Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Mike Winters, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. Mike Winters

    Mike Winters Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    SPOILER SPACE
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    Ok, I was lucky and my wife let me go to Shore Leave this year (usually falls during our anniversary) and get my copies of the early release books. I devoured this book and was done by Sunday. All I can say is W O W !!!! Christopher Bennett comes through again. He did a wonderful job building on the fallout of Before Dishonor and provided believeable (for the most part) explanations for everyone's atypical behaviour in the last novel. I love how he did not sweep it all under the rug which was what I feared was going to happen.

    While the novel was more Borg heavy than I thought it would be, I was impressed at how it was done so that it wasn't overwhelming, and was used to further the story, but was not the focus of the story.

    As to the final sequence and the lead in to Destiny... All I can say is
    HOLY ****!!!! Now I know what Margaret meant when she said the proofreader of this novel told her she would be very angry if she didn't get to do the next novel.

    Christopher, thank you for a wonderful novel, each book I read (just finished Buried Age) of yours keeps getting better and better.

    Mike Winters
     
  2. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So, how is the fallout dealt with?

    Me and Christopher might have our disagreements but he's still one of the best Trek writers out there - and that's taking into account that all of the current crop are pretty damn brilliant - so it's nice to hear he maintains his reputation here!
     
  3. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Definite spoliers here... you have been warned!
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    I didn't feel that the Borg were all that heavily used, though, to be fair, I was so shocked at Hugh's presence that the Evilborg (TM) pretty much faded into insignificant oblivion... well... until...

    Yea, tell me about it. Usually it's David Mack you can count on for a bloodbath, but CLB definately stuck it to him there. I can't really remember a bigger slaughter in the novels... though I am sure there has been one.

    I'll admit, in the line, "Resistance is futile... but you are welcome to try" (or something like that, I don't have the copy in front of me at the moment) I kept hearing a Clint Eastwood-esque Borg voice. Not sure why.

    Rob+
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It will only cost you 7.99 to find out...


    Well, in The Buried Age,
    I wiped out all life in the galaxy. Sure, it was 252 million years ago, but still...

    Anyway, I can't really take the credit for that, because I was just depicting an event that Dave had already postulated in the outline for Destiny. And it's just a harbinger of what's to come...
     
  5. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    In response to my notation of Christopher's sadistic bloodbath he reminded me...
    Good point. It's hard to remember all the details of every book, as I read so much (fiction and non-fiction). I retract my accusation of David being the biggest mass murderer in galactic history. Did anyone get the license plate on that starship that Christopher was driving?

    You are such a tease... you really should explore a future in said line of work. :lol:

    Rob+
     
  6. Kopernikus

    Kopernikus Commander Red Shirt

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    Since this is a Spoiler-thread, you surely can say more. Please....:drool:
     
  7. Brynthe2

    Brynthe2 Commander Red Shirt

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    Okay.. well that's all I need to know in order to go ahead and set aside some time to start harassing the local bookstores on a regular, daily basis.

    BN.com is showing that the book is currently shipping. Anyone order from them and already get notification that is has shipped?

    **BTW, Christopher, do you think you could harass whichever department is in charge of getting the Kindle edition out the door, a bit? It seems that the Kindle editions just get put out whenever someone gets around to it, with no sort of reliable time frame (still waiting on Fearful Symmetry too.)
     
  8. FatherRob

    FatherRob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Let's just say that the Borg's actions could be rationalized as testing molecular adhesion bond breaking points... on the planetary level. With said planetary unit having a significant number of carbon-based life forms upon it... we can also extrapolate that the Borg are performing a secondary experiment on survivability of carbon based life in extreme and varied conditions. Yea, that's the ticket. The Borg end Greater Than the Sum with substantial imperical evidence for their forthcoming doctoral thesis, tenatively titled "Subatomic Particulate Bonds and Effects of Extreme Stimuli on Planetary Scales" and we'll just leave it at that.

    Christopher, any word from Margaret yet on if you'll be writing that piece of in-universe literature for a forthcoming volume?

    Rob+
     
  9. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    ^Wow. Sounds like they were right when they said the Borg were taking things up to a whole new level.
     
