Destiny: Lost Souls by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by nx1701g, Nov 16, 2008.

?

Grade Lost Souls

  1. Excellent

    72.1%
  2. Above Average

    19.1%
  3. Average

    7.1%
  4. Below Average

    0.5%
  5. Poor

    1.1%
  1. Snaploud

    Snaploud Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    Star Trek: Destiny Trilogy 3.5/4--I give it a lot of credit for its ambition. It certainly held my interest and is above-average compared to most of the other trek I've read recently.

    I wouldn't put it in my list of favorites, but I'm definitely interested in reading about the after-math.

    Note: I haven't read the three Destiny threads yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody has posted.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2009
  2. shanejayell

    shanejayell Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny: Lost Souls - Discuss/Grade

    *lol*
    I'd see him captaining a SCE ship, probably.


    Seconded! Tho I suppose the Destiny follow up is kinda Articles II.....
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009
  3. jezor

    jezor Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    Very late to the party here, but I just wanted to tell David Mack and everyone else that this story, and particular this installment, was *wonderful*. When I finished Lost Souls, I literally said "Wow." Out loud.

    Finally, a logical explanation for the Borg, their combination of arrogance and imperfection, and even more finally, a reasonable conclusion to the Borg mega-saga! Add that to relieving Picard of the haunting he's experienced since becoming Locutus (which, in a reference that may make sense to other Legion of Super Heroes fans, evoked the Lar Gand/Eltro Gand explanation, in a good way), and even the devastation the Federation et al suffered could not detract from my happiness with this book.

    Thanks, David. {ProfJonathan}
     
  4. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    ^ Thanks for your kind words, Jonathan -- I'm glad you enjoyed the trilogy!
     
  5. Rosalind

    Rosalind TrekLit's Dr Rose Mod Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    Finished this trilogy a short moment ago, all I can say is "Wow", it has definitely moved into my favourite list. Thank you, David Mack, for the adventure.
     
  6. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    ^ You're quite welcome. :)
     
  7. enterprisefan

    enterprisefan Ensign Newbie

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    Did Kiona Thayer die? She is my favorite character.
     
  8. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    In case you're asking because you haven't read the book, I will spoiler-code the answer...

    Kiona Thayer is transformed by the Caeliar known as Sedín into the first Borg drone, making her a sort of prototype for the Borg queen.
     
  9. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    So does that mean that Kiona...

    looks like Alice Krige
    ? :D
     
  10. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I was thinking...

    Alice Krige was Sedin and Susanna Thompson was Kiona. :lol:
     
  11. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    ^ Except for the fact that Kiona Thayer is described as a brunette. But I guess that's what wigs are for... :D
     
  12. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    Well, she probably didn't have hair for much longer.
     
  13. enterprisefan

    enterprisefan Ensign Newbie

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    When the Borg were transformed back to their original races I hoped that she would have been alive. Then I thought that she could not have lived for all that time even with Borg implants.
     
  14. Oparu

    Oparu Ensign Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I've been lurking in here for awhile. WAY back somewhere the illustrious and talented David Mack and some fine spacefarers were discussing if there was anything written about synthehol and pregnant women and I just happened to be rereading Christopher L. Bennett's "Greater than the Sum".

    On pg 336 he says "(fortunately, synthehol was safe for pregnant women to consume)"

    Suppose that makes it so.
     
  15. Mirmotte

    Mirmotte Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I think the Destiny books were fab!!!:D
    But just wondering...what happened to Rebekah (sorry if wrong spelling) and the rest of the Liberated from Greater Than The Sum?I would have liked to see what happened to them in Destiny.... :)
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I would assume it was something similar to what happened to Seven of Nine. Which pretty much renders all of Dr. Crusher's efforts in GTTS moot, but them's the breaks.
     
  17. Jean-Luc Picard

    Jean-Luc Picard Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I finished this book and, so, the trilogy as a whole, ages ago, but computer troubles have kept me offline since then so I haven't been able to post my thoughts. In short, I loved "Destiny", and think that it is exactly the boost that the novel franchise needed.

    It had everything - action, drama, tragedy, romance...what else could a reader ask for? Everything was so powerfully delivered, and the best part was how Mack managed to capture the intricacies of war; it was the little moments, like Admiral Paris' death and Troi's relief over her child, that really hit home amidst the all-encompassing destruction wrought by the Borg. In such an epic saga, it's difficult to zone in on the individual tragedies, but it was done flawlessly throughout all three books.

