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

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

  1. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Sorry it's taken me a day to reply but I've been getting over jetlag!

    Well, if you can shift Kadohata's actual position in the crew from Second Officer/Science Officer/Ops Manger to just Second Officer and Ops Manager then you could certainly have done it with T'Lana too - remove her from Bridge Duty (ie, remove the Contacts Specialist aspect of the job) and make her JUST the Counselor, like Hegol.

    The two scenes that stuck that idea to me were the first scene with the Rhea's Away Team - her interaction with Selmak and her ex-lover specifically. Selmak should have known what the chemical was even if he didn't know that it used to make pencils, perhaps the explanation of the joke went too far for me - and her 'dumping' the ex-lover because he, like the other members of the away team, didn't know the difference between two words that sound exactly the same.

    Also, I felt the briefing scene in which Kadohata, Elfiki and Trys were talking about the anomalies and the constructs relatively soon after arriving in the area seemed like Elfiki and Kadohata were being dumbed down just to make it look like Trys was a genius.

    It probably wasn't your intention, I can appreciate that, it's just the way it came across to me.

    Well - non-western origin then :)

    Heh - just something I thought because of her knowledge of Noh.

    Anyway - read a bit more of the book today on the bus into town and it's still rattling along. I'm enjoying it, but the more I read of it, I just don't think it's a patch on Orion's Hounds or Ex Machina - possibly because of the crew shifting (which doesn't really occur for the main characters in the other two novels I've mentioned) which occurs across the TNG Relaunch so far. I don't think I'm really going to enjoy the Relaunch (I coincidentally enjoyed Before Dishonor, the first TNG Relaunch with no new main characters - but didn't like Resistance or Q&A) until the cast settles down and we know we've found our new main cast that we'll be following for at least the next three or four novels.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I never gave any indication that Sekmal didn't know what graphite was; of course he did. He was standing on a planet that was full of graphite, and he could read a sensor display. He simply didn't understand what Pennsylvania (which is how it would've sounded to him) had to do with the planet they were on.

    Who says the other members of the team didn't get the reference? Besides, "Noh" isn't pronounced exactly like "no," not if you pronounce both words correctly according to their respective languages' vowel usage.

    Anyway, it's not about Paul's lack of knowledge but his inability to recognize when he's hearing a joke. The point wasn't to paint Trys as a superior intellect, but as a woman who values humor and frivolity -- and who at least has some standards about who she sleeps with, in case her later activities gave a different impression.

    It was meant to hint that Trys was getting intuitive insights from the cluster entity, something that was made more explicit later on. Also to show that she was imaginative enough to be an asset to the crew. Kadohata's resistance had more to do with her skepticism about T'ryssa's abilities in general than any lack of intelligence. And Elfiki is at most only a step or so behind Trys; once she sees where Trys is going, she backs her up and fills in some useful detail. Elfiki's the one who offers a hypothesis for how the planetary brains could've evolved after Trys runs out of ideas, so I don't think she could be considered "dumbed down" there.

    Of course Trys is a genius; she's a Starfleet science officer, so genius should be a given. But she's not the only genius in the scene.

    Well, the Enterprise crew will be the same in Destiny as it is in GTTS. That's your minimum of four novels right there. ;)
     
  3. Romulan_spy

    Romulan_spy Commodore Commodore

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    I just finished reading Greater Than the Sum. I couldn't put it down. I read the whole thing in 1 day. I loved it!

    The 3 things that I enjoyed the most about the story were the cluster entity, the focus on the characters and the epilogue. For me, a big part of Star Trek is about exploring new forms of life. The cluster entity definitely did that for me. And, I liked that the story focused on the characters, their hopes, fears, motivations etc. rather than just fighting the Borg. Even Hugh's Borg provided a great contrast with the other Borg and reinforced the story's themes of family, unity, and individuality. Lastly, the epilogue really blew me away. "resistance is futile ... but welcome". wow. There is no doubt that the Borg are back, bigger and badder than ever.
     
