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

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

  1. bennyrex

    bennyrex Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I *love* the new security officer. Very awesome. I'll be quite sad if she dies in Destiny, as I'd love to see her approach to security explored more. So far, the major 'wow' moment of the book has been Worf's conversation with her after he's seen her fight from a tactical station for the first time.

    I also really appreciated this scene, because just the other day, the island I work at hosted a 'Festival of India' day, and, in the midst of eating some absolutely fantastic vegetarian food, I got a chance to talk to a woman selling copies of the Bhagavad Gita. I tried to understand her faith, and learn about her spirituality, but it seemed very... static and self-centred. I left feeling a bit disappointed. What attracts me to my particular mode of Christianity is it's altruistic nature, and the importance of self-sacrifice for the good of the world. What this woman was telling me about reminded me too much of the health and wealth gospel, and the concept that one should do good for personal rewards, rather than for the sake of increasing goodness in the world.

    Reading Choudhoury reflecting on her faith, especially mere days after talking to this woman has helped remind me that one woman's perspective on a faith shouldn't sour me on the religion as a whole, just as I wouldn't want Lee Strobel or Pat Robertson to cause someone else to dismiss all of Christianity. (Or, to get closer to my personal roots, I wouldn't anyone to dismiss Anabaptists because of the group of radical violent Anabaptists that took over Munster) It's also made me much more curious about Krishna and Hinduism. Choudhoury's faith is one I find much easier to engage and explore than the bookseller's, even though I do still find parts of it difficult to... not understand, but... I guess, I take issue with the idea that according to the story Choudhoury tells, action must be violent, when it seems to me like someone who has such a holistic concept of 'security' would also realize that action can be non-violent. Though I don't know what action could be taken against the Borg that would be succesful as well as non-violent, what with the Borg being the Borg.

    Although, it's that very argument that I always refuse to kowtow too when people challenge my pacifism with 'Well, the Nazi's had to be fought. Hitler had to be stopped through violence' when I believe that isn't necessarily true, looking at a number of examples of succesful non-violent actions against the Nazi's in Europe. I believe that if people were to bring the same level of sacrifice and discipline to peacemaking and non-violent resistance that has always been brought to bear in war and violent solutions, that we would see that peace by peaceful means isn't just an idealistic pipe dream.

    Maybe I'm saying this too early, having not finished the book, but my one disappointment so far is that it seems violence is being shown as the way to beat the Borg, even by a character like Choudhoury, when one of the reasons I was really looking forward to reading a book with Borg in it by Christopher Bennett was because I wanted to see how Bennett would craft a creative, non-violent solution to the dilemma of the book, as he so often does.

    But, that's a very small complaint from me. One I won't even know is valid until I've finished it. As can be seen by this post, this book has already made me do a lot of thinking and soul-searching, which is the important part of what I was expecting and hoping for from a Bennett book.

    Heh, I thought that was going to be the end of my post, but I just remembered something else.

    I'm also intrigued by the portrayal of Worf, and his discription of Klingon honour. It almost reminds me a bit of more Anabaptist or Christological views of the Old Testament. That all the violence of the Old Testament was merely God controlling and making less 'bad' the violence that was swirling out of control at the time. Like, the statement 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' was not God's ideal, but God compromising, so that punishment would not be hugely out of proportion to the crime.

    But similar to the way Anabaptists explaining away Old Testament violence makes me uneasy at the way it doesn't seem to let the text speak for itself as a product of it's time and culture (even if letting that text speak for itself also makes me uncomfortable at it's bloodthirstiness and, in my eyes, evilness) so too does Christopher's explanation of Klingon honour. I like it. A lot. Very much. Like Chaudhoury's faith, I can have a lot more respect for this sort of Klingon honour then what I've come to see it as through the show... but it doesn't really ring true to me with previous portrayals of Klingons, or even Worf. I can't back this up, though. And I'd like to be wrong, and see that Christopher's way of looking at Klingons be very valid and in line with what we've seen before. I'd be very curious to see what KRAD thought when he first read Worf's statements on honour and Kahless wanting to limit and control war.