    Talking of the Borg, this was the most imposing they've ever been. My jaw was on the floor when the cubes effortlessly ripped through the armada that Bacco had worked so hard to assemble. Their relentness approach, and the way everyone had given up fighting back by the time they reached Mars, really had me believing that Earth was going to take some heavy hits if not be ravaged altogether. That's how good the set-up was: not only did I actually believe that core facets of the ST universe were about to be wiped out, I found the fact that some of its key figures (usually so determined and persistent) had given up believable and realistic.

    The characterisation, for the most part, was spot-on. I particularly enjoyed Bacco (made me love her even more), Dax (she makes a very different but entertaining captain), Worf and Choudhury (their relationship was developed very well), and Kedair (a new favourite of mine who now has an extra dimension added to her through the friendly fire incident). I thought Picard's breakdown was a little over-the-top, and found his connection to Crusher a bit too sickly-sweet, but otherwise he was written brilliantly. Hernandez and the Caeliar also shone, although I hope they don't pop up again too soon - I'm not too keen on races that powerful, though they fit the boundaries of the story here.

    One quibble I had was that the third book, for all it accomplished, felt a bit...ill-paced. It seemed as though the timing was a bit off, with several chapters of talking and then sudden bursts of action, but needless to say that the conclusion was satisfying enough for me to let that go.

    Overall, despite some minor criticisms, I give this trilogy full marks. A great read. :)
     
  18. jhempel24

    jhempel24 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I guess I'm in the very large minority of people who, while enjoyed the trilogy, didn't really think that it was what everyone was saying it is. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy them.

    Book 3 was great, but the first two, I really just skimmed all the past stuff because it was pretty obvious what was going to happen from Book 1, it was just a matter of when. Plus those characters weren't all that interesting. Though the relationship between Hernandez and Inyx was pretty intriguing.

    I was really kind of rooting for Will and Deanna's baby to not survive, yeah, kind of cold, but nothing like that really happens in books like these, and it would make for some tense moments in future Titan Novels.

    I did like the Borg just annihilating the Federation, there was a sense of "OH CRAP" in there, and I did like the fact that Picard really had nothing to do with the solution except for providing the transport to the Cube Scout, finally he takes a back seat, and someone had the junk to say screw you this is what's going to happen.

    Should be interesting to see where they go from here, I haven't read Singular Destiny or the Titan or Voyager releases to follow, so hopefully they will be a bit better than these.

    Good books, but I think this could have been a Duology and not a Trilogy.

    I know I'll get flamed, but hey, it's only one persons opinion.
     
  19. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    I wasn’t sure whether to write this, since it isn’t going to be the glowing review most people have given the book. But I figure since I wrote reviews for the first two, I might as well type out why I was ultimately disappointed with the finale, and the trilogy as a whole. Maybe a dissenting perspective can be useful; I don’t know. I finished the book a while ago, but I needed to know why I reacted (or rather, failed to react) the way that I did to the book. Having thought about it, my principle objections to the book are twofold: one, the excessive amount of death and destruction and the permanent damage done to the setting and its philosophy; second, the messianic resolution which renders most of the trilogy immaterial because the characters contribute nothing to it; as we say here, they just stand on the side of the road, waving their dicks at the traffic. There’s a kind of irony here: typing all these reviews into the same document, I can go back and check what I disliked about previous entries, and there’s sad amusement to be found that my biggest problem about the first book (which I otherwise liked)—to wit, the fact that the E-E characters were spinning their wheels, not acting but reaction—not only infects all the other storylines in book two but becomes the essential theme of the book’s resolution, which appears to celebrate impotence, passivity, and yes, failure.

    Reading the book is an experience of ups and downs. At first one gets excited, because after all the meanderings and doldrums of Mere Mortals, the pacing finally picks up again, conveying the sense of urgency that had been missing from the invasion so far; plus, we get to see what happened to the survivors of Mantillis, which I had not been expecting and was thus a pleasant surprise. Then there’s a down bit as urgency of the situation proves to have been too urgent: not content with the devastation as the Azure Nebula, now we’re ‘treated’ to the Borg invasion fleet wreaking slaughter across swathes of Federation and Klingon space, at which point the heroes have essentially lost, and the rest of the book is essentially going to be about whether their abject failure will be complete or mitigated. Then there’s an up bit when the characters, belatedly, finally start fighting back (although even there it proves too late); the middle of the book is probably my favourite part of the trilogy, other than Hernandez’ saga over the three books. Then finally we end on a down bit as we get to a resolution that has next to nothing to do with what’s come before and next to no involvement from the characters whose civilization is getting its assed kicked. The ending is just so depressing as this higher power swoops in to rescue the incapable, so-called heroes then departs, leaving the Federation a burning ruin.

