ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Jun 16, 2013.

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Rate A Choice of Futures.

  1. Outstanding

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    50.5%
  2. Above Average

    39 vote(s)
    36.4%
  3. Average

    10 vote(s)
    9.3%
  4. Below Average

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  5. Poor

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  1. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I also preorder from there. I will have to wait until it gets stuffed in my mailbox.
     
  2. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    (And I got my books and bookstores mixed up. Duh.)
     
  3. CaptainDonovin

    CaptainDonovin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I'm so excited (promise not to sing) about this one. I've gotten so far behind in my reading but will skip a few to move this to the top of the heap.
     
  4. Reanok

    Reanok Commodore Commodore

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Ditto I'm really excited to get this Enterprise novel next week.I can't wait to see how the story continues for the Enterprise crew.It will be neat to see T'Pol being Captain of her own starship and Malcolm too. I can't wait to see how Trip's story is continued as well.:techman:
     
  5. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Captain Premium Member

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Even though they've been sitting on my metaphorical ebookshelf for years, I've never gotten around to reading the Enterprise Romulan War duology.

    But I'll be reading this as soon as it drops into my Kindle on Tuesday. I'll report back if I feel like I run across any "WTF?" moments because I've skipped the last couple Enterprise titles. I don't expect to, based on Christopher's past performance.

    Very much looking forward to this one!
     
  6. RonG

    RonG Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    The Book Depository has notified me that the book's on its way :)
     
  7. Ktrek

    Ktrek Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I just got my copy yesterday and am looking forward to starting this. I noticed though, that the book has already had two voters giving it the lowest rating possible. If that's true it will be a real disappointment to a whole lot of folks around here. I'll read it and judge for myself but that worries me a little.

    Kevin
     
  8. Reanok

    Reanok Commodore Commodore

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I got my copy yesterday I've read over a hundres pages so far the story has been quite interesting.
     
  9. Tommunist

    Tommunist Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    After suffering no ill effects of having the novel touch Goodman's "Federation" book (unless repeatedly doing so opens me up to some sort of quantum level cellular damage that needs Dr. Phlox to help treat) I finished the book his morning.

    Overall thoughts: enjoyed the book, and was happy to see these characters again. Compared to the... more complicated DTI novels (which are great, but "heady"), I found it by comparison a bit of an easier read, in that I couldn't put it down. I started this morning and finished! A lazy Sunday morning can afford me that, but I just didn't want to put it down.
    While I can say that the novel stands alone, it does have the job of setting up the players and settings (or ships) and setting the stage for more to come. So even while most of the characters are old friends to readers, it's the "pilot episode", so to speak.

    Reed's subplot in the book didn't seem to tie into any of the main events, whereas Archer, T'Pol's and Shumar's storylines converged (or will, in the case of the Saurian mission). However, we got a nice little call back to Star Trek IV and some "seek out new life" exploration out of his adventure.

    The Orion presence does evoke my good feelings about the Vanguard series, so I welcome the further fleshing out of the syndicate.

    I'm sure I'll have more to say about it, but look forward to hearing other's thoughts on the novel as well. It always takes me time to learn names and warm up to new characters.

    But for now: I enjoyed the book and recommend it's purchase. I eagerly await the next, I hope the cover for the next incorporates the new uniform look and perhaps the Endeavor. The Photoshopped "Giant Head" look for Trek covers is not becoming, especially for what the lure of this book is all about!
     
  10. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Some thoughts on the book at length.

    As mentioned in my review above, I'm glad Christopher has given a name, identity, and "face" to the enemies in Silent Enemy. One thing that always bugged me about Enterprise was that there were so many fascinating "plot hooks" that were never followed up on. The characters from Silent Enemy, the Suliban, the Tandarans, and so on--CB, I give you credit for doing a lot of what I would have loved to have seen.

    I especially liked the depiction of the Tandaran General at the start of the book because the Tandarans seem like a substitute for the 21st century United States in the Star Trek setting so it's interesting to see them continue to act in a somewhat bellicose manner to the Federation.