  10. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    SPOILERS. BIG BIG SPOILERS. LOTS OF THEM. IN A VERY BIG REVIEW.
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    I have to admit, I didn't think this one was quite up to CLB's usual standards. I loved the thematic nature of the story and the emphasis on family, and how that was manifested in so many different ways (Picard & Crusher, Geordi alone, Guinan's past, T'Ryssa's past contrasted with Kadohata's present, the Borg, the giant intelligence, and Hugh - they all had something to contribute to the theme), so the core of the book was quite wonderful. But, well...

    Ok. So, first of all, this deals with the Einstein, which it looks like doesn't have anything to do with the Borg invasion in Destiny. I was hoping there'd be some kind of ongoing thread throughout all this, and while there might be, it certainly isn't apparent in this story. It certainly seems like we follow a standalone Borg story with... another, unrelated Borg story. I'm not one of the people that thinks the Borg are tired and lame, but this is a mite excessive. If all of the TNG books so far involved Romulans and no other enemies, I think people'd have the same reaction.

    Two, I didn't really get T'Ryssa. She seemed too much like the standard, idealized female character that guys tend to invent in, for instance, very bad computer games - horny, loose, constantly cracking puns, beautiful, and brilliant, not to mention that she ends up prancing around naked at least 3 times. And, of course, whilst being unconventional and irritating, she eventually gains the love and respect of her new crew. I predicted her whole story from the moment Picard saw her application. Not quite Mary Sue, but a related phenomenon... author's fantasy, perhaps, as made whole in a novel. Maybe I'm being unfair, but either way, she didn't work for me at all, despite the interesting idea of an undisciplined half-Vulcan. Maybe Mack will take her interesting places.

    Three, I really didn't like the way the aftermath of the mutiny plot was handled. Seemed like the first third of the book was little more than lots of characters apologizing for acting like idiots and then promptly exiting the story. T'Lara and Leybenzon pissed off so many people that I can sorta see shuffling them aside just to not ruffle feathers, but it seems...I don't know...selfish, somehow, like CLB took all the characters he didn't like and replaced them with his own just because he could. Especially with T'Ryssa seeming like such a stereotypical fantasy girl, and then Leybenzon in his brief appearance being one-dimensional and unrealistic... I didn't much like him either, but I thought there was a real story to tell with him. Turning him into 100% Violence Boy, and then having him screw up and die 10 pages later, seemed lame. A waste of resources.

    Oh, and it also seemed odd to me that the primary emotional conflict around our Captain in this series involves having a child, just like it does in Titan at this point. It makes sense for both characters, and when they meet up in Destiny I look forward to some interesting conversations on the subject, but it did seem repetitive. This is a minor complaint, though.

    I did like the other new characters, the scientist and the security chief, and look forward to where Mack takes everyone. I also thought the idea for the giant intelligence was fantastic, and the interactions between it and the crew were cleverly written. Most of the plot itself was great, really, just the context was really irritating in a lot of cases. If you remove the general TNG-Relaunch sloppiness and its aftereffects, and the character of T'Ryssa, and this happened to not be immediately bookended on both sides by more Borg stories, it would've been pretty fantastic. As it stands, maybe 7/10.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, I'll take that as an overall compliment.


    Well, the job I was hired to do was to wrap up the leftover threads from Before Dishonor and set up the board for Destiny. So it is kind of a betwixt-and-between story. But that's just the plot. What matters isn't the Borg; what matters are the characters and their arcs. At its heart, this was a story about Picard and how he's affected by the Borg threat. GTTS was about him finally reaching a point where he could feel that the threat had been resolved, his crew/family was in a good place, and he was ready to move on with his life -- only for the universe to yank the rug out from under him and kick the real threat into gear with Destiny. So there is an ongoing thread, but it's more thematic.


    Idealized?? If someone that neurotic and annoying is your ideal, you have low standards. ;) Okay, she's witty, but so's Geordi; so's Tom Paris; so's Fabian Stevens; so's virtually any New Frontier character. Okay, she's attractive, but so are most other characters in a TV universe, and so are a number of the book-only characters. (Heck, Dina Elfiki's the real mega-babe among the new crewmembers. And Choudhury's a striking, statuesque woman as well. Trys is more cute than glamorous.) Okay, she's smart and capable in her field, but so is everyone else in Starfleet. And as for her active sexual life, that's not so different from various other characters in the literature these days, like Lavena and Ra-Havreii in Titan, T'Prynn and Sandesjo in Vanguard, etc. And it's more a manifestation of her fear of commitment than of my fantasies. I'm not the type to fantasize about a woman who'd probably dump me the moment I tried to get serious with her.


