, and prevent the Pact from turning into a Romulan hegemony.

The solution they come up with -- allow the RSE to be re-united, but place it under the rule of an internationalist rather than an imperialist -- is of course imperfect. But that doesn't mean their operation in Rough Beasts was not a success, or that it didn't achieve those two goals at least for now.

Which is of course no guarantee that events won't overcome them in the future. No one ever claimed the Tzenkethi were the master manipulators who know everything that could possibly happen and are formulating perfect plans within plans to manipulate it all. Between the failures of the Tal Shiar and Section 31, it's pretty obvious that there are no infallible Chess Masters in the Trekverse. Think less David Xanatos and more George Smiley.
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Old July 29 2012, 06:54 PM   #664
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
A divided Romulan realm was never stabile, in the long run; the Tzenkethi knew that the longer the Romulans remained divided between the Star Empire and the Imperial State, the more inevitable a Romulan civil war would become. Such a war would inevitably drag the rest of the Pact into it, Tzenkethi Coalition included.
And the rest of the Khitomer Allies. The Tzenkethi don't seem to be as exposed as the Gorn, but the Coalition would still nearly be surrounded.

So they're faced with two seemingly contradictory goals -- restore stability to the Romulan situation, and prevent the Pact from turning into a Romulan hegemony.

The solution they come up with -- allow the RSE to be re-united, but place it under the rule of an internationalist rather than an imperialist -- is of course imperfect. But that doesn't mean their operation in Rough Beasts was not a success, or that it didn't achieve those two goals at least for now.
Which is of course no guarantee that events won't overcome them in the future. No one ever claimed the Tzenkethi were the master manipulators who know everything that could possibly happen and are formulating perfect plans within plans to manipulate it all. Between the failures of the Tal Shiar and Section 31, it's pretty obvious that there are no infallible Chess Masters in the Trekverse. Think less David Xanatos and more George Smiley.
From the Tzenkethi perspective, the detente with the Federation Kamemor is intent on pushing may be a significant problem, perhaps one requiring an adjustment of one kind or another. This would be a significant problem from the Tzenkethi perspective, not least since the Romulan state and its institutions seem rather more functional now than under Tal'Aura's rule.

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Old July 29 2012, 07:10 PM   #665
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
^To your last point--first, as far as we know, Koval had overseen a Tal Shiar plot to assasinate the deputy chief of SI. So, if we're going to compare extent of manpulation...
Killing an organization's leader isn't the same as sockpuppeting the organization.

(Interestingly enough--the cover was the admiral suddenly came down with a disease...much like what happened with the Praetor. So...surely the Shiar would recognize its own methods?)
?

I'm willing to bet that most prominent people in the Federation, even in the Romulan Star Empire despite the terrible instability of late, die natural deaths.

Would this have been different? The disease that killed Dor and Tal'Aura was one well-known to Romulan society for its long incubation period and near-undetectability. The main subject of public speculation about the disease seems to have been the possibility that it was transmitted sexually from one victim to another.

Privately? The Tal Shiar would be able to exclude the possibility of a sexual encounter between the two (unless one actually did take place, something beyond the ability of the Tzenkethi to know). Even if the Tal Shiar did come to suspect foul play, there isn't exactly a shortage of candidates. Romulans might be logically suspected of using a Romulan disease; the Federation and the Klingons, too. But the Tzenkethi? Why?

Second--again, the manipulation of 31 by the Tal Shiar occured before it was revealed that Koval was a mole--some years before. It's likely--in fact, probable, that Koval was not a mole as of Rogue.
Why probable?

But back to a previous point--the virus. Again...how could the Tal Shiar allow foreigners to have the opportunity to come into such contact with the Praetor so as to have her infected? Has it really become so incompetent, over the years since Koval's assasination (an event that is, in itself, a bit astonishing, on that account)?
The Tal Shiar has gone through significant internal tumult in the past few years.
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Old July 29 2012, 09:00 PM   #666
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

^Perhaps it has--which is, again, quite suprising. Again, a sudden lack of stability in one of the most feared agencies in the known Alpha/Beta Quadrants. One wonders if sabotage was a determining factor in that.

