ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Mar 19, 2014.

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Rate Tower of Babel.

  1. Outstanding

    15 vote(s)
    22.7%
  2. Above Average

    30 vote(s)
    45.5%
  3. Average

    19 vote(s)
    28.8%
  4. Below Average

    2 vote(s)
    3.0%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    One could easily level that criticism at Pocket Book's TOS series. In ENT, the fates of worlds and characters are entirely open. For all we know, anybody but Archer, T'Pol and Tucker could meet a terrible end, including entire worlds. In the past we saw Coridan decimated, a well-established world in TOS contexts.

    Don't be fooled by the prequel status into a false sense of security.
     
  2. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    It would have to be proven as a false sense of security. So far, it's snug as a bug in its security blanket.
     
  3. Reanok

    Reanok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ditto I think that was the best part of the book I liked it their storyline continued in the books.I would love to see Trip's struggles with Section 31 and his relationship T'Pol to have a larger role in the upcoming Enterprise books.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    But is the threat of imminent death the only kind of dramatic tension, the only way to have an emotional stake in what happens to these characters?

    I was on the seat of my pants throughout Tower of Babel -- not because I was worried that, say, T'Pol or Ensign Kirk were going to die, but because I honestly wasn't sure if the Rigel worlds were going to enter the Federation and the First Families be overthrown by book's end. I may have known that Sam Kirk would survive his hostage ordeal, but I was just as invested in Grev. I may know that Archer will become president in two decades, but I didn't know if he'd be thrown in jail in the meantime. I may know that Trip will survive to at least 2238, but I'm really intrigued by what being in Section 31 does to him -- and through him, in the history of Section 31; how does the organization degenerate into the morally corrupt organization of pseudo-fascists we're familiar with by the 24th Century? How will Trip get out, and what will it cost him?

    For the record, these are the fates of the ENT characters we know so far:

    Archer - Established in To Brave the Storm to survive until at least 2186, when he is serving as Federation President during the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Federation; the biographical screen aboard the USS Defiant in "In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II," establishes that Archer served as Ambassador to Andoria from 2169-2175 (it doesn't say whose, or why the Federation or its members would need ambassadors to another Federation member state when they're all part of the union), Federation Councillor for United Earth from 2175-2184, and Federation President from 2184-2192. It is unclear if a barely-legible computer screen is considered binding canon. An unused second page of that computer file established that Archer survived until 2245 and died in upstate New York the day after attending the christening of the first USS Enterprise, but this is not canonical since it was never onscreen. In the alternate reality created by Nero's downtime temporal incursion into 2233, it is possible that Archer may still have survived, possibly serving as a Starfleet Admiral again, with his beloved beagle used as a transporter test subject by Montgomery Scott (Star Trek [2009])

    T'Pol - Survives at least until 2186, where she is serving as an ambassador and living in outer ShiKahr on Vulcan with Trip, who is using the false identity of a Human gardener for T'Pol's clan named "Michael Kenmore" (and not hiding his secret very well, apparently); they have two teenaged children, a girl named T'Mir (aged no more than 20), and a younger boy named Lorian (To Brave the Storm)

    Trip - Beyond the above, he survives under a false identity at least until 2238, when he encounters the young James T. Kirk at a Federation Day celebration in San Francisco (Last Full Measure)

    Hoshi Sato - Survives until at least 2186, when she holds a doctorate and lives on Tarsus IV (To Brave the Storm); her biographical file aboard the Defiant says that she retired from the Federation Starfleet with the rank of lieutenant commander, presumably some time in the 2160s, and that she was responsible for the development of the linguacode translation matrix, but it is unclear if this is binding canon ("In A Mirror, Darkly, Part II"); an unused portion of that same bioscreen established that she eventually married Takashi Kimura and retired to Tarsus IV, where she and her husband died in 2246, two of the victims of Governor Kodos from TOS's "The Conscience of the King;" Christopher's use of Taskashi in Rise of the Federation is a reference to this unused portion of her biography, and he may use this fate, but the information from that second part of the screen is non-canonical since it never appeared onscreen

    Malcolm Reed - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Travis Mayweather - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Tobin Dax - Has to survive long enough to transfer the Dax symbiont to Emony, who was apparently young enough to compete in the 2224 Olympics on Aldebarron (Lives of Dax short story "Old Souls"), implying he needs to survive until at least circa 2215.