    (I also appreciated having Jonathan Archer free ALL the Suliban at some point--finishing the work he started in "Detained")

    I really like your reusing of one-shots and dropped plotlines--also your index in the back.

    The revelation the transporters don't work QUITE right is a good one and a nice allusion back to stuff like "transporter psychosis" mentioned by Barclay way back when. I feel bad for Malcolm Reed now being sterilized by it but it's a nice way of illustrating how very little humans actually know about all the tech they're acquiring left and right. Retconning a ban on holo-deck technology trading also nicely puts a genie in a bottle back to the TNG era.

    Poor Reed, nicely played on this making him feel like a failure to his family. That guy never lets up on himself.

    The use of the Orion girls to manipulate a politician is one of the most classic traps of spy fiction and used well here. I'd like to see the character of our little seductress again. She was intriguing in her short time "on-screen." I also like the callback to the Orion Syndicate's plan in TOS, disrupting the conference with murder. Some dogs never learn new tricks.

    Oddly, one part I didn't like was discovering the planet from Communicator went to war. While its unrealistic to think Archer's legacy is entirely positive, I would hate to leave things like this. Unfortunately, since this is heading to the Prime Directive's era, I can't imagine returning soon. Which is a bummer.
     
  11. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Here's my review of the novel! Great read!

    http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2013/06/star-trek-enterprise-rise-of-federation.html

     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Tom Clancy is one of the last authors I would've ever expected anyone to compare me to. I've never read anything by him and I'm not a fan of military or spy fiction. I think I saw The Hunt for Red October on TV once, but that's about it.


    For me, one of the big missed opportunities of ENT was that they had Archer adopt a policy much like the Prime Directive early in the game. I always thought it would be more interesting to show the early Starfleet interfering openly in other cultures and making serious mistakes in doing so. That's the cool potential of an early era like this: exploring the mistakes that later generations learn from. ENT didn't really do that... but now I get the chance! Mwa-ha-ha-hah! :evil:


    Except that if you embrace a warlike approach too, you're just playing the game by their rules, giving them what they want. One of the consistent messages of Star Trek is that meeting violence with violence only escalates things -- that the only way to prevent violence is to stop playing that game altogether and find an alternative path.

    Of course, the story is also constrained by what we know about Trek history. We know Starfleet becomes a mostly peaceful, exploratory and diplomatic body, and the Federation becomes a benevolent peacekeeping and humanitarian arma -- err, organization. ;) But given that they formed in the wake of a war, how did they end up going in such a peaceful direction? That struck me as kind of a mystery.


    I think it was meant to be more empowering to the women, to reject the conventional assumption that men are the ones in control in the sexual arena. I can see how it's a contentious and delicate question, though. Mainly I was just trying to reconcile what was presented in "Bound" with other portrayals onscreen and in literature where Orion women were not nearly so overpowering and where they were definitely in subordinate roles. It made sense that different Orions might have different levels of pheromonal control over others, producing a hierarchy.


    The thematic tie, as President Vanderbilt expresses at the end, is that the problem was solved by scientists and communicators rather than soldiers, that it showed the value of emphasizing exploration rather than defense. Also it reflected the overall theme of the different UFP members learning to get along, the growing pains of their formative relationship.


    Whereas I don't feel it's Trek without some exploration. Even my more political stories are heavily about exploring alien cultures and cross-cultural interactions. The nature of this project required a more political focus, but I had to work some strange-new-worlds stuff in there somehow.


    This also comes from the notion that mistakes and failures are part of a society's learning curve. Sometimes new technologies have unanticipated side effects, like pollution or climate change or carcinogenic effects. It's not always a smooth progression.

    Also, the developers of ENT didn't want to have transporters yet at all; the network insisted. In the first couple of seasons, they tried to avoid using transporters as much as possible, but by season 4 they were using them as routinely as the chronologically later shows did. I wanted to get back to something more like the original intent -- though I admit it's hard to justify not using transporters in emergencies.


    I'm definitely not done with Devna. We know her journey ends up in the Delta Triangle, but how and why does she get there?

    Well, war seemed pretty much inevitable at the end of the episode. Pretty much the point of that story was that everything they tried to do to fix things only made them worse. There wasn't really a way to avoid that. Nor did I want to, since let's face it, Archer and Reed totally bungled that one.
     
  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I knew it's entirely coincidental but before Tom Clancy took a ultra-hard turn to the Right and militarism, the central conceit of his Jack Ryan books was that, as a CIA analyst, his hero's chief contribution to crises was his ability to discern the motives of "enemies." Often discovering what they wanted wasn't necessarily war and everyone was too busy posturing to realize something was up.

    In The Hunt for the Red October, he deduces that they're NOT trying to nuke the United States and trying to defect-avoiding a tragedy. Likewise, in SOAF, our hero figures out the Russians aren't the bad guys and thwarts an Undiscovered Country-like plot to destroy the superpowers by putting them to war against one another (the movie version, IMHO, does it better).

    For me, seeing the world on the brink of war, an evil conspiracy to put the powers against one another, and our intrepid heroes trying to find the truth felt like one of his early novels. Amusingly, like Archer, Jack Ryan ends up President.

    ST:E was kind of up and down about that. Archer had a big problem with bullies and criminals ("Mauraders", "Civilization", "Detained") even if it meant interfering. Yet, there's the infamous "Dear Doctor" episode I suspect not even you could untangle the logics behind. I think episode which handled it best was "Desert Crossing" where Archer obviously is tempted to interfere but recognizes how profoundly stupid that would be.

    The only way to win is not to play. OTOH, knowing the Orion Syndicates carry on indefinitely is rather depressing.

    I get that, certainly, but I think (purely by accident) it sort of missed the Unfortunate Implications (see TV tropes) that this becomes an episode about manipulative conniving women enslaving men with their whiles. I think you nicely balanced things out by making it a pyramid society of slavery.

    For me, that itch was scratched by the Saurian section of the story. It answered that age old question Picard asked Crusher about whether a planet could join the Federation even if it wasn't a one-world government. Likewise, I think it gave us excellent exposure to an alien cultures as well as the morality of dealing with one or not. I also liked the rebuttal given about Warp Drive being the "be end all" of contact is dumb. That people affect people no matter what. We know the PD will go into effect but the very ABSENCE of action has an effect of its own.

    (I'm one of those guys who supports the PD as a policy while also recognizing it should be broken on a regular basis)

    Yeah, I don't agree with the Admiral there, though. I think that revealing the existence of aliens would have probably caused just as much craziness as the reverse. Though, admittedly, it might have PREVENTED a war as Ronald Reagan said that he'd team up with the Soviets to stop an alien invasion.

     
  14. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Generalising this principle is quite naive.

    With some actors - yes, pacifism is the better way.
    With other actors - pacifism will only get you killed; the obvious example being WW2 Axis powers: if the Allies would have adopted a pacifistic position, the nazi would have just killed everything in sight, as they repeatedly proved.
    For a more contemporary example - non-violent opposition did not work so well for the syrians.
     
  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    RL examples, of course, go both ways. Star Trek just dares us to imagine otherwise. I.e. that the Nazis are horrible but maybe this whole thing could have been prevented if we'd figured out how to keep Hitler from power (or even, way back when, negotiated that going to war over six drunken guys killing an Archduke was moronic). War may be necessary but glorifying it tends to beget war.

    I do, however, note that Deep Space Nine could never really come to a conclusion on the reality of a just war. Sisko and Odo resolve the Founders conflict by making peace with them but that's only AFTER they've been threatened with annihilation. The carrot, in this case, was useless without the stick.

    Which may be an answer by itself, albeit a troublingly non-Trek one.
     
  16. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    And if Jesus was not crucified...

    Seeing how humans are not prophets or gods and don't have the power to predict and change the script - no matter how 20/20 hindsight is - such hypotheticals are, in the end, only ways to avoid looking at the problem: many times, pacifism is suicide with no gain.
    And, of course, non-violence has other down-sides, as well: for example, non-violence allows Assad to do whatever he wants in Syria, helped by the pacifism of western nations.

    Star trek, of course, can change the trekverse script in order to make pacifism the ultimate solution to any situation.
    Thus, the question becomes - do you want to read a children's fairy-tale, where the dice are weighted in the favour of the good guys, or a tale set in an universe which acknowledges the realities of the real world?

    Indeed, DS9 was very...let's say, mature, by star trek standards.
    It most definitely departed from the 'pacifism is always the solution' mantra which Christopher seems to be exposing.
     
  17. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    That argument just circles back on itself because if we only restrict our arguments to "the present" you can never say when violence is the best solution. Shooting Nazis is the best solution at Point X but if we're at Point X, why not go to point V or U? You don't prove much about violence other than saying it's right in that very specific instance.

    I don't even disagree with you that much but violence is not necessarily a good answer. It's just an answer.

    One needs look no further to the particular War on Terror. NOT, as you might think, me saying the USA is finding it a poor solution to its problems. No, it's a poor solution for the individuals resisting over in Pakistan's hills.

    The tech level divide can (and does) reach a certain point where violence, in a good/bad/neutral cause doesn't do anything even if your resolve is strong, because resolve/violence does not guarantee victory. Tech can overcome those. It's an unromantic notion but violence is no more inherently effective than any other method. When planning to wage war, you need to have a reasonable chance of victory.

    It was both the benefit and the flaw of the Borg, too. The Borg were cool because they were unreasonable and antithetical to the Federation. Simultaneously, those very facts meant they undermined the whole theme of the setting.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Yeah, but that's the problem -- the characters figured out too early that they shouldn't recklessly interfere, so we didn't get to see them making interesting mistakes. Sure, they screwed up royally in "The Communicator," but as a result of trying not to interfere, rather than as a result of well-intentioned intervention or cultural imperialism.


    But not necessarily in the same form. In the ENT era, they seem to be treated as the actual Orion government -- though at this point I haven't quite figured out how that might work. But by the TNG/DS9 era, they seem to be more of an interspecies crime cartel distinct from Orion as a government; Silent Weapons shows an Orion homeworld whose government is evidently legitimate.


    Well, they haven't joined yet. They've just entered into an economic treaty. As of the end of ACOF, the Federation only has one member beyond the five founders, namely Mars. The process of bringing in new members is a thread I'm exploring in book 2 and probably beyond that.


    You know, that might've been an interesting way to take that story: Archer decides to pretend he's the vanguard of an alien invasion, in order to push the factions to come together. Thus he'd sacrifice any hope of good relations between Earth and their planet in order to save the people of the planet. (And it was awkward for me to reference that episode when they never gave the planet a name. Although maybe that was appropriate, since the warring factions probably gave it different names.)

    Although that wouldn't really have worked. History shows that alliances against a common enemy don't really resolve existing enmities, just put them on hold until the common foe is defeated. The US and the USSR were worse enemies after WWII than before it. And while racial tensions in the US subsided during the war, they flared up with a vengeance when it was over.


    Of course, the reason Hitler was able to gain power was because the German people were suffering, humiliated, and angry due to the harsh, punitive reparations the allies demanded after WWI. If something like the Marshall Plan had been instituted after the First World War, if the allies had helped rebuild Germany and establish a viable relationship with them rather than punishing and marginalizing them, then there wouldn't have been as much resentment and free-floating anger for the Nazis to exploit.

    By the same token, the Ottoman Empire would've been willing to come into WWI on England's side, but Winston Churchill decided to break his word to them and refuse to give them a pair of battleships that they'd paid England to build for them, because he was afraid of those ships being used against England. So his paranoia was a self-fulfilling prophecy -- by treating the Ottomans as an enemy, he gave them reason to side with the enemy when they could've been an ally. And further, it was the West's heavyhanded treatment of the Mideast after WWI -- forcibly dismantling the Ottoman Empire in violation of the promise that had led to its surrender, then arbitrarily drawing lines defining new nations without any consideration for local religious and cultural affiliations -- that generated most of the tensions that have racked the Mideast ever since.

    So a lot of the chaos and conflict of the 20th century could've been avoided if the winners in WWI just hadn't been such jerks. Sure, people like Hitler and bin Laden were total scumbags, but they were only able to gain power because the rank-and-file citizens around them were suffering and angry and looking for someone to blame. If you don't want people like that to end up in charge, then don't create a suffering, desperate population that they can manipulate and expoit.


    I've never agreed with that interpretation. They didn't just end the war because Odo gave them the cure, they ended it because he agreed to return home to stay -- and because he linked with the head Founder and shared with her his trust in the Federation, his certainty that they would not become a threat to the Dominion and would not allow the Klingons or Romulans or others to invade it. Basically he proved to her that, despite what Section 31 had done, the Founders were waging the war based on a faulty premise, i.e. that the Federation posed a threat to them.

    I'll always remember something my father once said -- not the exact words, but the general concept -- about the strange cultural blind spot that perpetuates so much violence, the double standard people use when thinking about oppression and coercion. So many people think, "If anyone tries to oppress or invade our nation, we will just fight back all the harder until we are free. But if we oppress/invade them, it will break their spirits forever and they won't dare to fight us anymore." It never occurs to them that their enemies will react to oppression or violence the same way they would, fighting back harder rather than being defeated. Even though that's pretty much always what really happens.

    The Dominion would never have ended the war based solely on the threat of annihilation. The Federation wouldn't have, so why would they? Maybe they would've backed down long enough to get the cure, but if they'd genuinely believed the Federation was still a threat, they just would've broken the peace and launched a second war. Peace was only possible once they realized the Federation wouldn't harm them if they didn't harm it. Everything the Dominion did was out of fear and mistrust of "solids" -- and Odo ended the war by letting the Female Shapeshifter and the Great Link experience his trust in the Federation, his love for a "solid" woman.


    I suggest you reread Destiny. The Borg weren't defeated by violence.


    And no, I'm not saying "pacifism is always the answer." I'm saying that what goes around comes around. Sometimes fighting is necessary to survive a threat, but it doesn't resolve the underlying factors that created the threat, and by itself it usually just exacerbates them. If violence is the only tool in your kit, then you'll be trapped in a cycle of violence forever. You need something else to wield in addition to it, something more constructive, if you want to find a lasting solution.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  19. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Your argument is rather obtuse.
    Are you trying to say the moments when violence is the only feasible solution are unpredictable?
    I disagree.

    When faced with opponents even half-reasonable and who actually care about not shooting you, pacifism is the better solution.
    When faced with opponents who could care less about killing you, pacifism is suicidal.
    This distinction becomes obvious quite soon in most situations.

    In many situations, it's the only non-suicidal answer.

    Needing to choose violence at times is not even about victory.
    It is about choosing the method that won't end with your opponents having a good laugh and then killing you and all participants to the non-violent demonstration, in the process also terminating your movement and its goals.

    Of course, this is not the situation with USA and the "individuals resisting over in Pakistan's hills"; here, the problem is that terrorists are not the most rational of people and don't have any interest in choosing a non-violent method of achieving their goals.

    You mean, you didn't like the fact the dice, in this instance, were no longer weighed on the side of pacifist solutions in the children's tale.

    No, they were defeated by magic hand-waving; without a doubt, one of the most unrealistic moments in the whole of star trek; the dice were so heavily weighted in favour of our heroes it was rather amusing.
    In real life, of course, you seldom (and I mean SELDOM) find an all-powerful ally that not only solves the problem for you, but does it in such a morally squeaky clean way.
     
  20. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: ENT: A Choice of Futures by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Check out my review of Lost Souls on my blog or the thread. I actually devote a page and a half of text to discussing the "Paradox of the Borg" and how Destiny resolved it, giving the novel a 10/10 as a result.

    http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2013/06/star-trek-destiny-lost-souls-review.html

    You might like it.
     

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