    It should be said, in the interests of fairness, that I don’t think this is a poorly written book. As with Mere Mortals, most individual scenes accomplish what they set out to do; it’s in the totality of effect that it falls apart—and by the third book, it’s impossible to ignore the baggage of what had come previously, as was still possible to enjoy isolated scenes like the Hirogen attack. That’s my one, major technical gripe: the disconnect between plot and resolution. For the rest of it, I admit my distaste stems from conflicting ideology: I have always considered Star Trek’s optimism and humanism to be at the core of the universe, to be what sets Trek apart, uniquely, from every other space opera and near-dystopian future out there; and this book skirts if not outright contradicts both. So before I start my bitching in earnest, I’ll go over what I did like.

    Like I said, I was very glad to see Graylock’s people again after thinking that their fates had already occurred ‘off-screen’ in Mere Mortals. Ironically, just before reading this book I read through a non-fiction study of a 19th-century ship (the H.M.S. Enterprise, as coincidence would have it) and its unsuccessful search for the lost Franklin expedition, so I was fresh off a scientifically-research account of survival in Arctic climes and was impressed by how realistic and accurately detailed the experience of the Columbia survivors was (for an alien planet with wendigo-like predators, that is). Despite the fact that these were all characters one was inclined to dislike, to varying degrees, for their participation in Foyle’s genocidal escape attempt, the battle they must wage against their ruthless environment actually endears them to the reader, as does the psychological tensions in the group, keeping everything—including Thayer’s very real trepidation at living with those who maimed her—suppressed to maintain to cohesion of the group, even as they start dropping off one by one to the various perils they’re now subjected too. Previously I had compared the Hirogen attack to ‘Alien’; these sequences were, in their own way, like watching a well-crafted thriller. So, too, was watching the doomed native expedition; despite the short amount of space devoted to them, and the foregone outcome, you actually feel that these are real people from a multifaceted culture in the brief period of time one knows them.

    The origin of the Borg… well, I felt like something of a dunce in that I had missed it up until then. I had speculated about a connection between the Borg and the Caeliar back after Gods of Night, but my chronology was completely off. And yet, in retrospect, it’s possible to see all the clues woven into the overall narrative, and I appreciate a complex, interwoven mystery like this. And ultimately, one can’t help but feel sorry for Thayer, Graylock and even Pembleton—to have endured so much, only to, finally, tragically, suffer a fate worse than death. It’s even hard to feel much antagonism for Sedín, who distinguishes herself amongst the Caeliar as someone who actually wants to live, which, however unfortunate the consequences, is still welcome in such an otherwise atrophied, stagnant species. Although her attitude of callous pragmatism bordered on the cruel, at the time she enslaved the humans she was little more than a collection of instincts, much like the ghost aboard Columbia, driven only by the animal urge to survive, capable of gaining knowledge but never capable of once again finding true consciousness. It is, surely, a terrible existence for all concerned, and it’s nice that, in the end, the Caeliar are able to give Sedín peace before she must die.

    The middle part of the book—from Hernandez formulating her plan to become a duplicate queen to their narrow escape from the Borg scout ship--is very entertaining, my favourite part of the trilogy other than Hernadez’ biography. As I’ll get to afterwards, much of the preceding 24th-century portions of the book had made me shut off, but as this plan coalesced and was implemented, I found myself getting excited again, quite likely the most engaged I had been since I finished the first book. THIS is what I had been looking forward to ever since the announcement that there would be a Borg invasion: the characters, old and new (well, mostly new—more on that later, too), using their brains, their creativity, their strength and their willpower to effectively combat the apparently insurmountable foe. It has action and drama, courage and tragedy, sacrifice and victory; it’s a hundred pages or so that manages to capture the full spectrum of human(oid) experience by putting it under incredible pressure yet demonstrating that, however dearly tested, they will overcome, without for that matter ignoring the bloodier consequences. It’s a very rousing sequence; even when you hit the hard patches like the friendly fire incident and the scene in sickbay afterwards, it is still uplifting: they might take their hits, they might go down, but they go down hard, they fight to the bitter end, and they rage against that dying light (unlike certain, more submissive characters one could mention). It was nice to see Bateson and the Prometheus in action again; and when they deployed the Hirogen power dampeners, I actually thought that the story was starting to come together, that all the stuff that had seemed besides the point in Mere Mortals would prove valuable after all. There is a fly in the ointment, of course, in that they’re too late—not just too late to spare the Federation the Borg invasion, as many worlds already lie in ruins, but too late even to prevent the attacks on Vulcan & Co., only to alleviate them. But then, this isn’t a book about people who win but people who lose, so I suppose it’s thematically appropriate that even at their most victorious the characters still only manage a mitigated failure. Still, I don’t want to end on a down note, so I want to single out the firefights aboard the Borg ship and Hernadez’ psychic battle against the Collective as sequences particularly worthwhile—the first, for the tension and cinematic quality, the second because it was something unexpected yet made perfect sense within the context of a mental struggle, the Borg turning her own memories against her, burning ‘ground’ to deny her refuge.