  4. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    O.

    M.

    G.

    I'm about 40 pages (counting the excerpt from Gods of Night and the "About The Author" pages) and this book has edged out Q&A for favorite TNG Relaunch (sorry KRAD!) and Joy Luck Club for Favorite Book in July (because I started reading it in July. Night of the Wolves is shaping up to be the Favorite Book in August).

    I can say, with little doubt, that you've gone a helluva long way towards redeeming the TNG Relaunch.

    Much as the Christmas party starting on page 333 and the month between the destruction of the Frankenstein and the imminent sending off of Guinan was "an invigorating time, a much-needed tonic after the crew's latest ordeals with the Borg", so too has Greater Than The Sum served as an excellent breath of fresh air, allowing us to pause a little bit (since, although it resolved the prior Borg plotlines both in canon and lit, was so much more than that, something that the previous TNG-R Borg books failed to become) and prepare ourselves for what is sure to be a most epic onslaught of action and information contained in the Destiny trilogy.

    One thing that was most fascinating was the pivotal role family (both biological and chosen) played in the novel. I had been afraid that it would get a bit hokey, but that wasn't the cause. I will admit to feeling a bit like the entity in regards to fully understanding what the author was going for, but I think I understand. It is the relationships with the people around us, the interactions, the reactions, the constant give-and-take, that have helped define who we are and how we act and the way we develop and help others develop. And that family isn't necessarily two parents and a child. It's a group of friends that we can confide in, that we know will be there. Or it's that one special someone who truly cares about whether or not you're okay, and who's there to pick you up when you fall down. It's the crewmates around you, sharing a common goal while having different disciplines. It's all of this and more. And that cutting yourself off from all of that means denying yourself an incredible existence.

    And I think that was the best part of the whole book, the theme. Oh, and the puns were great, also. (I liked the "piece of its mind" one best of all).

    Trys is quite possibly the most fascinating character I've come across in Trek Lit. It was another awesome facet of this book.

    I enjoyed how Picard went from a Never-Ending Sacrifice mentality, to the place where he ended up. The scene where he confides in Beverly about why he kept deferring the talk (and action) about procreation because of his experiences as Kamin is one of the most moving and profound since the mind-meld with Sarek, only this one was deeper since Picard wasn't serving as a conduit this time.

    I will admit to muttering Holy shit upon reading the epilogue. My heart felt like it was clutched by an icy hand. I'm actually welcoming the return of the Borg, since that single message terrified me more than Q Who did. And I'm being honest.

    I'm also glad the Leybenzon died, since I have never felt he was redeemable. I will once again comment on the irony of his last assignment being a starship named Bhutto, since the two that come to mind (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto) also died because of their actions. Leybenzon, on some level, wanted to be a martyr, to die for a glorious cause (he essentially says as much), and the two Bhuttos are now regarded as martyrs (rightly or wrongly. In fact, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is called : Shaheed-e-Azam, or The Great Martyr). I would liken Leybenzon's death more to Benazir's, since she willingly went back into a situation that on some level she knew she wouldn't survive from. However, her death didn't really lead to the possibility that Pakistan would be destroyed (more so than it might already have been). Even in death, Leybenzon is unredeemable, and really causes the situation to all FUBAR.

    Overall, brilliantly done Christopher. You've gotten me ready for the Destiny trilogy, Over A Torrent Sea, and long nights without sleep wondering what exactly will happen to the Trek 'verse, and how recognizable it'll be after everything but the shouting is over.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Wow, thanks!


    Well-said. It's interesting to see people reading this in terms I didn't consciously have in mind, coming at it from different angles.

    Tell that to Margaret. I don't think she was too pleased with it.

    Wow, that's great to hear.

    Neat.

    I checked the dates, and I actually wrote the scenes involving the ship a couple of months before Benazir Bhutto died. But it was after she survived a previous assassination attempt. I was trying to pay tribute to her as a peacemaker, and hoping she would succeed and be commemorated by Starfleet for that. But the tribute ended up with a different meaning, unfortunately.
     
  6. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Any idea when we'll get annotations for this, Christopher?
     
  7. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    Trust me, you earned it. It's been a while since I've been so interested in a TNG-R book. And this one has had so many different things going on and going for it: T'Ryssa's journey into maturity (but not enough to damage her humor), the command crew's slow adaption into cohesiveness, the multiple different ideologies and beliefs among that command crew combining together to create a new way of doing things while also keeping the old ways in mind as well, Picard coming to terms with challenges from his past affecting his future with Beverly, Worf's continued evolution into an almost-Spocklike figure, the Liberated, both assimilated and incubated, uniting together to create a new entity based on the experiences of both...all throughout the theme "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" worked, without really being overused, because you were subtle about it, not writing the equivalent of a giant neon sign saying "KEY PLOT POINT HERE!!! KTHXBYE!"

    Interestingly enough, the book *has* made me reconsider, on a slight level, my concerns about starting a family of my own. I've considered, before even knowing about her, having a Trys-like lifestyle. My family life has never been the best, and there are events which have negatively colored the way I perceive families, especially parents. But, after reading this, I realized that, while your biological family does definitely impact the way you do things, it is ultimately up to you (figurative you) in deciding how you want to do things. I've never been comfortable with the thought my ever being a parent (and considering the life I want to live and the things I'll have to do to get there, it would be difficult and mentally uncomfortable for me to become a parent), but I can say that I will definitely give more thought to this as time goes by, instead of automatically rejecting it out of hand. So your book definitely affected me beyond what I would have thought.





    Really? I thought it was funny, especially when Picard used his "Shakespeare used puns and witty comments" defense.



    Part of what made her so fascinating was how she was really hard to pigeonhole. She wasn't "a space slut", because she didn't wear a lowcut flowing dress on the bridge (although at times she wore less). She wasn't a rebel without a cause, fighting against all authority, because her dislike of authoritative figures (something I can fully relate to) goes back to her childhood. She had such an interesting personality and such interesting psychological states and was so compelling that I couldn't not like her. She was quirky, spunky, and fun. And I loved the Rennan/Trys relationship (Careful, you've just set off the dormant shipper in me. I'm also looking for a Dina/Geordi and Worf/Choudhury set of pairings. BTW, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou for marrying Picard and Crusher! I squeed when I read that. The sheer P/Cness of Death in Winter is why it attracted me so, and I was just so glad that the TNG-R finally did things right).

    I think it's safe to say that, between you and David Mack, I'll quit bitching about the Borg being overused and not scary. :techman: ;). Jesus, I'm still getting shivers down my spine.

    I have much respect and admiration for Benazir Bhutto, and now that the timeline for that scene being written is revealed I can see that. However, I will say that she had to know that going back to Pakistan would be a death sentence for her. At least she was actually able to attempt change there, and her death might have, unfortunately, been the impetus for action some Pakistanis needed. Leybenzon, on the other hand, is completely correct in believing that his actions, and his "I'm a big, tough manly soldier in a lame peacetime" mentality is what caused him to end up with a snapped spine and giving the Borg access to the weapon, and possibly pissing them off enough to incite the blitzkrieg attacks on Barolia and Acamar (so much for the Barolian freighter and Sovereign Marouk).

    One other thing I must also commend you for is sparing the Rhea from destruction. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I saw that she survived. First the Luna has that explosion, then the Charon is destroyed, then the Rhea gets the EPS kicked out of it, all while Titan is also being banged about...

    Anyway, megamegamegakudoes.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm waiting until I get my copy, which somehow hasn't happened yet (even Margaret hadn't gotten hers yet, last I asked, which is odd given that they're actually on the shelves). I want to make sure the page numbering hasn't changed since the galleys. The page numbers for Places of Exile were 4 or 5 pages off from what I had in my draft annotations.

    Wow. It's moving and a little scary to hear that what I've written has affected someone else's life.


    :D Let's just say she's a free spirit. And personally I don't think there's anything slutty about having a healthy openness toward sexuality.

    I don't think Trys dislikes authority figures as people; she just dislikes being hemmed in by other people's orders and expectations. She's gotta do her own thing, man, y'know?

    And I made a point of establishing that Picard is the one authority figure she readily defers to, in order to soften that rebellious streak as well as to establish a bond between them.

    I'm gratified that people are having such strong reactions to her. Of course, some are strongly negative, but that's fine; I've long believed that anything with enough substance to leave a strong positive impression in some people is bound to leave a strong negative impression in others, that the only way to avoid upsetting anyone is to avoid delighting anyone. I for one am delighted that Trys is leaving her mark, and I hope I get the chance to write her again before too long.

    Actually Rennan/Trys was an afterthought; I just wanted something for Rennan to do in the story. As for Dina and Geordi, didn't they pretty much agree to be just friends?

    Thank Margaret for that. She hired me to write a book that wrapped up the loose Before Dishonor threads, married Picard and Crusher, and led into Destiny.


    I hope so. Unfortunately, it doesn't often work out that way. Gandhi was martyred, and the Subcontinent abandoned his principles and descended into sectarian division and mass bloodshed almost immediately thereafter. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the Mideast peace he strove for has since disintegrated.

    Did you notice the hint that the Barolian freighter captain was the same one who'd hired the young Trys as a cook when she ran away? I didn't intend that, but I noticed that, coincidentally, the first planet Dave had specified as a target of the Borg, Barolia, was the same one the freighter captain had come from. So I threw in a little in-joke, even though I'm usually not a fan of small-universe syndrome.

    Yeah... there was a lot of violence in this book, by my standards, and I wanted the real climax of the action to be something more positive, more about saving lives than taking them. I wanted some payoff for the themes Choudhury had raised.
     
  9. Romulan_spy

    Romulan_spy Commodore Commodore

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    I was so glad the Borg dropped the "absorb Pluto" trick. I hated that in BD.
     
  10. tenmei

    tenmei Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    See, I really liked that. It seemed like a natural extension of assimilation - and when I was reading it, it seemed like it would have been a midblowingly cool sequence to see in a movie.

    The way I'm looking at it is BD is more of an action/sfx movie and GTTS is a TNG equivalent to The Motion Picture. But then, that's probably because I'm picturing the sector the Enterprise operates in in GTTS as looking like the exterior of V'Ger.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Sorry to disappoint, but it actually looks like this:

    http://www.eso.org/sci/activities/projects/eis/surveys/images/release/OC27.jpg

    That's NGC 6281, the actual cluster in the novel. (It's a big picture, so you might want to reduce the size in your browser.) And that's at high exposure, so there are far more background stars there than you'd see with the naked eye. Up close, it would look pretty much like space, except with several dozen exceptionally bright blue stars filling the sky, and maybe just the faintest wisps of blue nebulosity that would probably be invisible to the naked eye.


    As for absorption, that seemed to be an evolved/mutated ability of the supercube, presumably some kind of nanotech "grey goo" technology, disassembling other matter and reconfiguring it into the desired configuration. The Frankenstein was an assimilated Starfleet vessel with an assimilated crew, so it might not have had that full capability, not having a fully Borg substrate to start from. However, the Frankenstein drones did still have the sleeker, more streamlined characteristics of the BD drones as well as their greater ability to anticipate and relatively greater autonomy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  12. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    It was a combination of factors, with GttS acting as the catalyst and the focal point.


    Amen, brother.

    It's nice to see you're no Herbert. ;) :bolian:



    I can dig it.


    I hope so too, because she was one of the main reasons Greater than the Sum worked so well.


    Dina and Geordi did agree to be friends early on, but at the end they ended up dancing together and...I don't know, maybe I was reading more into it.

    Rennan/Trys was an afterthought? Wow, it totally did not feel that way at all, it was written so nicely.



    All three of which are no mean feat to accomplish.



    I think, unfortunately, it will still take another few decades before the Middle East is able to have peace, and the same for the Subcontinent. If only we had our own Sarek-equivalent, willing to spend however long it takes to work things out.


    Yeah. I thought it was interesting, and darkly witty.

    BTW, why exactly was Barolia the first target? Was there any specific reason, or was David simply tossing darts at that large map of the Federation from Star Charts?

    I was really impressed with the way Choudhury turned out. When I first read descriptions of her, I had been afraid she'd be like Theras.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The reasons will become evident upon reading Destiny and comparing it to Star Charts.


    Theras? Who's that? The only references I can find to that name are an Aenar from The Good That Men Do and a minor crewmember from one of Marvel's 1980 Trek comics.
     
  14. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    Oooh...got it.


    The Aenar.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think I vaguely remember what you're referring to now.
     
  16. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    In my review of The Good That Men Do, I had been...less than pleased, to put it lightly, with Theras and what he did. I felt like he was a bad stereotype of a pacifist, one taken to extremes. I also thought he was weak, emotionally unstable, and that the story would have been better written if he hadn't been in it.

    So I was unsure about Choudhury, as well as how he non-violent ways would come across. If Theras had been written more like Choudhury, then I would have enjoyed TGTMD even more, because while she could be considered pacifistic and was definitely non-violent, she wasn't a weak, sniveling, insecure annoying character in any way.
     
  17. HappyDayRiot

    HappyDayRiot Commodore Commodore

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    Put to better use or maybe even just given to a more serious author, I think it could have been brilliant. As it was in BD it was more comic than anything else (of course it doesn't help when it's all going on and Starfleet's top brass are joking about planet designations in a bunker).

    Oh yes I'd forgotten about this up till now, but Christopher, did you or anyone else at any time raise any concern (if that's the right word) over calling that ship Frankenstein? I remember at the start thinking it was delightfully cheesy and groaned in a Worf-like manner every time it was mentioned.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, it was my idea, so I didn't have a problem with it. I thought it was actually fairly appropriate. Frankenstein isn't just a cheesy monster movie, it's a foundational work of science fiction literature that explores serious themes of creation and responsibility. The whole idea of the Borg is a spiritual descendant of Mary Shelley's creation.

    But yes, it's also a cheesy monster movie, and the name is a bit of a groaner, but so what? I was fine with injecting some humor to lighten what was a pretty dark subject. People do use gallows humor to make such things easier to cope with; recall the songs and cartoons that mocked the Nazis during WWII. While there is a risk of taking humor too far to the point of goofiness, it's just as much a mistake to be too humorless in depicting grim events.

    As for other people's reactions, I was expecting some resistance from Margaret or Paula, but didn't get any. Though as I said, Margaret did ask me to dial back Trys's puns somewhat, so I dropped the part where she announced the Borg's escape from the cluster entity's confinement by saying, "Frankenstein's unbound." Though I'm not sure how many people would've gotten the reference. (And most of them would've probably thought it was to the Roger Corman movie, but I was thinking of the Brian Aldiss novel it was based on.)
     
  19. Dancing Doctor

    Dancing Doctor Admiral Admiral

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    The humor was part of what helped lighten the tension during reading it, for me anyway.

    The difference between Greater than the Sum and Before Dishonor, both of which had humor, is that it was A) in moderation, really, and B) it didn't pop up at inappropriate times and make the reader go "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!"

    The different writing styles also helped to make GttS more successful humor-wise than BD.
     
  20. DarkHorizon

    DarkHorizon Captain Captain

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    Finally been able to maintain a stable internet connection long enough to post my review at my blog. In short? Loved it. In long? Well, read the blog... :D