    It's not that hard to predict the overall arc of a new character being added to a cast. There are only so many story structures in the world. What matters is the execution. I wasn't writing a story about "Will she or won't she join the crew?" I was using her process of integration into the crew as a means to the more important end of exploring character -- not only her character, but the characters of Picard, Worf, La Forge, Kadohata, Choudhury, Guinan, etc. as revealed through their interactions with her. This was a book about the Enterprise crew trying to achieve a new balance after the turbulence of recent months, and how better to explore that in microcosm than by adding a character who shakes things up and isn't a natural fit into the group? As you said, this was a book about family; and it was also a book about Picard confronting the prospect of fatherhood. So I gave Picard a surrogate daughter figure who was a real handful, so as to create challenges for the crew as they tried to recapture that old sense of family.

    Maybe a little; she is very closely based on a character I originally created for a role-playing game a few years back. (It was an e-mail game, with a friend as the game master and me as the sole player. I played a Starfleet officer transported into a Dungeons and Dragons universe -- hence the recurring themes of dragons and elves herein.) But being a writer, I tried to create a game character with flaws and complexities that would be interesting to write about, rather than an idealized alter ego. And Trys actually turned out rather more neurotic than the original T'Lyssa character was.


    Actually T'Lana's departure was established at the end of Before Dishonor. Otherwise I would've gladly kept her around and tried to rehabilitate her -- something I did attempt to do in the brief scene I was able to give her. And Leybenzon's departure was decided on before I was hired to do this novel. I was brought in just after Destiny had been outlined, and Dave had already created Jasminder Choudhury as Leybenzon's replacement. Not that I had a problem with that, since I find Choudhury a far more interesting and enjoyable character to write than Leybenzon was.

    And Leybenzon didn't apologize for a thing, as far as I can recall.


    I think of it more as a thematic parallel. Actually in my first draft, Picard's arc was about whether or not to marry Beverly, but Margaret convinced me it was better to make that a fait accompli and move him on to the next phase.

    Well, I appreciate that, and I'd be happy to talk at greater length about the parts you did like. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  12. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Hmmm. A whole new bunch of characters - our third lot in four novels! We're never going to be able to have a character stick around to know them and know what is in character and what is out of character for them!

    We've been offered up some excellent candidates for permanent new characters (in Nave especially - if she had survived, her taking part in the mutiny would have made more sense than Leybenzons in BD) and lost them within a book or two with no way to explore dynamics.

    Like we got in the DS9 Relaunch where all of our main cast was going to be brought in during the opening duology, I'd hoped the new Enterprise crew would all be present and accounted for by the end of the second novel at least - and now we find they're not.

    I just hope this new group don't turn into a bunch of bumbling sycophants. That's one of the things that I liked about Before Dishonor, the fact that Kadohata, Leybenzon and T'Lana were so willing to tell Picard that they disagreed with him and fight for that position especially when Picard contravened Starfleet orders instead of just folding and letting him do what he wanted like the TNG crew.

    I thought the scene at the end of BD with T'Lana's request for transfer wasn't set in stone - was hoping that she'd stay and continue to be a bit of a thorn in everyone's side. She was a good character.

    So, I'm assuming Leybenzon and T'Lana are gone? Kadohata is staying? The barely mentioned Joanna Faur is STILL at CONN?

    Have I understood right that Choudhury is the Security Chief, T'Ryssa is the Science Officer and Elfiki is the new Counselor?
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Not a whole bunch. And they stick around at least as far as Destiny.

    Why not read the book and then say whether the dynamics get explored?

    And that instability in the crew is a key issue that Picard is trying to deal with in the novel. Again, maybe you should read the book before you judge.


    BD was a highly atypical situation. It's the crew's duty to obey the captain's orders, but Picard has always been a commander who sought the consensus of his crew. So I don't think it makes a lot of sense to define the question as being one of blind obedience versus mutiny. There's a lot more precedent to keep in mind than just the previous book.


    It was a little ambiguous, but the gist of that scene in BD was that either she got a transfer or she resigned from Starfleet, so either way, she was off.


    Yep. Anything wrong with having Faur at conn? :confused:


    Yes, not exactly, and no. We already tried just plugging new characters into the same jobs, and it didn't quite work out. I wanted to try rearranging things a little.
     
  14. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I meant with regards to the characters of Nave, Battaglio, Leybenzon and T'Lana, not with regards to the new characters.