    It’s unfortunate that the rest of the book, and indeed the trilogy as a whole, wasn’t more like this: pursuing the setting and characters’ potentials instead of reveling in their faults. The whole destruction thing is a fad I have gotten quite thoroughly sick of, so I’m distinctly displeased to see it happen to the Trek universe (and I should perhaps say ‘again’, although there certainly was no way for the author to anticipate that the latest film would go in the same direction of destruction and failure), which is, after all, supposed to be a cheery, sometimes nigh-utopian vision of the future, a literary fulfillment about the promise of progress in technological and societal development. I fail to see any reason why that society needed to be torn down, destroyed for the sake of an arbitrary, fashionable notion of what constitutes drama—the Trek books we had been reading in years past had been amongst the best in the line, balancing the ability to tell consequential stories without losing sight of the basic premise underlying the fictional universe. Devastation at this scale is unnecessary and unwarranted, and winds up being so extreme that it has the opposite effect of becoming flat and devoid of feeling. I recognize the various attempts to make the tragedy ‘humane’ in scenes such as the death of Tuvok’s son, and I suppose I should be grateful since this is something I felt was missing from the devastated worlds in the first book, or the off-screen non-battle at the Azure Nebula, but the truth of the matter is that I was unmoved because by that point I had just shut down, emotionally speaking. I was reading the text, but not feeling it. The idea that scenes like this were being played out not just across the entire planet but indeed across huge swathes of Federation (and allied states) is just overwhelming in its negativity; even with individual instances, the scope of the devastation is impossible to engage with, and instead of feeling sad or aggrieved, I was just benumbed, as the sheer hopelessness of it all made it impossible to care. I think there is certainly room to explore dark patches in Star Trek--well-written stories about the Occupation or Mirror-Universe have fulfilled these roles—but it was always exploring the shadows in a universe of light, with the knowledge that the better society of the Federation was proximate even if it wasn’t present. But now that universe of light has been replaced by one of shadows. I expect—or hope, anyway—that there will be oases of light, but the whole tone of the franchise has just taken a change in tone for the dark.

    It was something similar that came over me when I got to the end of the book and its apparent resolution. I was reading the text, and I could note the various techniques being used to make it seem uplifting—the raw emotivity; the grand, epic scale at which the transformation was being worked, encompassing billions; the Manichean imagery of light and dark, shoehorned dichotomies of good and evil; the scurrilous religious allusions—but I was insensate to it all. At first I wondered if it was the same numbness as before, but no—that middle portion had managed to get me geared up, so why did this portion feel so terribly remote. Then Picard solves it for me: “We did it,” says Riker, to which Picard replies: “No, Erika did it. We just lived through it.” Precisely: one feels detached from the resolution because it has little to nothing to do with what came before it, no input from any of the characters save Hernandez, and thus ultimately no point of entry, no mediating figure through which one can identify with what’s happening. If it seems remote, then it’s exactly because it’s occurring at such a remove; I, as a reader, don’t really have anything invested here. If some characters, whether original or old-guard, had been assimilated previously, and we could have experienced the liberation of the Collective from their perspective, I think it would have been of benefit. Of course, there were no assimilated characters because the Borg weren’t doing that anymore, and now we know why: if the Borg invasion had followed traditional Borg tactics, then the resolution would have restored most of the conquered Federation worlds; there would have been a great deal of lingering trauma from the experience itself, but there would not have been worlds aflame and species extinguished, and since the point of this trilogy was to trash the setting, that wouldn’t do. Incidentally, I don’t think we ever did get an in-universe explanation for why the Borg turned into the Snidely Whiplash Collective; there’s a bit about the most recent Borg queen emerging from with a direction to destroy the Federation but no explanation for what spawned the EVIL! command. I suppose one could speculate that the semi-aware spirit of Sedín lurking beneath the hive mind had something to do with it; perhaps the destruction of the transwarp hub by Voyager was of such a scale that it was able to stir corrupted memories of the Caeliar Cataclysm and hatred towards humanity.