    Phlox - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Soval - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT! Also he'll have the USS Soval named after him in the 2360s

    Thy'lek Shran - Although Federation: The First 150 Years establishes that he will eventually serve on the Federation Council, this book is not in continuity with Rise of the Federation, so it could be honored or contradicted at will. So he indeed COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Samuel Kirk - Will need to survive long enough to father Tiberius, but, once that's done, COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT! (Or, he could turn out to be a great-uncle of Jim Kirk, in which case he COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!)

    Takashi Kimura - Again, established in non-canonical bioscreen to survive until 2246, when he dies with his wife, Dr. Hosh Sato, on Tarsus IV at Kodos's order, but this is non-canonical, so he could still DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Thanien - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Bodor chim Grev - Could DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Valeria Williams - Needs to survive long enough to give birth to Tiberius Kirk, if she is supposed to be James T. Kirk's great-grandmother. Once Tiberius is born, or if Christopher later decides she won't be Jim's ancestor, she COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Reynaldo Sangupta - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Therese Liao - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Regina Tallarico - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Michel Romaine - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Elizabeth Culter - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Pedro Ortega - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Bryce Shumar - Fated to die along with the crew of the USS Essex in orbit over Mab-Bu VI in 2167 (TNG: "Power Play")

    Caroline Paris - May be one of Thomas Paris's ancestors, or may just be a distant aunt. Unestablished. If she's to be his ancestor, she'll need to survive long enough to have a child. Once that's done, or if she's an aunt rather than a direct ancestor, then she COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Steven Mullen - Fated to be promoted to second in command aboard the USS Essex and die in 2167 (TNG: "Power Play")

    Miguel Avila - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Thoris - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Haroun al-Rashid - Fated to serve at least one full term as Federation President; the Palais de la Concorde will be completed during his term and some historic debates will occur there between him and Councillor sh'Rothress over the qualifications for Federation membership (Articles of the Federation)

    T'Maran - Fated to serve at least one full term as Federation President (Articles of the Federation)

    Avaranthi sh'Rothress - Fated to serve at least one full term as Federation President (Articles of the Federation)

    Thomas Vanderbilt - Has completed his term as Federation Council President, so he COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    T'Pau - Must survive until at least 2267, to preside over Spock's cancelled weddeing (TOS: "Amok Time"); though, really, enough 24th century novels have used her that she's apparently damn near immortal

    Gora bim Gral - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Danica Erickson - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Marcus Williams - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    T'Rama - Has to survive long enough to give birth to Sarek, but, after that, COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Skon - Has already sired Sarek, so he COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Sobon - Fated to help cure T'Prynn on Vulcan in 2267 (Vanguard: Open Secrets)

    Garos - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    The Three Sisters - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Harad-Sar - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Devna - Must survive long enough to become trapped in Elysia (TAS: "The Time Trap"); she will continue to serve on the Elysian Council when the USS da Vinci visits Elysia in 2376 (SCE: Where Time Stands Still)

    Maltuvis - Must survive long enough to become as legendarily evil a tyrant as Hitler (TOS: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"), but once that's done, COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!

    Agent Harris - COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!
     
  5. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ That must be the record for most consecutive uses of the phrase COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT! ;)
     
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I was determined to prove that the old record COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT! ;)
     
  7. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Nope, it's not the only kind of dramatic tension. But at this point, I'm not invested in the new guys, so I felt no tension in regards to them. They're the proverbial redshirts.

    That being said, the Rigel annexation plot was certainly interesting enough to keep me reading. Despite being a matter of how rather than if.

    I'm as curious as the next fan about how the Federation formed, and as such, the storylines surrounding that will continue to be of interest to me. But putting "safe" characters into what are supposed to be life-threatening situations... well, it seems like a waste of pages, because you already know they're safe.
     
  8. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    I enjoyed the book and rated it "Above Average". I rather enjoyed the Sauria subplot more than the main Rigel plotline. I like the fact that with Sauria we're given a world that's still not united and has to deal with the rammifications of interstellar meddling.

    That said for all the interesting world-building done with Rigel, the whole plot felt very cramped. Or rather it felt like we were dealing with something pretty small, rather than an interplanetary polity with a population of several billion. It's hard to describe exactly, but the way the cast of characters was arranged made the general plotline surrounding Rigel feel like they were discussing the admission of a handful of small planetary communities rather than a major interstellar trading hub.
     