    Looking over this post as a whole is making me wonder if maybe I think way too much about Star Trek... but that's the main thing that I love so much about Star Trek. That these fictional stories about fictional worlds and aliens and characters cause me to think so much about the world I actually inhabit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2008
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Cool, thanks. Yeah, I really liked doing that scene.

    She had a pretty odd understanding of the Bhagavad Gita, then. The goal is to act without attachment, without desire for reward or personal gratification.

    Choudhury wasn't saying that all action is violent, she was merely discussing an act of violence in the context of what the Gita said about action. What Krishna said was a broader principle pertaining to all actions, to anything that has an effect on the world, and it guided Choudhury (and Arjuna in the Gita) in their approach to the specific action of combat.

    I like the idea, but I'm not sure how practical it would be. Even Gandhi, the great man of peace, declined to suggest that his methods of nonviolence would be effective against Hitler. They were effective against the British because the British thought they were the good guys, the civilised ones helping save a violent, savage people from themselves. Gandhi showed them that the Indians were not violent savages and that, in fact, the British were themselves inflicting violence on people who'd done nothing to deserve it; and that shamed the British into ending their occupation. But those tactics would not have worked on Hitler, who actually did want to inflict violence and destruction. Gandhi would not fight the Nazis, but he never condemned anyone else for choosing to do so.

    Although who knows? If he'd applied himself to the problem, maybe he could've found a way to do it -- say, to bring the truth to enough of the German people that the Nazis wouldn't have been able to get enough support. It would've been difficult, though, given how effective Hitler was at winning mass support. (It's always struck me as remarkable that these two mirror images, Gandhi and Hitler, lived at the same time -- both extraordinarily charismatic figures able to rally mass movements, but to totally opposite ends.)

    Of course, the challenge of nonviolence becomes even greater when faced with something beyond reason like the Borg, but that didn't keep Jasminder from confronting the question and seeking solutions. And the exploration of these questions will continue into Destiny.

    Well... no comment, yet. :borg:

    Wow. That's a really great thing to hear.


    Hmm. I've never come across that idea before.

    First off, I agree about acknowledging a text as a product of its time and culture. As for Worf, I'm aware it's a bit revisionist, but I'm not really saying that it's the way most Klingons we've seen onscreen interpret things. After all, the original teachings of most spiritual leaders get endlessly reinterpreted by later generations. As for Worf himself, I figure his four years as a diplomat have led him to become more introspective and scholarly. He's probably spent a fair amount of time in conversation with the Kahless clone, I would imagine.

    I could say that it just seems logical to me that a belief system predicated on glorifying cruelty and destruction could never be a viable basis for a civilization -- that in order to be effective and enduring, it would have to be able to manage and regulate the extremes of behavior and minimize the losses suffered by society and individuals. A culture made up solely of berserk killers could never survive as a culture. So I could say that I was trying to move beyond the caricature of the Klingon warrior and get more into how the Klingons could be a functioning civilization within the bounds of what's been depicted. I could also say that I was looking for a way to create common ground between Worf and Choudhury. And all of that would be true.

    But the most fundamental reason, I have to admit, is that I can't really wrap my mind around the mentality of anyone who'd glorify killing, and I couldn't sympathize with Worf if his mentality were simply that. I had to find some way to approach Klingon beliefs in a way that could make some semblance of sense to me.
     
  3. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

    I'd just like to comment on the irony of Leybenzon's last assignment being a starship named Bhutto.
     
  4. HappyDayRiot

    HappyDayRiot Commodore Commodore

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    I think I can easily say this is my favourite TNG-R book of the 4 so far (or 5 if Death in Winter counts). I've enjoyed all of them a lot, but whereas Resistance had me sighing with exasperation every few pages and Before Dishonor was full of awful, awful humour (particularly that unnecessary sequence with the 'peace in our time' ambassador), Greater Than the Sum had me smiling throughout.

    Whether it was the introduction of the new crewmembers, Elfiki, Choudhury, the Bajoran counselor and T'Ryssa (who I personally thought was brilliant), the sudden appearance and development of Hugh and his Liberated, the incredible new lifeform or the addressing of basically every Borg loose-ends, I absolutely loved it. And marrying off Crusher and Picard? It's about time! And they may even beat the Trois to having the first senior officers' baby!

    Speaking of crewmembers, I thought Christopher did a good job with T'Lana, Leybenzon and Kadohata. Okay, the semi-redemption of the universe's least popular counselor didn't evoke any sympathy from me, I was glad she was shipped out in a slightly more dignified fashion than she could have been. Leybenzon, well I never really liked him to start with so his role in the epilogue turned that grin I'd had on my face for the last few hours into a massive evil smirk. And Kadohata... well, I liked her anyway, glad her family/flirting was sorted out and now she's back to the likable lady she was in Q&A - fantastic!

    I think the only question I have after reading it all is about Guinan. I know she's experienced with Borg matters and is a great friend of Picard and probably the best person to have his family vs career debates with, but was there any particular reason she wasn't brought back before GTTS? I don't mind that she's left again too much, it just seems a bit odd to bring back this classic TNG character for just one book.

    So overall my favourite Trek book of the year so far, slightly edged above Fearful Symmetry. I expected nothing less from Christopher of course after Orion's Hounds but those expectations were shattered.

    Finally, am I the only person who laughed like a idiot when the Borg appearred on the E's bridge and Picard, trapped between seats/consoles, thought "Bad bridge design..."?:lol:
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Thanks! Glad to hear it! (Especially since I just read the first Amazon.com review and it's not very flattering. But then, I need to remember that's Amazon.com for ya. On the plus side, GTTS is currently the #14 top seller in Science Fiction and #3 in Space Opera on Amazon.)

    As for who wins the baby race first... well, you'll see. :evil:

    Well, I did what I could with T'Lana in one scene. My hope was that maybe someone else might further her redemption in the future. As for the others, I appreciate your reactions.

    I couldn't tell you why she wasn't included before this. As for why she's only in this book, my intent was to have her stick around at the end, but when Dave found out, he told me that would really complicate things for him in Destiny. Given what a tight deadline he was on for that enormous piece of work, I didn't want to cause him any problems. And it worked out better, really, because it fit with the idea that by the end of the book, the crew had meshed well enough that Picard didn't need Guinan's help with crew morale anymore.
     
  6. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Does this include the Unimatrix Zero rebels? Because I've been dieing to find out what happened to them since I first saw the U0 2 parter.
     
  7. HappyDayRiot

    HappyDayRiot Commodore Commodore

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    The Unimatrix Zero is fairly prominent, yes. I was quite glad to see them followed up on after Voyager ignored them after that one two-parter (the first part of which I think was probably one of the lamest season cliffhangers in Trek).
     
  8. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, finally!:D
     
  9. DeeEss57

    DeeEss57 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    You know, reading about all of these people who already have the book is getting me a little ticked off that I don't have it yet. And, after reading the comments, I'm really looking forward to reading it on Thursday.
     
  10. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    At least you only need to wait till Thursday. I have no idea when I'll be able to get it at this point. I'm broke right now, and I go back to school in mid-August so I can't really get a job till then. Although I am thinking about taking some stuff in to Gamestop for some cash.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Heck, I don't even have my copies yet.
     
  12. bennyrex

    bennyrex Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    ^^ Oh wow. That seems... odd. When does a writer usually see a copy of their book?
     
  13. fleetcaptain

    fleetcaptain Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You know I was surprised to get my copy on friday. I looked for it on thursday night since Memory Alpha had posted it saying it was out and I didn't see a single copy at Barnes and Noble, since that was the only place I could go in after 9. Thankfully they had 3 on friday night. I was going to be upset if I had to wait another week for it.

    But so far, I'm in the middle of Chapter 5 and loving it. It's actually good for a change to have a much better crew and just how the trip took over a month to get to the Cluster.
    Sort of reminded me alittle of the Xindi Mission from the NX-01.

    Just like others have said, I really have enjoyed this book alittle more out of the others from the relaunch line so far. Can't wait to see what happens w/o spoiling myself, since I have a habit of looking at the back of the book. LOL. Great job Christopher.
     
  14. ronny

    ronny Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I found the book a VERY mixed bag.

    I just didn't get into the first third of it. Way too many scenes of people talking as a way to recap what has happened in the other books, recapping what has happened in Borg TV episodes, recapping romances from the show, etc. Then after all that there's a conversation that seemed to me a recap of the prologue. I started a list at one point because I couldn't believe the number of references there were as opposed to anything new. We all like references to things in the show but this was way over the top I thought. I was pretty surprised considering the what I thought was a pretty good track record for Christopher.

    After struggling with GttS for days I read the last third in one sitting. I think the last third is probably my favorite part of TNG-R, which admittedly isn't saying tons but there you have it. Once we're done with the all the set up and get into some story it really picks up. A lot of good action scenes and talks about Picard and a family kind of thing.

    And Leybenzon's final screw up was just amazing. What an awesome ending.

    I skimmed through this thread and went and read the Amazon review Christopher mentioned and I found it to a rather fair review. Yeah, not the most flattering but it wasn't a hit piece. I can't disagree with much of what the review says.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^^Sorry the first third didn't work for you. I was aware it was a bit heavy on the exposition and loose-end tying, but the preceding books had left me various threads I needed to resolve before moving on with my own story. And integrating them better into the story would've been hard because of the time frame. I was given the assignment of telling a single story that bridged the gap between a book taking place no later than mid-2380 and one taking place in February 2381, necessitating the long round trip to get to the action and back. But it didn't seem reasonable that the characters would take so many months to get around to resolving issues from the previous books, so structurally I had little choice but to wrap that all up in the early chapters. I tried to make it as concise as I could, but I probably could've done better.
     
  16. HappyDayRiot

    HappyDayRiot Commodore Commodore

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    I know what you mean. Not too long ago I was starting to notice a lot of referencing, explaining and recapping - I think the main culprit that made me really notice it was A Time For War, A Time For Peace. Q&A had it as well, IIRC. Some books have a lot of 'x no. of years ago...' or 'x character remembered when' but I've gotten used to it now. It's just a side-effect of making each book be readable as a standalone, I would imagine. A lot of readers probably don't even notice it.
     
  17. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's now in Calgary - so hopefully will arrive in Vancouver tommorow which means I can grab it whilst I'm downtown or in Park Royal :)
     
  18. DeeEss57

    DeeEss57 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Yeah, but you've read the book! :) :) :)



    DES
    Save one life and you're a hero.
    Save 230 million and you're a Starfleet officer.
     
  19. HappyDayRiot

    HappyDayRiot Commodore Commodore

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    I don't tend to have a problem waiting for books nowadays - as soon as a review thread pops up on this site for a book I want I head to Amazon Marketplace and get a copy sent over from a UK based seller - as a result I've had the TNG relaunch and Fearful Symmetry up to two months before official UK release.
     
  20. KingstonTrekker

    KingstonTrekker Commander Red Shirt

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    [Sorry the first third didn't work for you. I was aware it was a bit heavy on the exposition and loose-end tying, but the preceding books had left me various threads I needed to resolve before moving on with my own story. And integrating them better into the story would've been hard because of the time frame. I was given the assignment of telling a single story that bridged the gap between a book taking place no later than mid-2380 and one taking place in February 2381, necessitating the long round trip to get to the action and back. But it didn't seem reasonable that the characters would take so many months to get around to resolving issues from the previous books, so structurally I had little choice but to wrap that all up in the early chapters. I tried to make it as concise as I could, but I probably could've done better.

    I just finished the book tonight, after picking it up late last week here in Kingston, Ontario. I thought that the first third of the book worked really well. In my opinion, you did an excellent job of cleaning up the mess that was called Before Dishonour. No offense to Peter David, but I just find that his New Frontier style of over the top writing does not fit well with TNG. From your comments on here, it sounds like your job with GTTS was to pick up the threads from earlier books and prepare everyone for Destiny. Well, in my mind you succeeded!

    I have read some posts on here that have been critical of T'Ryssa. I thought that she was the most refreshing new character to yet appear in the TNG relaunch. Finally, a character with some spunk! She grew throughout the novel; her mind meld scene with Picard was terrific. I am looking forward to seeing how this evolution continues in Destiny.

    I was not sorry to see Leybenzon bite the dust. It was ironic that just before he died he bungled things so badly that the Borg may now be unstoppable. I thought that this was a fitting end for a character who I honestly never liked.

    All of the other characters were also excellent. This is the first TNG relaunch novel where I felt that I could actually connect to the characters, both old and new.

    Well done (as usual)!
     

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