    I feel that this lack of participation in the resolution not only makes for an unsatisfying ending, it also retroactively undermines much of the trilogy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the Caeliar serve as a deus ex machina, because they’ve been there from the beginning… but a deus in machina, perhaps. I have to ask: why were most of these characters even in these books, when they’re presence, collectively, amounts to nothing, is largely incidental? Picard and Co. needn’t always be the ones to save the day—in many ways, this was Hernandez moment to shine—but I also expect that they’ll make some contribution, help build towards the solution even if they are not the ones to finally enact it. Basically, only Hernadez’s storyline is important to solving the crisis, and the rest becomes reduced to the status of sideshow—entertaining sideshow, perhaps, but still broadly irrelevant to the greater story. I remember criticizing Mere Mortals for lacking such integrity of plot, and here it’s even worse, because plot threads you assumed would eventually lead somewhere fizzle and end. For all that most of the books actually have to do with the story, one could have written Destiny as a single novel, detailing Hernadez’ biographic epic, and stuck the rest into a Tales of the Borg Invasion-esque anthology… indeed, it might have been preferable to do so; Hernandez’ story is a strong one and would have benefitted from not being dragged down by the doldrums of the 24th-century bits, while the other storylines in their anthology wouldn’t be ‘saddled’, so to speak, with expectations of relevance—perhaps even enjoyed as short character pieces, instead of the long, despondent and ultimately futile drifting they undergo here.

    In many ways, I can’t help but think that this is a consequence of the type of story being told, generically. It isn’t a quest story, or a mystery, or an epic, where characters are expected to solve the problems that confront them; no, this, to my disgust, is a story of deliverance. It’s more than the idea that Picard, Riker and so on don’t actively contribute to solving the problem: it’s that the problem is so huge that these mere mortals cannot possibly be expected to solve it in the first place, and must instead make recourse to a higher power, those gods of night, whose technological acumen borders on the divine, thanks to a half-human, half-‘divine’ messiah who sacrifices herself to the enemy (who has a five-letter name that begins with an ‘S’ and ends with an ‘n’) in order to assure the salvation of the lost souls trapped in that inferno, but then gets to live on in fully ‘divine’ form. A hell, incidentally, which exists because a handful of humans decided to try and attain a higher level of being (through merging with the Caeliar) in the recent prehistoric past (a scant few centuries away from the start of the Ussher chronology). Quite honestly, if I wanted to read a story like this, I’d just reread the New Testament, or Paradise Lost, or turn to something like the Lord of the Rings where magical destiny actually fits the premise. I strongly feel that these sort of fables do not belong in Star Trek. This is a universe based on humanistic values, on the conviction that human reason, intelligence and creativity is sufficient, and indeed the best-placed, to overcome the obstacles that lie in our way. Hernandez’ story, by itself, is strong enough to resist devolution into a saviour figure no matter what her archetypal function in the resolution: having been witness to her life thus far, she’s too complex to be reduced to anything as inane as a messiah. The Caeliar and the Borg, however, lack such permanence, and fall too easily into trite Manichean patterns despite the fact that they really don’t fit the roles. The Borg, until the TNG-R decided to make them EVIL! in the mistaken belief that might equaled fright, represented pure amorality; you’ll say that VOY had defanged them, and that’s true enough, but it also portrayed a culture more complex than one might suspect, which gets swept aside for the sake of juvenile malevolence. And then there’s the Caeliar, nominal redeemers yet complete assholes—if they’re the opposite force, then they’re Miltonic deities at best (which would go some way towards explaining why I took such an instant and intense dislike to them), interceding only because Hernandez’s Christ-figure outflanks their stodgy natures. I was, admittedly, mildly amused to find many of the criticisms I’d directed at the Caeliar, re: their stagnancy, echoed in Hernandez’s jeremiad to them.
     
  20. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Destiny Book 3: Lost Souls - (SPOILERS)

    (Lousy, sanctimonious post size restrictions--don't you have an Argentinian mistress to go boff?)