    Right, maybe the instability in the crew is a key issue that Picard is trying to deal with. But it doesn't stop me wishing that we'd got a permanent crew from the second novel or thereabouts and we're getting to the fourth novel - and we're still getting changes. I liked the fact the DS9 Relaunch felt like a new season of the show with a new regular cast and the changes in the first four novels of the TNG Relaunch don't make it feel like a new season of the show :(

    It seemed to me that Picard was quite willing to ingore the views of the new crew in favour of the views of his older crew. Picard expresses his point of view, the older crew agree with that - and the new crew disagree but they're ignored despite them being on the side of their orders from Starfleet.

    Sure, the situation might have been an extreme one, but Picard did show a predisposition to listen to his friends and ignore the new crewmembers and he did the same with ignoring T'Lana in 'Resistance' when she reminded him he wasn't supposed to interact with the Borg cube.

    Oh, no, nothing wrong. I just hope she'll get some decent scene time this time round instead of just being a name.

    Hmmm. I mean, I like the way that Titan doesn't focus on the senior staff but I like the fact we know who the senior staff is - so I'm hoping this won't change and when we get senior staff meetings the senior staff will actually be there (has Rager been in any of the staff meetings on Titan, has she actually done anything in four books ?).
     
  15. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Yes, Jasminder Choudhury stays on as the new Enterprise-E security chief.

    T'Ryssa Chen has a more nebulous job description -- contact specialist, science expert, and relief conn officer.

    Lieutenant Dina Elfiki is the new senior science officer of the Enterprise.
     
  16. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So, no new Counselor then? That I can live with - assuming there'll be a counselor, we just won't have them as a regular character.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, we can't change the past. All I (or Picard) can do is try to put together a crew that can be stable from this point forward. GTTS is several months after BD and is a lead-in to Destiny and what follows; think of it as a season premiere of sorts, a new start.

    I don't think that's a fair assessment. Picard considered their input, but he still made his own decision, as is his right as a captain.

    Besides, as I said, you can't judge the character based solely on one book. There have been hundreds and hundreds of TNG episodes, novels, and stories.



    Tell you what: instead of dwelling on what you're afraid might or might not happen in the book, why don't you make things easy for yourself and just read it? Then you'll know.


    Uhh, since when was Trys a relief conn officer? I didn't establish that.


    Deanna basically did two jobs, counselor for the crew and contact specialist advising the captain on diplomatic and contact situations, alien psychology, etc. T'Lana apparently had the same dual role, but there's no reason to assume that every counselor would. Naturally the ship has a counselor (and you'll find out who it is if you read the book), but I assume a normal counselor would not be posted on the bridge as a matter of course.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2008
  18. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Christopher - thanks for the long reply. I think it's fantastic that all the authors hang around on these boards and respond to our comments; none of the other tv shows or novel series I read has anything similar, so it's a real privilege.

    Regarding the crew shuffling - I also thought it was ambiguous whether or not T'Lana would leave, so I wasn't expecting that, and as for Leybenzon, even if he was scripted to have left the ship, why kill him off so suddenly? No one liked him enough for that to be an effective Dramatic Moment, and it seemed to me that all it did was take a potentially interesting character, reduce him to one dimension, and eliminate him. Like I said, a waste of resources. Even if you and David Mack didn't want him on the ship, why not leave him alive for later authors to play with if they wanted?

    As for T'Ryssa, well, it seemed to me that most of her character was something like "I am smart and awesome enough to know that I'm an annoying unprofessional person, but I'm cute enough that I don't have to do anything about it, so everyone else gets to deal!" And after a book in which many people were criticizing several of the new characters for a lack of Starfleet professionalism, a new character who not only doesn't have any but basically refuses to do anything about it seemed like salt in the wound. The constant punning, sleeping around, and lack of respect for authority made her into what I feel is a pretty common archetype in bad, male-centered entertainment; I didn't mean to insult you or anything by saying that, I apologize if any offense was felt, it's just an archetype that I personally think is really irritating. Just about every time she did a neurotic, annoying rant that made everyone smile despite themselves I had an "oh please" moment. I'd have kicked her off the ship. Though, if nothing else, the fact that Kadohata hated her at first made me like Kadohata more... ;)

    Actually, I didn't mention this in my previous post, but I really loved what you did with Kadohata; I was hoping for similarly layered characterizations of T'Lana and Leybenzon, because I knew you'd be able to pull that off and make real and interesting people out of the confusion of the earlier books. I was disappointed that you didn't, whether by your or by editorial decision.

    Like you said, the book was primarily about the character arcs, and so since I had some trouble with a few of them it diminished my enjoyment. The setting was outstanding - your novels have some of the greatest sci-fi ideas to appear in Star Trek in years. I really hope that this enormous thinking entity thing finds its way back into the novels at some point, because by the end of the book I was every bit as interested in that thing as a character as I was in all the actual people. Taking a wild idea like that and giving it personality (subtly, not like Q or Nagilum) was fascinating. The Borg were almost an afterthought, a way to get into the story with this creature and a way to underscore the familial theme of the book, and I liked that a lot. If there had to be so many Borg stories in a row, this was definitely the way to take one. There was a lot I loved about this novel.

    I guess maybe my expectations were too high; this is the first time there's been a character in any of your books I haven't really enjoyed. Based on the quality of your earlier novels, I was expecting you to come in to the slightly clumsy TNG Relaunch and fix it, turning everything into people that made sense and long term arcs that connected. Now that I know that a lot of the decisions to remove characters, etc, weren't your fault I realize what a hard job writing the first third of this book must have been, and I suppose it was the best it could've been. But it's really odd to me how all the other ongoing book series I've read - NF, DS9 Relaunch, Gorkon, Titan, Vanguard, A Time To... - kept long term arcs going, but this series seems determined to reinvent itself every book. It's jarring.

    I liked Before Dishonor a lot; I thought it didn't fit into the ongoing story well, but on its own it was a pretty entertaining romp. I feel pretty much the same way about this; the ongoing story is still frustrating, but the standalone plot is pretty entertaining. Fair enough?
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We wanted to kill someone off to underline, basically, that we meant business with this new story development. I had a choice of T'Lana or Leybenzon, and I wanted to leave T'Lana around for possible redemption.

    Besides, I really don't have much sympathy for characters who think of combat as a desirable thing. I wanted to make a point about what that mentality leads to.


    :lol: Actually I kinda like that.

    First of all, I don't think a little unruliness is in the same category as throwing your captain in the brig. Second, I think you're confusing style with substance. She maintains her irreverence, but she mellows over the course of the book and is a better officer at the end than she started out being.

    Like Trys said, she doesn't lack respect for authority, she's just not very good at following it. She took (or was alluded to having taken) three lovers in the course of a book that spans several months, which makes her probably less active than Riker or Bashir, say. And the puns? That's just me. You should see some of the puns I wanted to use but didn't. (Worf gives T'Ryssa a speech about how he's grown and matured, and she replies, "Good to know you're not a static Klingon.")


    To be honest, I don't think I could've done much with Leybenzon. I appreciate what Keith was going for with the character, but I wouldn't have been the right author to tackle a character like that effectively. I bet Dave could've done something interesting with him, but it wasn't in the cards.


    That's really nice to hear. It was an interesting challenge I set for myself, to depict an alien mind without having it speak a word, but it really helped make it different from your usual alien.

    Basically, I just wanted to do something I hadn't done before. I'd done planet-dwelling civilizations, I'd done spacegoing intelligences, so I wanted to do something that was neither.

    That's also nice to hear. :) I did want it to be as much a change of pace as possible.


    I guess I should take that as a compliment, but I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to make T'Ryssa as appealing to you as she is to me.

    Well, the authors of the 2008-9 TNG books -- myself, Dave Mack, and William Leisner -- have been keeping in regular contact and coordinating our efforts to keep things reasonably consistent from here on. Although different books won't necessarily focus on the same characters to the same degree.
     
  20. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Fair enough, I suppose, but I never thought that Leybenzon loved combat, just that he understood it and found the real officers unclear and arbitrary. Which I thought was an interesting conflict. Oh well.
    That's good - you wrote it, you're supposed to :lol:. I disagree, but I'm sure others won't. Really, that's the jist of it - the character isn't unrealistic, she's just a sort of character that annoys me a lot. To each his own, right?
    THAT's funny :lol:
    Plus, I loved the idea of, all over the ship, anytime any two people are really getting into each other and having a private moment POOF suddenly appears a creepy gray semi-person, staring at them. A couple of the scenes where that happened really made me laugh.
    That's really good to hear. I'm looking forward to this new crew starting to build some storytelling momentum.
     

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