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Old August 19 2011, 08:59 PM   #1
Kinggodzillak
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TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Just finished this today. Oh dear.

This should have been one of the best - there's a great big super-duper death ray up for auction and all the major Trekverse races want it. That was one of my main reasons for buying it, the thought of seeing them all trying to outdo each other for this ultimate weapon.

But what do we see instead?

One Cardassian and some Ferengi. And that's it. We're told the Bajorans, Tholians and Romulans are all at the auction but they don't make an appearance. The Klingons and Betazoids are represented by Picard and Troi respectively, so it's basically our heroes versus three other guys. Ooh, exciting.

And that's another odd thing - the thought of the Bajorans and Betazoids going after a weapon like that. This is mid season 7, so Bajor clearly wouldn't be able to afford it at this point and Betazed...yeeees. What does a planet of apparently peaceful people need with a death ray?

It's not like TNG didn't have other prominent races they could substituted for those two. The Pakleds, the Nausicaans, the Yridians, I could buy any of those three bidding on a death ray. Or they could have brought back a one-off race, like the Jarada or the Sheliak, to really up the stakes. But Betazed?

"We sense great emotion in you. You are clearly troubled by something. Here, have some GREAT BIG DEATH RAY!"

Not to mention the fact that Betazed is part of the Federation to begin with, so there's no reason for them to be bidding seperately...

Oh, but that's not the worst of it. It starts bad and yet somehow manages to plumb new depths with every page. Let's list a few of the major negatives here;

1) Geordi.

The reviews on Amazon mention his role here as a highlight of the book. It's not. It starts out with everyone trying to console him over the death of some academy professor he didn't like, the reason for this being that he apparently never shut up about this person so they all assumed that he really actually did like him. It makes them all look stupid since one after the other all the other main characters call him up to offer their condolences, and it makes him seem bitchy for constantly slagging this guy off. He even gets in an 'I told you so' when the whole thing goes wrong.

2) Wesley.

Now I want to stress here that I don't hate the character from the TV show; I didn't start watching TNG until mid-season five, by which time he'd already left and was only an occasional guest star.

But the Wesley in this book - the Wesley who just happens to randomly invent a latinum-making machine in his quarters out of a pile of junk, and then uses it to produce several tonnes of counterfeit currency for the Ferengi just cos he doesn't want to break one of their contracts - is a smug little tit. Had he been written this badly on screen I'd have been wanting to see him killed off too.

What's worse is that the Enterprise crew seem to think this is how he always acts; that's our Wesley, always getting into one wacky scrape after another like the lovable scamp he is. Um, no.

The book tries to bridge the gap between The First Duty and Journey's End, to show us how and why he changed between the two episodes, which I suppose isn't so bad in itself. But all this endless soul-searching while he's getting up to komedy hijnks with the Ferengi is jarring, and seeing him churning out all this fake latinum cos he's afraid of going to a Ferengi prison is a bit pathetic.

Also, the presence of Wesley means no Ro. Okay, so I suppose by mid-season seven she'd be off on her advanced tactical course anyway, but it's always irritating to see novels set after Wesley left jump through all sorts of hoops to bring him back to the Enterprise and completely ignore the fact that his replacement was an infinitely superior character.

Debtor's Planet did the same thing. Wesley was just inexplicably back on the ship for some vague reason and Ro was nowhere to be seen. Although in a novel this bad she'd have probably ended up bidding for the death ray on behalf of the Talaxians and everyone would be talking about her stamp collection, so it's no great loss.

Wesley dominates the book, too. Pretty much 90% of it revolves around him. Every time I got to the end of a Wesley-centred chapter and turned the page, and saw that the next chapter began with the words 'Wesley Crusher' I died a little inside. The final chapter sees him facing an Academy official who is supposed to be amusingly short-tempered but instead just seems to be a borderline psychotic...