    And, of course, it’s disastrous to the characters, who fail to pull themselves up by their own merits and must instead be Saved, capital ‘s’. Salvation logic, of course, demands that those targeted by such must be otherwise irredeemably flawed, an implicit statement of dependency upon higher forces for completion or outright survival that hobbles the idea of these characters as self-governing and self-sufficient. Admittedly, this is no “Daybreak” (which retroactively destroyed the free will of the nuBSG characters for the entirety of the series’ run), but it’s still a very repugnant move nonetheless. The resolution celebrates impotence, glorying in the fact that the characters couldn’t solve their own problems as though it were something praise-worthy; celebrates failure, as most of the characters (Choudhoury excepted) are spared any personal consequences for their almost trilogy-long inability to impact the events unfolding around them, and indeed actually seem to be in a good mood which, quite frankly, makes me rather squeamish, since after a failure of such epic proportions they really ought to be beating themselves up for their ineptitude; celebrates passivity, as the characters are basically just there to bear witness to the pseudo-metaphysical struggle between the Borg and Caeliar, that there was no solution except to just sit on their hands and hope for the best, for intervention, the subservient position suited to the dependants of a higher power. Passivity, further, because when one gets right down to it, all this could have been prevented had Titan simply come across the Caeliar sooner, or even should the Borg have bumped into the Caeliar themselves—the end solution would have been the same had it occurred in the first chapters of the first book as it was at the end of third. Nothing is gained in the interim, which makes all the destruction that is unleashed upon the innocent even more wasteful, because what it all boils down to is ‘bad timing’.

    As to characterization beyond the plot… well, Hernadez kicks her habitual amount of butt, and most of the other new characters come through well, particularly the Aventine folk. Dax finally looks like a captain, although it would be hard not to in comparison with Picard and Riker. Kedair gets more good scenes—it’s nice to see someone actually feels guilt for their screw-ups, even as she resolves, with Dax’s help, to move forward; and Tarses gets easily his best scene in the literature thus far in the sickbay triage scene, assured and professional without being insensate to the suffering around him. But, perhaps in order to make them look good, a lot of the old guard characters wind up getting dragged through the mud. TNG has gotten the short end of the ugly stick (mixed metaphor?) pretty much throughout this trilogy, but the negativity just explodes in this final installment. Worf embraces the passivity, going with the flow and shying away from confrontation when he disagrees with Picard, which simply isn’t Worf. Riker spends most of the book as a emo little bitch, moping around over his own strained emotional state even as his civilization is collapsing around him—another character who can’t get his priorities in order. There’s this one scene in particular that just made me roll my eyes, when Riker finally confronts Picard for going all Republican Party and just shooting all ideas down by rote—and instead of actually tying in to the story, the characters break down like weepy schoolgirls in each others’ arms. (Disturbingly, the image that came to mind at this point was the opening of ‘Fight Club’, Edward Norton crying into Meatloaf’s breasts.) It just makes one want to scream: “Hey, people: Borg invasion first, support group later!” Act like professionals and save your emotional traumas for after you’ve dealt with the civilization-shattering crisis.

    In fact, Picard is the character who really gets the worst of it. In Mere Mortals, I had noticed he was flintier than his usual self, but thought it was understandable given the circumstances; but here he just turns into a complete jackass with bipolar disorder, bitching continuously to his crew and colleagues then retreating to the holodeck for a hearty bout of sniveling. Picard has always been one of my favourite characters, someone who embodied my ideal of a leader, but even I grew to loathe him over the course of this book as the gravitas that defined the character takes and vacation and he’s gradually stripped on his dignity until little remains but a beatific imbecile prostrating himself on his own bridge. I kept wondering what was going on as Picard acted increasingly intemperate, constantly saying no to every idea that Dax put forward toward solving the crisis; when he decided to scuttle all plans by refusing access to his subspace transmitter, in defiance of all good sense, I thought I had it pegged: that scene at the end of Mere Mortals, were he was transfixed by the voice of the Collective, and I thought the Borg must have seized control of his mind or even implanted subconscious controls to cripple Starfleet’s attempts to resist. Tragically, it would seem that Picard was just acting like a prick for the sake of acting like a prick. I don’t know if this was a way to create more conflict in the story, like the old Idiot Admirals crutch, or if it was an attempt at character development, but either was it was an unwelcome abuse of the character. And if it was supposed to be a character arc, then in the end it, too, comes to nothing, because Picard doesn’t overcome… whatever it was that he was supposed to overcome, but has an outside force do it for him, changing him without the need for work, effort or for him to have learned anything. As with the overall plot, it’s just “poof! I wave my magical technology wand and solve the problem”, once again embracing passivity and deference. Although I’m can’t say that whatever epiphany Picard had at his Damascus is a beneficial one; there’s a moment in the epilogue where, perhaps making a metafictional joke à la “Ship in the Bottle”, Picard appears to embrace some wishy-washy pantheism. Picard has fallen far indeed from the man who so memorably stood up, even at the risk of his life, for reason against the supernatural in “Who Watches the Watchers”, who has stood toe-to-toe with entities of far greater power than this and argued with full conviction in the ability—and indeed, the necessity—of human(oid)s to figure things out for themselves.