But adressing whether the Tal Shiar would accept the possibility of a sexual encounter--again, how could the agency miss a foreigner coming into such contact with the Praetor as to infect her--without suspicion.

But again--this leads to the question of the Tal Shiar falling into incompetence, due to "turmoil", occurring for one reason or another. What in the Bird's name would drag the agency into such a situation?

This is, in part, what leads me to suspect moles--be they Tzenkethi or from Section 31.

And to Sci's admission that the Tzenkethi are not master chess-players, with infallable plans. Frankly, everyone...fallability also means this: it is absurd to shrug off the idea that said plans will be exposed. That likelyhood increases, when plans backfire.

Finally--once again, Kammemor is in a far better position to dominate the Pact than Tal'Aura, being a "nice" leader. Subtlety is a far more effective means of domination than overtness. Militancy--or "imperialism", which I feel is a laughably overused term in our common vernacular--leads to hostility, which therefore leads to failure in attempts towards domination. However, it also can lead to easier manipulation of those power-hungry militants; the subtle and "nice" can control them with promises of power, which in reality is all too false.
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Old July 29 2012, 10:00 PM   #667
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
But again--this leads to the question of the Tal Shiar falling into incompetence, due to "turmoil", occurring for one reason or another. What in the Bird's name would drag the agency into such a situation?
No intelligence agency is perfect, and even the KGB and CIA in real life have had major, major screwups.

Simply put, the idea that the Tal Shiar wouldn't, at some point, have a huge failure of this sort is itself unrealistic. There is no such thing as the perfectly competent espionage chess master.

And to Sci's admission that the Tzenkethi are not master chess-players, with infallable plans.
"Admission" is a strange word to use there, since it's essentially been my contention that there is no such thing as a master chess player with infallible plans. At some point, the Tzenkethi will no doubt screw up just as badly as the Tal Shiar, Obsidian Order, Section 31, and others have.

Frankly, everyone...fallability also means this: it is absurd to shrug off the idea that said plans will be exposed. That likelyhood increases, when plans backfire.
It's possible, sure. But given the sequence of events presented in Rough Beasts of Empire, it's unlikely. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone other than the Tzenkethi themselves know of their role in the death of Ta'Aura.

Finally--once again, Kammemor is in a far better position to dominate the Pact than Tal'Aura, being a "nice" leader. Subtlety is a far more effective means of domination than overtness.
At the end of the day, the things that could allow Romulus to dominate the Typhon Pact -- its size, its wealth, its population, its advanced military technology -- are not things the Tzenkethi can control, and they know it. One way or the other, Romulus will inevitably lead the Pact. Could Kamemor hypothetically change her mind? Sure. Could a new praetor come along who thinks more like you're describing? Yes. These are not things the Tzenkethi can control. What they could do was try to manipulate events so that the scenario you're describing was less likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

That's why the Tzenkethi wanted Kamemor in the Hall of State: They knew that, soft power or not, she wouldn't do what you're describing in the first place. She'll lead, sure -- but her style is to be first among equals, not the alpha of the pack. It's not in her nature to dominate, be it through the stick or the carrot.

Again, sure, unforeseen events could thwart their manipulations. But they worked out the best compromise they could of bringing about stability the Romulan space while making overt Romulan domination of the Pact an unlikely policy. There's no guarantee it'll hold, but it's holding for now, and that's really all anyone on Ab-Tzenketh can realistically aim for.
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Old July 29 2012, 10:17 PM   #668
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
But again--this leads to the question of the Tal Shiar falling into incompetence, due to "turmoil", occurring for one reason or another. What in the Bird's name would drag the agency into such a situation?
No intelligence agency is perfect, and even the KGB and CIA in real life have had major, major screwups.

Simply put, the idea that the Tal Shiar wouldn't, at some point, have a huge failure of this sort is itself unrealistic. There is no such thing as the perfectly competent espionage chess master.

And to Sci's admission that the Tzenkethi are not master chess-players, with infallable plans.
"Admission" is a strange word to use there, since it's essentially been my contention that there is no such thing as a master chess player with infallible plans. At some point, the Tzenkethi will no doubt screw up just as badly as the Tal Shiar, Obsidian Order, Section 31, and others have.

Frankly, everyone...fallability also means this: it is absurd to shrug off the idea that said plans will be exposed. That likelyhood increases, when plans backfire.
It's possible, sure. But given the sequence of events presented in Rough Beasts of Empire, it's unlikely. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone other than the Tzenkethi themselves know of their role in the death of Ta'Aura.
You admit that the Tzenkethi will doubtless screw up. Frankly, such a screw-up would expose how deep they are in the pool, provided the Tzentkethi don't get out of said pool beforehand. By that I mean: a screw-up leads to exposure of their current operation, which leads to suspicion, which leads to investigation....

Finally--once again, Kammemor is in a far better position to dominate the Pact than Tal'Aura, being a "nice" leader. Subtlety is a far more effective means of domination than overtness.
At the end of the day, the things that could allow Romulus to dominate the Typhon Pact -- its size, its wealth, its population, its advanced military technology -- are not things the Tzenkethi can control, and they know it. One way or the other, Romulus will inevitably lead the Pact. Could Kamemor hypothetically change her mind? Sure. Could a new praetor come along who thinks more like you're describing? Yes. These are not things the Tzenkethi can control. What they could do was try to manipulate events so that the scenario you're describing was less likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

That's why the Tzenkethi wanted Kamemor in the Hall of State: They knew that, soft power or not, she wouldn't do what you're describing in the first place. She'll lead, sure -- but her style is to be first among equals, not the alpha of the pack. It's not in her nature to dominate, be it through the stick or the carrot.

Again, sure, unforeseen events could thwart their manipulations. But they worked out the best compromise they could of bringing about stability the Romulan space while making overt Romulan domination of the Pact an unlikely policy. There's no guarantee it'll hold, but it's holding for now, and that's really all anyone on Ab-Tzenketh can realistically aim for.
Again, Sci--Tal'Aura would have been far less able to dominate the Pact than a Kammemor would, because she is so overt. Overt means: visible.

Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way--and it would be a nice "show of good faith" that the Pact wants peace. Further, it would ensure the RSE would not be the dominating force.
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Old July 29 2012, 11:17 PM   #669
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
You admit that the Tzenkethi will doubtless screw up.
Sure. But who knows what they'll screw up at?

Frankly, such a screw-up would expose how deep they are in the pool, provided the Tzentkethi don't get out of said pool beforehand. By that I mean: a screw-up leads to exposure of their current operation, which leads to suspicion, which leads to investigation....
It's possible, of course. But the fact remains that there is at this point no evidence that anyone else has any knowledge of the Tzenkethi role in Tal'Aura's death -- nor any guarantee that their role would be suspected or detected in any later investigation. Don't project your omniscience as an audience member upon the characters.

Again, Sci--Tal'Aura would have been far less able to dominate the Pact than a Kammemor would, because she is so overt.
Yes, I understand your argument. And I am saying that even if Kamemor is in a better position to dominate, she never would, and this is why the Tzenkethi wanted her as Romulan Praetor.

Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way
Nonsense. Neither side was going to be able to live in peace with the other in the long run; they would inevitably go to war with one-another and drag their respective allies into the conflict. Far better for interstellar stability if there is a single Romulan state run by an anti-imperialist.
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Old July 30 2012, 01:28 AM   #670
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
You admit that the Tzenkethi will doubtless screw up.
Sure. But who knows what they'll screw up at?

Frankly, such a screw-up would expose how deep they are in the pool, provided the Tzentkethi don't get out of said pool beforehand. By that I mean: a screw-up leads to exposure of their current operation, which leads to suspicion, which leads to investigation....
It's possible, of course. But the fact remains that there is at this point no evidence that anyone else has any knowledge of the Tzenkethi role in Tal'Aura's death -- nor any guarantee that their role would be suspected or detected in any later investigation. Don't project your omniscience as an audience member upon the characters.
As a rule--and I'm speaking as a reader/audience-member---if the ratio of audience knowledge to relevant-character knowledge results in a major imbalance on our part...the greater or more significant the imbalance, the greater the rist that said character comes across as an idiot. The "Don't go in there!" effect: the further we see the character go into what we see as a clear danger to them, without said character giving any indication of awareness of said danger...that character looks more and more like an idiot.

Sorry, but that's a fact of life. The greater the imbalance, the greater the sense that someone should know such-and-such.

Again, Sci--Tal'Aura would have been far less able to dominate the Pact than a Kammemor would, because she is so overt.
Yes, I understand your argument. And I am saying that even if Kamemor is in a better position to dominate, she never would, and this is why the Tzenkethi wanted her as Romulan Praetor.
I find it amazing that the Tzenkethi seemed to think they could afford to gamble on Kammemor's character, like that. For all they know, her being so "nice" is an act. Could they afford to take that chance?

Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way
Nonsense. Neither side was going to be able to live in peace with the other in the long run; they would inevitably go to war with one-another and drag their respective allies into the conflict. Far better for interstellar stability if there is a single Romulan state run by an anti-imperialist.
...who was known for advocating peace with the UFP. In other words--if tensions between the Pact and the Alliance reach a high enough point, the risk is considerable that Kammemor would push for the RSE changing sides...thus weakening the influence of the Pact.

So, them, Kammemor's presence as Praetor results in impositions upon those who would want to expand Pact influence--lest "conflict" arise with the Alliance. Either keep the influence it has...or decline. No expansion--we must maintain the peace.
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Old July 30 2012, 01:45 AM   #671
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
As a rule--and I'm speaking as a reader/audience-member---if the ratio of audience knowledge to relevant-character knowledge results in a major imbalance on our part...the greater or more significant the imbalance, the greater the rist that said character comes across as an idiot. The "Don't go in there!" effect: the further we see the character go into what we see as a clear danger to them, without said character giving any indication of awareness of said danger...that character looks more and more like an idiot.

Sorry, but that's a fact of life. The greater the imbalance, the greater the sense that someone should know such-and-such.
I'm sorry to hear that you have trouble separating your knowledge as an audience member from a reasonable assessment of what the characters can know.

I find it amazing that the Tzenkethi seemed to think they could afford to gamble on Kammemor's character, like that. For all they know, her being so "nice" is an act. Could they afford to take that chance?
1. It's spelled "Kamemor."

2. The idea that that's an act is highly implausible. Kamemor had by 2382 been active in Romulan politics for decades and decades -- she was part of the Romulan delegation negotiating the 2311 Treaty of Algeron in Serpents Among the Ruins -- and she had in the past suffered from political marginalization as a result of her anti-imperialist views. If you're a Tzenkethi looking to put an anti-imperialist Romulan into the praetor's office, Kamemor is your best bet.

Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way
Nonsense. Neither side was going to be able to live in peace with the other in the long run; they would inevitably go to war with one-another and drag their respective allies into the conflict. Far better for interstellar stability if there is a single Romulan state run by an anti-imperialist.
...who was known for advocating peace with the UFP. In other words--if tensions between the Pact and the Alliance reach a high enough point, the risk is considerable that Kammemor would push for the RSE changing sides...thus weakening the influence of the Pact.
I think it's a huge reach to jump from, "She favors peace with the Federation" to "She'll betray her Typhon Pact treaty partners."
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Old July 30 2012, 04:14 AM   #672
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
^Perhaps it has--which is, again, quite suprising. Again, a sudden lack of stability in one of the most feared agencies in the known Alpha/Beta Quadrants. One wonders if sabotage was a determining factor in that.
The four praetors before Kamemor's ascension--Dralath, Narviat, Neral, and Hiren--all died unnatural deaths, Dralath dying after attacking Narendra III as his final depraved act and Hiren's death being part and parcel of Shinzon's decapitation of the Romulan government, the last three praetors reigning and dying in the space of a decade.

Having the Tal Shiar not be as capable as it might be in this worsening political climate is normal.

But adressing whether the Tal Shiar would accept the possibility of a sexual encounter--again, how could the agency miss a foreigner coming into such contact with the Praetor as to infect her--without suspicion.
Going by the description of Dor's infection in Rough Beasts of Empire, all the body contact it takes to transmit the disease is a handshake.

If the disease has a long incubation period and is very difficult to detect unless you're specifically looking for it, then it would be very difficult for Romulan Security to pick it up. This is especially the case since it seems to be endemic to the Romulan population--maybe it's present among other Vulcanoid populations, maybe it's not.

Why would the Tal Shiar think that the disease would have been acquired from a non-Romulan?
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Old July 30 2012, 04:44 AM   #673
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
You admit that the Tzenkethi will doubtless screw up.
Sure. But who knows what they'll screw up at?



It's possible, of course. But the fact remains that there is at this point no evidence that anyone else has any knowledge of the Tzenkethi role in Tal'Aura's death -- nor any guarantee that their role would be suspected or detected in any later investigation. Don't project your omniscience as an audience member upon the characters.
As a rule--and I'm speaking as a reader/audience-member---if the ratio of audience knowledge to relevant-character knowledge results in a major imbalance on our part...the greater or more significant the imbalance, the greater the rist that said character comes across as an idiot. The "Don't go in there!" effect: the further we see the character go into what we see as a clear danger to them, without said character giving any indication of awareness of said danger...that character looks more and more like an idiot.
The only foreshadowing we had that Dor's encounter with Alizome would go badly was a sentence wherein he wondered why a Tzenkethi had adopted the Terran custom of the handshake.

I find it amazing that the Tzenkethi seemed to think they could afford to gamble on Kammemor's character, like that. For all they know, her being so "nice" is an act. Could they afford to take that chance?
What Sci said about Kamemor's established history as a proponent of peace and non-aggressive policies generally.

From the Tzenkethi perspective, war if Tal'Aura reigned was inevitable, whether it would be triggered by a war of Romulan reunification that dragged both blocs in or by Tal'Aura resuming her prior aggressive intentions towards the Federation. Taking the chance on a new candidate for Praetor who looked unlikely to fight either war was worth the chance.

Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way
Nonsense. Neither side was going to be able to live in peace with the other in the long run; they would inevitably go to war with one-another and drag their respective allies into the conflict. Far better for interstellar stability if there is a single Romulan state run by an anti-imperialist.
...who was known for advocating peace with the UFP. In other words--if tensions between the Pact and the Alliance reach a high enough point, the risk is considerable that Kammemor would push for the RSE changing sides...thus weakening the influence of the Pact.
That doesn't follow.

Kamemor not favouring a war against the Federation is a good thing for the Tzenkethi, who don't want to risk a war that might well leave the Tzenkethi worse off despite being part of an alliance. Kamemor not favouring fighting a war against the Imperial Romulan State, preferring instead to depend on Typhon Pact allies to supply the RSE while the IRS gradually fell apart from the inside, is also a good thing from the Tzenkethi perspective, again since a war with the Khitomer Accords is not in the Coalition's favour.

So, them, Kammemor's presence as Praetor results in impositions upon those who would want to expand Pact influence--lest "conflict" arise with the Alliance. Either keep the influence it has...or decline. No expansion--we must maintain the peace.[/QUOTE]
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Old June 18 2013, 10:43 AM   #674
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Re: TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Here's my review.

http://unitedfederationofcharles.blo...-sum-game.html



*warning - long-winded review ahead*

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game is a spy novel.

A very unusual spy novel.

The premise is something which, adjusted to an Earth setting, could be the basis of a James Bond movie. The Typhon Pact (Soviets) have stolen the secrets of the Slipstream Drive (submarine plans) and are assembling their own prototype in a secret shipyards (unchanged). Julian Bashir (Bond) is recruited by Starfleet Intelligence (SIS/MI6) to sabotage this project.

Furthermore, because the Typhon Pact killed Federation citizens in their theft, Bashir (Bond) has carte blanche to use lethal force in the process. Bashir is even allied with a beautiful female agent for the duration of his mission. About the only thing which doesn't happen during this mission is Bashir sleeping with the beautiful silver-haired dissident.

One of the early misapprehensions of the Typhon Pact was that it was going to be the Legion of Doom or a kind of Reagan-era view of the Soviet Union. The Tholians, Tzenkethi, and Breen have been portrayed as nearly universally evil while the Gorn and Romulans have had some pretty solid roles as Federation antagonists. Given Star Trek Online's transformation of the Klingon Empire into an Axis of Evil (including the Orions, Nausicans, and Gorn), you will forgive me if I assumed there would be some nod towards this. Can you do write about an alliance of totalitarian dictatorships, murderers, and terrorists without making them villains?

Yes, yes you can. Because, that's where things get interesting. David Mack takes the stereotypical "us vs. them" spy story with all its moral certainties about its immoral activities necessity and turns them on their head. Star Trek has played around this before using Section 31 but, arguably, failed since so many fans embraced the evil organization as antiheroes as opposed to well-realized villains. Zero Sum Game, by contrast, takes a seemingly binary situation to illustrate why the Federation way is better.

Zero Sum Game is an interesting story about humanizing, for lack of a better term, the alien races gathered together in opposition to the Federation. What I liked about the book is it managed to keep the fact the Breen and Romulan governments are lead by vile people whose ideal world includes a boot on the face of humanity forever but more or less rebuttals a lot of the inherent xenophobia in spy fiction.

The Breen are a federation, themselves, consisting of many races formed together into a single body. Unlike the Federation, however, they enforce a mono-culture which attempts to stamp out diversity and dissent. They could have very easily been cast a communist parable but are, instead, depicted as the most capitalist group outside of the Ferengi.

The thing is, the Breen aren't a singular entity. We get a nice look at Breen civilians and they're more or less identical to the ones you'd find anywhere on Earth. The most powerful moment in the book for me is, unexpectedly, a scene where Bashir just sits down and listens to the Breen wandering around a marketplace. They talk about their jobs, kids, supervisors, and spouses. It's a powerful moment, reinforcing what Star Trek is all about.

Given I'd been thinking of the Breen as walking experience points from my time fighting them in Star Trek: Online, I was momentarily ashamed. Of course, even Star Trek: Online had a Breen officer disgusted by the actions of his crewmates. So, really, my treating them as walking experience points was my failure rather than the game's own.

Meeting Breen dissidents who don't want to necessarily overthrow their governments but, simply, want more freedom was another way of showing the Star Trek Novelverse's races aren't necessarily like Dungeons and Dragons species. There's no such thing as, "Always Chaotic Evil."

The Typhon Pact is everything I wanted out of the series when I heard it was first announced. A rip-roaring Cold War adventure between a twisted country which hates freedom, a heroic nation which loves it, dashing super spies, and a narrative which rips to shreds the binary dualism that usually underlines such stories.

The Breen and Romulan governments may be evil but their citizens are not, leading to the serious question as to who war would benefit should the Typhon Pact go to war with the Federation. The answer? Absolutely no one. Zero Sum Game is a ruthless deconstruction of the spy genre while remaining entirely a part of it. The best approximation I can think of is The Prisoner, by Patrick McGoohan, who wrote one of the seminal works of espionage by taking an utter **** on the Cold War's values. By recognizing the fundamental value of "our" enemies, we may defeat them more conclusively than through force.

This is one of the reasons David Mack remains my favorite Star Trek author alongside Christopher Bennett. While I don't always agree with their decisions in their books, I believe they have a strong grasp on at least one element of Star Trek that makes their books resonate with me. In David Mack's case, he manages to insert the fact peace and understanding are the forefront of all of the Federation's conflicts as a desired goal. This is not the case in Babylon Five, Star Wars, or other rival franchises. Victory is. Trek has peace being more desirable than victory, even if it means not getting everything you wanted.

Julian Bashir's characterization in this book is great and I would love to see David Mack do further spycraft adventures with him. I, honestly, prefer Secret Agent Julian Bashir over Doctor Julian Bashir. Still, both sides are always in play during this book. Seeing the conflict inside him over the necessity of killing is great and we get "necessary casualties" examined when the aftermath of his actions are examined by a Breen engineer.

Captain Ezri Dax was kind of underwhelming in this book because I am more invested in her relationship with Julian Bashir than her role as a badass starship Captain. She's become the Kirk-lite of the post-Destiny world and that's great for her but awesome starship tactics as well as radical plans just didn't really move me here. I suppose it's because I was one of Ezri's fans when DS9 was on the air and would have preferred more attention paid to the vulnerable side of her Julian brought out.

Another character from DS9 makes a surprise return this book, surprising me as a reader. I won't spoil their identity but their role in this story makes an excellent contrast to Julian. This character attempts to portray the "ends justify the means" spy role "straight" while Julian subverts it at every turn. The book was so effective at this characterization, a latter revelation made perfect sense.

I'm not sure if the Novelverse will use the ending of the book to its full effect but if they back off from it, I'll be disappointed. Thematically, David Mack has created Julian's ultimate nemesis who I would love to see him face in life-and-death struggle. This may be a contrast to my earlier praise of peace and understanding, but just because Captain Kirk made peace with the Gorn doesn't mean I don't like seeing him blow the reptile Captain up.

In conclusion, kudos to David Mack for creating this novel and his role in developing the Typhon Pact. You should definitely read this novel.

9.5/10
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Old June 18 2013, 12:58 PM   #675
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Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

Christopher wrote: View Post
Section 31 is not the CIA or the KGB. Those are state-sanctioned intelligence agencies operating under the supervision of their governments. I'll never understand why people keep making the mistake of using that analogy. Section 31 is not an intelligence agency. Starfleet Intelligence is the Federation equivalent of the CIA. Section 31 is a rogue organization operating outside the law and answering to no one. Maybe at the beginning, their intentions were good, but after 200 years with no accountability, the only things they truly protect are their own interests and their own secrecy. They have no allegiance to anything but their own power. They may use the security of the Federation as their excuse for wielding that power in defiance of law and morality, but make no mistake, they are closer to the Mafia than the CIA. They are a force of corruption by their very nature.
Funny story, Christopher, I ran a Section 31-themed Star Trek (Decipher) RPG campaign. I was going with the idea that they were morally ambiguous and their actions were arguably justified to save the lives of the many rather than the morals of the few.

And as the campaign progressed, they STILL came off as major [insert Klingon vulgarities].

I believe moral ambiguity and Star Trek is a natural fit, ironically, because hard moral choices should go hand in hand with its idealism. Section 31, when written well (like here), best contrasts against Starfleet Intelligence (which I'd love to see a series about). The criminal and self-justifying versus the noble.

As it was said in my campaign (completely spontaneously):

NPC: Section 31 is a patriotic organization, a militia if you will, which believes the Federation's ideals are dangerously misguided and prone to appeasement rather than securing the security of the Federation. They operate clandestine missions of their own accord while working behind the scenes to prepare the way for a stronger more effective government.

PC: So they're terrorists.

NPC: We don't work against the Federation and often work as deniable assets.

PC: Useful terrorists.
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