  9. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I'm not sure why you're not invested in them. Quite a few book-original characters are getting as much narrative attention as the canonical characters.

    But there was never any guarantee Rigel would join the Federation in the ENT era. It was entirely plausible that Rigel might not join until the TOS era -- so for the purposes of this book, it was an issue of if rather than how.

    All one of them? The only "safe" character that was ever placed in a life-threatening situation in this book was Sam. (And he's only "safe" so long as Christopher doesn't decide to make him Kirk's great-uncle instead of great-grandfather.)
     
  10. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    It's more of a meta-symptom of the canonical characters never really dying in the novelverse. Somebody has to die, so it's going to be the novelverse characters. As such, though their stories may be interesting, it's unlikely I'll ever really invest in them.

    If not now, then the next book or the next. Eventually it happens. So, yes, I'm curious how it happens, and whether or not it takes more than one try. But it's not at all surprising that it succeeds.

    Yes, there was really only the one character at risk here. But in a more general sense, you know the ship with T'Pol on it isn't going to blow up. You know the ship with Sato on it isn't going down in flames. Have you ever read Scalzi's Redshirts? These Trek novels play out in those tropes. It's hard to rate something more than average if it never tests itself.
     
  11. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I don't understand why that would affect how invested in them you are.

    But there was never any reason to think it would happen in the ENT era. There was every chance that Rigel would stay independent throughout the entire run of the ENT novels. So the thrill wasn't, "Will Rigel join?" It was, "Will our characters achieve their goal?"

    No, you don't. All you know is that T'Pol will live.

    No, you don't. As I demonstrated above, the only indications that Hoshi will survive the ENT era are either non-canonical or of questionable canonocity. There's no particular reason to think Hoshi, or Phlox, or whomever, will survive any given book.

    I mean, essentially all I'm hearing from you is that you don't invest emotional stakes into characters unless they could die at any moment. Which is all well and good, but I think that's a really limited way of evaluating a story or judging its depth.
     
  12. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    If this series fails to conclude with every one of the "non-safe" characters dropping dead simultaneously from an unexplained malady, I will be gravely disappointed.

    :lol:
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Unexplained Malady? I think I heard that song on the radio. Wasn't that the lost hit single by the Righteous Brothers?
     
  14. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Supposing the logic was sound, I think you'd have it backwards.

    The point I'm trying to make is, there are basically 2 classes of characters: Safe, and Not-Safe. Canonical characters are pretty much entirely safe. Non-canonical characters are the only ones in TrekLit who are ever not-safe. Your checklist of safety may be true, but it misses the point. The characters have an investment via the franchise that makes them safe. It's not the history of the universe that makes them safe. It's a problem with tie-in literature in general, and TrekLit rarely rises above it. The story has to be truly remarkable to make up for the fact that the canonical characters are never at stake.

    ToB was interesting, but it certainly wasn't truly remarkable. It put safe characters into situations meant to incite drama, however, the meta-knowledge that they were never truly endangered means that the tension is lost before it's ever established.
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    All of which is a very elaborate way of saying that you don't invest emotional stakes into characters unless they could die at any moment.

    Also, I don't think anyone's invested enough in supporting characters from the least-watched and least-beloved Trek show for CBS to care enough to stop Pocket killing someone like Reed or Hoshi. Or even T'Pol, really; I think her life is more ensured by other ENT novels than by having been on ENT itself.
     
  16. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Like I said, I think you've flipped the logic on this one. The logical progression of your end of the discussion, based upon my previous statements, would be that I only invest in characters who can't die.

    That'd be a very narrow outlook. Their faces alone are bankable commodities, something very few TrekLit characters could lay claim to. They're safe because they're money. Or the potential for money.
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Your statement here makes no sense at all. You just spent several posts talking about how you don't feel any stakes involved in characters who are "safe," and that having "safe" characters is something tie-ins can't "rise above."

    Unless you're trying to take my deconstruction of your argument and use it to imply that I am asserting the opposite principle. But I'm not saying you should only invest in characters who can't die. I'm saying that the idea that whether or not a character is likely to die as a result of the plot seems a silly and arbitrary standard by which to judge how invested to let yourself get.

    I really don't think there are enough ENT fans out there to make those characters "money." Realistically, ENT is already dead aside from the Pocket novels -- no one's slapping Mayweather's face on plastic plates to sell them at the store, no one's making T'Pol/Trip Christmas ornaments. (Hell, the only ENT actor who has continued to have much TV/film success is Scott Bakula; the rest have only had TV guest star spots and the occasional minor role in a movie or two.)

    I really question whether or not CBS views these supporting characters as being monetarily valuable enough to instruct Pocket not to kill them if Pocket thinks a book featuring their deaths would be profitable.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually it was Michael A. Martin who introduced Kimura as part of NX-01's crew and Hoshi's romantic interest in The Romulan War.



    You could say the same about nearly any ongoing TV series, though. We always knew that Kirk or Picard or Sisko was never in any real danger of dying -- but then, we also knew that they don't really exist, that they're actors standing on sets and reading lines from scripts. Why should you care about any character who doesn't exist? You care because you use your imagination, because you choose to suspend your knowledge that it's unreal and let yourself believe for the duration of the story. Believing that a regular character is in danger is simply another act of willing suspension of disbelief, no harder than believing that something you know to be a Hollywood set with rigged pyrotechnic charges going off is "actually" a spaceship under enemy fire.

    Besides, there are other kinds of danger and loss than just death. On a fundamental level, what's really at stake in any story is the risk of failure. Every story is about a character pursuing a goal at which they might fail, and if we get invested in their struggles, it's because we know how bad it feels to fail in pursuing our own goals. Casting that risk in terms of life and death is merely a metaphor. Death in a story is effective if it causes pain and sadness to the characters who survive, or to the audience. So it's the pain and sadness, the emotions caused by loss and failure, that are the real thing we fear. And other kinds of loss or failure can induce those emotions too.

    Consider "The City on the Edge of Forever." Kirk's own life was never really in danger there, but the stakes for him were extremely high because of the pain and loss and guilt he had to face. Or consider "Duet." Kira's life wasn't in danger, but the emotional stakes there were intense. Okay, both of those outcomes involved someone dying, but it was someone else.

    That said, I will concede that there were places in Tower of Babel where I may have made it a little too easy for certain characters to get out of trouble. I wasn't entirely satisfied with how I resolved Archer's crisis on Babel and Val's on Rigel IV, because I was afraid the solutions just fell into place too easily. So I can understand why the stakes may have felt too low. I'm definitely trying to punch things up more in Book 3.
     
  19. Skywalker

    Skywalker Admiral Admiral

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    While Reed is one of the few members of the original ENT cast whose ultimate fate is entirely unknown, I really hope he doesn't get killed off any time soon. He actually might be my favorite character from that era now, thanks to the ROTF series. I already liked him back on ENT, but he's gotten a lot of focus so far in ROTF, and Christopher has done a terrific job of developing him. I'd be really bummed if he were to die. :(
     
  20. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think perhaps you've misunderstood me from the start. It certainly appears you've gone through a logical progression, starting from the wrong position. I'll try to sum up what I've been saying.

    There are characters in TrekLit that, through franchise tie-in reasons, are safe from harm. They have a guardian angel looking out for them at all times. As a reasonably intelligent reader, I know this going into the book.

    As a result of this, there are characters in TrekLit that are more likely to die. If an author can't kill one of the "safe" characters, somebody has to die. These are the Redshirts. There is a veritable Spectrum of Red(shirt). This scale goes from the (hitherto) nameless security guards who accompany a mission, only to get stabbed or blown up, all the way up to the almost main characters, who are fully-fleshed characters, but whose lives (and deaths) serve only to provide "teachable moments" to the safe characters.

    What's the point of investing in these redshirts, whether on the weak end of the spectrum or the strong end? Their lives don't matter, in the long run, except in how they affect the lives of the safe characters. Whether they live or die doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what happens to the main characters as a result; how these redshirts enrich the main cast.

    This is such a huge, gigantic, gaping trope, that seeing it used with such frequency in a single novel detracts from it.

    But we're no longer talking about the television shows, are we? Television shows which belong to an era that has long since passed, where there were never really any consequences from one week to the next. This is literature, where an actor isn't signed on for a seven year deal, plus movies. You can do whatever you like, as an author, but you're playing the tired tropes instead.

    And this is what you've done repeatedly: offer up someone as the sacrificial lamb on the Spectrum of Red(shirt), in order to affect change in the main cast. TROPE!

    Well, I thank you for that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014