    La Forge gets next to no attention, but when he does feature it’s to throw a tantrum over Picard’s plan to develop a thelaron weapon, which he hopes to use as a failsafe if things go pear-shaped between the Borg and the Caeliar. Finally, Picard is actually proposing a plan instead of just saying ‘no’ all the time… and instead of progress, we get treated to a hissy fit from La Forge because it hurts his feelings to reconstruct a weapon of the same type that killed Data. He calls the weapon immoral, which is nonsense—an object has no intrinsic ethical alignment, outside of its use, and in this case its use was justified: if the Borg assimilated the Caeliar, the entire galaxy and perhaps many others would have been imperiled. Then he goes to cower behind legalities that no longer even apply as per Bacco’s earlier edict. And then, just to put a cherry on the hysterical sundae, somehow this rambling rant convinces Picard not to act, and since of course La Forge didn’t have an alternative to propose we fall back into passivity, sitting around twiddling their thumbs as the Borg descend on them. Troi—well, Troi had her bout of being crazy and irrational in the first two books, and when she wakes up she finally seems to have come to her senses, just in time to be Saved! The resolution to the Troi storyline is almost a microcosm of the overall trilogy: Troi’s medical condition is not relieved by investigation, research or any other action taken by her or her crewmates; rather, the Caeliar wave their magic wand and she’s cured, which could have happened just as easily at the beginning of the second book and all that intervening melodrama pointless. It’s another act of salvation; isn’t great that his higher power is here to solve our intractable problems and spare us the need to make hard decisions? Bah. Don’t get me wrong—after all the death and destruction up till now, I’m happy Troi didn’t lose her foetus, but the method is, once again, a ‘deus in machina’, so to speak.

    After all this is done, there are attempts at spinning the massive failure into something that looks less like a failure. (Although, I think the most hopeful part of the book is actually the conversation between Vale and Troi as they are released [again, without having done anything to earn it] where she confesses and Troi is understanding; I’ve gotten so sick of artificial drama created by characters not talking to each other [I’m looking at you, Lost and T:SCC] that it’s nice to see this plotline won’t be going that way.) The gesture is appreciated, but all this talk about hope and rebuilding rings utterly hollow following on the heels on devastation at an incomprehensible scale. Seventy billion people are dead, a number I can’t begin to fathom. Entire worlds have been laid to waste, and more have been ruined or greatly damaged—including Risa (Paradise Lost, indeed). Surprisingly, that feels more depressing to me than even the loss of Devena did; I guess Risa always embodied some of the best of the Federation, the benefits of life in a peaceful prosperous society and the ability to have hedonism without losing responsibility. Now it, too, is gone, along with the idea of a prosperous Federation as the surplus economy, that which enabled the Federation’s utopian elements, teeters on the brink of collapse. Starfleet is in a shambles. Meanwhile, the Caeliar/Borg just up and vanish; and despite all the enfeeblement the Borg went through in VOY and being turned into generic EVIL! villains in the TNG-R, I feel like another piece of the Trek universe has gone missing; something else that made it unique has been lost. They claim, on their departure, they’ll be looking to protect peaceful cultures—here’s an idea, why don’t you do something about the peaceful civilization you just devasted? At this point, even the dreaded ‘reset button’ would be welcome to restore some of the dead, buried, unburied, beaten with a shovel, and buried again optimism of the setting. The entire trilogy, and particularly the conclusion, is just utterly disheartening. I was gladdened when Marco announced that, with the Titan series, Trek fiction would be looking towards exploration again, finally ‘getting over’ the fallout from the Dominion War. Now, scant few years later, the universe gets trashed all over again, worse than before (what was it Bacco told the cadets about graduating without the shadow of war?)—and when Bacco starts talking about exploratory missions in this book, I think she must be out of her mind to be devoting any of Starfleet’s much reduced resources to such ventures when there’s no doubt a massive refugee crisis, resources shortage and staggering amounts of rebuilding to be done. And all this stuff about a better future… I just can’t believe it, not after the amount of damage that has been inflicted.