Oh, and Wes asks Data to teach him poker. And then later Riker offers to teach it to him. Neither of them seem to remember that Wesley was joining them for poker games back in season three, possibly earlier...

3) The Ferengi.

Specifically, a Ferengi who talks like a pirate. Yes. I'm serious. Someone actually wrote a story with a Ferengi wandering around saying "Arrrr!" and "Avast, ye scurvy dogs!" What's worse is that that person did not get taken to one side and slapped around a little for their stupidity.

Honestly, short of having a wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder it's every single pirate cliche you can imagine. How on Earth did this get published?

It was nice to have the Grand Nagus play a fairly prominent role in the story though. That was a nice touch, to have a DS9 recurring character in a TNG book.

4) None of it matters in the end so why did anyone bother?

So the Federation and the Klingons win plans to the death ray by combining their finances. They build it. It promptly explodes. Geordi says I told you so. And that's it. Then everyone goes home. Nobody seems bothered by the fact that they just wasted a fortune on something that Geordi had been saying all along wouldn't work, and nobody seems interested to discover where all this useless stuff came from in the first place. We're apparently supposed to be more concerned with Wesley's problems.

There's so much more wrongness than just all this, though; there's contrived, awkward, and just plain wrong dialogue from every character except Data, and much drama is had from seeing Picard and co fretting about not exceeding the dreaded warp five speed limit () but these were my main problems with this story.

Easily the worst Trek book I've ever read - if I hadn't been reading it on my Kindle I'd have thrown the thing in the bin.

Oh, and one last thing - the Grand Nagus asks for a 'bottle of Ferengi spunk' at one point.

There, now I'm done.
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Old August 19 2011, 09:33 PM   #2
Rush Limborg
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

there's contrived, awkward, and just plain wrong dialogue from every character except Data
Worse. Even Data has his bad moments in that book--the notorious "That is the gist of it, sir."

The gist? The GIST? Since when does Data use vernacular without 1) his forcing it, and 2) anyone taking note?

I hated it, too.

And this is Daffyd ab Hugh, who apparently was a darn good Trek novelist. (I don't know, this the only book of his I've read--but Fallen Heroes is supposed to be awesome.) And yet...

Interestingly enough, ab Hugh notes in his "About The Author" segment that he is not, nor has he ever been, Peter David. I firmly agree. Balance Of Power is like a badly-written SNL-type parody of a Peter David book--without the gripping plot and superb characterization.


For the record, though...it was Wesley's roomate who made the latinum repilcator--not Wesley himself.
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Old August 19 2011, 10:13 PM   #3
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

ha, this is great. awesome review! but, could it be any worse than the bajorans building an ambassador class starship for the federation....all while trying to dig themselves out of the occupation. but hey, gotta curry favor with the feds right?
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Old August 20 2011, 04:01 AM   #4
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
And this is Daffyd ab Hugh, who apparently was a darn good Trek novelist. (I don't know, this the only book of his I've read--but Fallen Heroes is supposed to be awesome.) And yet...
I've got to say, Fallen Heroes was the only one of his books that wowed me. The only other one that didn't seem very off-kilter was The Final Fury, which didn't leave much of an impact on me. But the other DS9 books of his, Vengeance and the Rebels trilogy, just... Something bugged me about them, because the characters didn't feel very much like themselves. (And his writing of O'Brien, making his position as a non-com and technically outranked by anyone with a commission major plot points, really bugged me, since the show rarely made as big of a deal out of it as his books do.)
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Old August 20 2011, 07:21 AM   #5
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

I really liked Fallen Heroes - one of the very few numbered DS9 novels I've got. But I've never read anything else by ab Hugh except The Final Fury, which was better than the TNG entry to the Invasion! crossover series, but nowhere near as good as the truly excellent First Strike and amazing Enemies of Time. Sounds like no need to.
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Old August 20 2011, 09:19 AM   #6
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

The only book by ab Hugh I haven't read is Balance of Power. Of the rest the only I liked was Fallen Heroes which I thought was awesome.
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Old August 20 2011, 10:45 AM   #7
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Kinggodzillak wrote: View Post
One Cardassian and some Ferengi. And that's it. We're told the Bajorans, Tholians and Romulans are all at the auction but they don't make an appearance. The Klingons and Betazoids are represented by Picard and Troi respectively, so it's basically our heroes versus three other guys. Ooh, exciting.

And that's another odd thing - the thought of the Bajorans and Betazoids going after a weapon like that. This is mid season 7, so Bajor clearly wouldn't be able to afford it at this point and Betazed...yeeees. What does a planet of apparently peaceful people need with a death ray?

It's not like TNG didn't have other prominent races they could substituted for those two. The Pakleds, the Nausicaans, the Yridians, I could buy any of those three bidding on a death ray. Or they could have brought back a one-off race, like the Jarada or the Sheliak, to really up the stakes. But Betazed?

"We sense great emotion in you. You are clearly troubled by something. Here, have some GREAT BIG DEATH RAY!"


One of the problems I have with the older numbered novels (or to be fair those I've read, which may not be as representative as I suppose) is that they rarely mention or make use of the many "supporting" aliens from the TV series. No-one ever mentions Talarians or Sheliak or Yridians, or even Gorn and Tholians. It's just Cardassians, Klingons and Romulans. Those are the real major players, yes, but often they're just used seemingly for the sake of familiarity even when a more obscure race would better suit the story. It makes the galaxy seem smaller than it should be, in my opinion. Yes, the recent line also tended to focus on the TV main players (until the Typhon Pact), but there's still mention made of others, even if it's just the words "Tzenkethi" or "Gorn" thrown into the story. At least it's acknowledged that the galaxy isn't simply a four-way power share between the UFP, Qo'noS, Romulus and Cardassia (with Ferengi as the wild card). I guess the numbered novels were designed to appeal even to more casual fans, so it was deemed better to use races any viewer would know rather than have them pondering "who was that again?". Still, it's always struck me as a bit restrictive.
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Old August 20 2011, 01:35 PM   #8
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

^Well, that's not always true of the numbered novels. TNG #22, Imbalance by V. E. Mitchell, was a whole novel built around the Jarada, a race that was featured in only one episode ("The Big Goodbye") and never seen onscreen.
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Old August 20 2011, 01:45 PM   #9
Deranged Nasat
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Well, that's not always true of the numbered novels. TNG #22, Imbalance by V. E. Mitchell, was a whole novel built around the Jarada, a race that was featured in only one episode ("The Big Goodbye") and never seen onscreen.
I forgot about that one. I've actually read it (and enjoyed it), so it's a bit poor I overlooked it here.

All credit to Mitchell for using an established race.
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Old August 20 2011, 09:35 PM   #10
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

I've not read Fallen Heroes but I have heard the audiobook. It seemed like a good story but again he did there what he did here and invented new descriptions for established things/places/people and then kept hitting the reader over the head with them so we accepted the way he thought the show ought to have been. 'Master Chief of Operations', 'Quark's Place', the 'Batter's Box' etc.

Since it was only the 5th DS9 novel published I could kind of forgive it though. No excuse for having a TNG novel this badly-written 33 books in...
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Old August 20 2011, 10:46 PM   #11
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
there's contrived, awkward, and just plain wrong dialogue from every character except Data
Worse. Even Data has his bad moments in that book--the notorious "That is the gist of it, sir."

The gist? The GIST? Since when does Data use vernacular without 1) his forcing it, and 2) anyone taking note?

I hated it, too.

And this is Daffyd ab Hugh, who apparently was a darn good Trek novelist. (I don't know, this the only book of his I've read--but Fallen Heroes is supposed to be awesome.) And yet...

Interestingly enough, ab Hugh notes in his "About The Author" segment that he is not, nor has he ever been, Peter David. I firmly agree. Balance Of Power is like a badly-written SNL-type parody of a Peter David book--without the gripping plot and superb characterization.


For the record, though...it was Wesley's roomate who made the latinum repilcator--not Wesley himself.


Fallen Heroes is so much better than this it's hard to believe they were written by the same author. And I only remember Fallen Heroes, nothing at all about Balance of Power.
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Old August 20 2011, 11:09 PM   #12
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

I have to admit I liked Balance of Power in a guilty pleasure kind of way.

Is it a thought-provoking book with deep characterizations?

Definitely not, but I see this novel more in the tradition of books like How much for just the Planet? ( ironically a book I disliked), i.E. as a book that isn't really meant to be taken too seriously, but just to have some fun with the setting and characters. I found it was a reasonably fine way to kill some hours, if you just turn your brain off and run with the story.
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Old August 20 2011, 11:43 PM   #13
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Yeah, Fallen Heroes was the only one of his books that was any good. I was blown away by it (his first Trek book, I think), and I remember looking forward to (and being disappointed by) his others.

Fallen Heroes read so much like a Peter David book (and the name was similar) that I halfway wondered if it was an odd pseudonym for PD. Apparently I wasn't alone, Ab Hugh said in the foreword to his next book something along the lines of "no I am not a pseudonym for Peter David."

Unfortunately his other books were just lame.
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Old August 21 2011, 07:42 PM   #14
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

I've just started reading this novel and bought it solely on all the chatter around here about how bad this novel is. I'm only three or four chapters into it, but I'd have to agree with Defcon's assessment, and I've felt it a bit light-hearted. Which I have no problem with whatsoever.

After reading through the A Time to... series and Vanguard over the last few months, I could do with a lighthearted story. Plus its good to see a TNG novel with the whole crew aboard the good ole Enterprise-D. Good times.
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Old August 25 2011, 05:01 PM   #15
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Re: TNG #33 - Balance of Power - ugh...

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
For the record, though...it was Wesley's roomate who made the latinum replicator--not Wesley himself.
Thankfully the details are fast fading from my brain, but I seem to remember the roommate made a highly complicated something, but he didn't know what it actually was that he'd built. Wesley spent the night working on the something and by the morning it was a replicator.

So I think it was a combined effort - between them they somehow managed to turn a pile of random junk into a latinum replicator completely by accident. As you do.



Defcon wrote: View Post
I see this novel more in the tradition of books like How much for just the Planet? ( ironically a book I disliked), i.E. as a book that isn't really meant to be taken too seriously,
I see your point, but in this case the stakes are (supposedly) just too high for that to work. The title alone implies something far more serious (and if not serious then certainly higher-stakes) than the average numbered novel. The battle (and I use the term very loosely) for control of the ultimate superweapon doesn't really seem like something that shouldn't be taken seriously.

Don't want to come off as a killjoy or anything, there's nothing wrong with a lighter novel if it's handled well, but this one feels like if they did The Doomsday Machine in the style of I, Mudd or The Trouble with Tribbles - the lighter tone just doesn't fit what's supposed to be going on.

Defcon wrote: View Post
but just to have some fun with the setting and characters. I found it was a reasonably fine way to kill some hours, if you just turn your brain off and run with the story.
Well, the only character we really spend any time with is Wesley, hanging out with his Ferengi chums, so the fun factor is somewhat limited. It's hardly a great outing for the rest of the TNG crew.

As for the story...well, that barely exists anyway.

PICARD: "Oh noes! There is a totally humongous weapon up for auction, and Starfleet says we must have it!"

GEORDI: "It probably doesn't exist, and even if it does it probably doesn't work. Trust me."

Later...

PICARD: "Hi Geordi. How's that really big gun that I spent an absolute fortune on, probably bankrupting not only the Federation but also the entire Klingon Empire in the process?"

GEORDI: "In several billion flaming pieces, Captain."

PICARD: "Good-o."
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