    Which is at the heart of the problem, going forward. This trilogy has redefined the Trek universe, and it has done so in a negative way, emphasizing failure and impotency. In many ways, it feels like the setting has been skewered such that an episode like “Q Who” is now emblematic of its overall themes, from the ass-kicking the heroes receive to having to call on a higher power to save said posteriors; but I always thought it was episodes like “Encounter at Farpoint”, “Best of Both Worlds” or “All Good Things…” that truly encapsulate what this fictional world is about. The magnitude of the events in Destiny are such that there will never be any escaping it; if it seemed difficult to escape the legacy of the Dominion War, it will be impossible to do so here; this generation and likely generations to come will be defined by the scars and trauma of the big Borg invasion. And I’m sick of all the negativity. I’m sick of the darkness, the depression, the devastation, the killing. This is a feeling that has been some time in accumulating, and across a number of media, but I reached the tipping point a while ago and have no interest in seeing them explored further. I gave up on most of the Star Wars line because it had degenerated into simplistic darkness for darkness’ sake. I stopped reading the Ultimate comic line after the destruction pornography of Ultimatum (fuck you, Jeph Loeb). And now, while Destiny was certain better written than any of those, I wonder if I should do the same here. My interest in Trek, it must be said, has been waning for a while, which isn’t just my dissatisfaction with the direction the book line is going in (although callous crap like Before Dishonor) doesn’t help); there’s also the objectively welcome but subjectively inexplicable popularity of that third-rate film among other things. The ‘next’ two books in the series are from Keith and Christopher, two writers who rarely disappoint, but I find myself entirely unmoved to purchase and read them, incapable of generating enthusiasm for the setting. It’s a Catch-22: a book set in this universe will be dark, another generic dystopian vision of the future, which I don’t want to read; or it won’t be dark, in which case, like the attempts to beautify the trilogy’s conclusion, it will lack verisimilitude and believability. Then there’s the third option, which is not to bother reading the book. I can’t generate much interest in reading about a nigh-dystopian Federation, or spending more time on maudlin traumas, or otherwise reading about how terrible the consequences of this must surely be. Maybe later, but not now. And it’s not just the setting that’s become unrecognizable, but the characters. A bipolar, undignified Picard, a mopey, indecisive Riker, an avoidant Worf, a hissy La Forge, an irrational Troi… these people don’t resemble the characters I first encountered onscreen. And talk of change seems misdirected if it isn’t change for the better. It’s great that the authors are free to make permanent changes to the universe and the characters, but those changes seem to all align themselves with degeneracy and decrepitude, whether the arbitrary killing of Janeway, ‘character arcs’ like having Picard be a dunce in every second book that feel forced and unnatural, or, you know, just blowing the crap out of the Federation. The sad thing, really, is that I think the whole faddish infatuation with darkness and death is passing; many of the solicitations I’ve been receiving have specified a desire for positive, upbeat content. But for the Trek universe, it’s too late—these changes are as permanent as permanent gets, and it’s hard to see how they could be undone. So I think I’ll take a break from Trek for a while. I’ve given up on the Rocambolesques of the ENT-R and am feeling rather jaundiced towards anything post-Destiny at the moment, but I know we’ve got some DS9-R books coming our way soon and while I don’t know if knowing what happens to the setting will affect my reading of it, I’m still interested in seeing those storylines unfold. After that, I’ll see how I feel about the rest of it.

    Some random points:
    --Page 115: “(…) he looked lifeless, Gorgonized.”
    Never mind “Stygian”, from now on every Trek book should have at least one instance of the word “Gorgonized”.

    --Pages 145-146: “Growing up in Québec (…) outside Montréal.”
    Hey, you spelt them with the accent. Thanks for that. I know English technically doesn’t require the accent, but I’ve always been fond of using native spellings were possible.

    --Page 159: “(…) death was a simple reality in the hard land of the winter.”
    Tales of Brave Ulysses? (Yay, Cream.)

    --Page 251: T’Lana; what a twit. She spends her entire literary career getting up in people’s faces, insisting that everybody should do things her way and generally acting to the detriment of the greater good. Then when she’s about to be murdered, when her mule-headed combativeness might, for once, actually find a valid target… now you decide to just stand there and just let yourself die? Ugh. “And accepted what she could not change”; great, the first Vulcan convert to Christianity… or Alcoholics Anonymous, anyway.

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman