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

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

  1. jjh19

    jjh19 Ensign Newbie

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    I finished reading Greater Than The Sum this morning and it was a terrific book. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought Christopher L. Bennett did a wonderful job bringing in threads from multiple Star Trek sources and setting up the monumental Destiny storyline. I felt like the balance between classic TNG'ers and new crewmembers was spot on.

    I'm relatively late to the game as far as post-Nemesis TNG books but that is something I really enjoyed about GTTS. I've obviously missed some great TNG stories but GTTS got me up-to-date and prepped for the stories to come.

    I got lucky and was handed a copy by Margaret Clark at Comic Con. She told me this would be a great read and would get me ready for what is to come. And boy was she right. I've already got the three Destiny books pre-ordered and I can't wait to read them.

    I lost Star Trek Books for a while but I'm glad I'm back. Thanks to Margaret and Christopher for pulling me back in.
     
  2. Caleuche

    Caleuche Commander Red Shirt

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    Finished it today. Enjoyed it, but not as much as Orions Hounds. Second best book of the TNG-R behind Q&A. It suffered slightly as it had to deal with Before Dishonors fall out and set-up Destiny. The fall out of Before Dishonor was dealt with well. T'Lanas apology made sense. Kadohata and Worfs sudden personalty shifts were explained in a logical way. Leybenzon sulked off to a bloody death. Bit worried if Kadohatas first instinct after argueing with her husband is to flirt with crazied security chiefs though.

    Trys (it that said tris or tries?), I found myself indifferent to. She came across as a cross between Buffy (quippy, daddy issues) and Lyra from His Dark Materials (not always truthful, lets her imagination run away with her). Didn't buy her and Konyas romance/attraction, they seem a little ill suited. The only moment she stood out for me was with her confrontation with Kadohata, where Kadohata got to justify why she has left her children behind.

    There did seem to be a undercurrent of mother/child abandonment. Mothers either left their children (Kadohata, Guinan, Rebekah, Captain La Forge) or got left by them (Crusher, Antigone Chen). In fact no one in the book seemed to have a relationship with their mother/child that was heathly, which in a book about family seems a little strange.

    Like the new crew, Choudhury, Elfiki, Hegol Den and Faur, even if they didn't get much page time. Nice to see Konya back as well. This book was much more fun than the rest of TNG-R simply by having a crew that worked together well and liked each other.

    Choudhury stood out the most as something a little different, though her habit of crying when she has to shoot someone could prove to be a liabilty in a Security Chief.

    Excellent Ending. Best About the Author, I've seen as well.

    Apparently there were Borg in the book as well. Thankfully they didn't turn up too much. Planets than are brains are a lot more interesting.
     
  3. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    Faur isn't new -- she first appeared in Q & A.
     
  4. Caleuche

    Caleuche Commander Red Shirt

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    Did she? Sorry, My bad.:) Would be nice to see more of her then, as the personality-limited Conn officer was one of the more annoying aspects of the later seasons of TNG.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Thanks!


    Rhymes with "Chris." ;)

    Not familiar with the latter. And T'ryssa's bio is essentially that of a gaming character I created in 1996, before Buffy premiered as a TV series.

    How so?

    The only moment she stood out for me was with her confrontation with Kadohata, where Kadohata got to justify why she has left her children behind.

    Never thought of it that way, and it seems an odd way of looking at it. Neither Rebekah nor Silva La Forge "left" their children (at least not the first time in Rebekah's case), and Kadohata hasn't left hers, she just spends a lot of time away from them. And Guinan's many children probably grew up and went off on their own rather than being "left" by her. So I think this is reaching to find a pattern.

    Like the new crew, Choudhury, Elfiki, Hegol Den and Faur, even if they didn't get much page time. Nice to see Konya back as well. This book was much more fun than the rest of TNG-R simply by having a crew that worked together well and liked each other.

    I couldn't disagree more. Anyone who's too hardened to grieve at the necessity to take life is someone that I wouldn't trust with the power to do so. Choudhury is more than capable of doing what she has to do and saving her grief until afterward, so it doesn't get in the way of her doing her job. And her regard for life means she won't use any more force than strictly necessary, and that's exactly how it's supposed to be done. TV and movies have spoiled us with images of action heroes who can kill without remorse, but in reality, it isn't that easy. Police officers who have to kill in the line of duty generally need therapy to cope with the grief. It's not an easy thing to be responsible for taking a life. It never should be an easy thing. Even when it's a necessary evil, any decent human being should still be able to mourn the loss of life. Compassion is not a weakness, and its absence is a pathology.
     
  6. Caleuche

    Caleuche Commander Red Shirt

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    Trys and Konya - She's a mouthy, energetic neurotic whose brain appears to be overactive to the point of bursting out of her skull. He's a bit calmer, quieter and centred. They seem too opposite to me to work. I could see her finding him a bit dull.

    Choudhury - I agree with much of what you've said there, my fear with her is that would be that her desire not to shoot has the potential to cause her to be hestiant at the wrong time.

    But will Kadohatas children see it in the same way? If she spends a large amount of time away, how is that any different from actually leaving. Shes still not there.

    Yeah, I was reaching a bit. However for whatever reason the mothers and the children weren't in contact (Kadohata excepted) and all of them were apart and in all cases it seemed to be causing upset or hurt. It would have been nice to see one mother/child relationship that was still strong and ongoing.
     
  7. Csalem

    Csalem Commodore Commodore

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    Finished this yesterday and thought it was a good book. It was a bit tough getting through the beginning and tying up all the loose ends but once the story got going it was very good.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2008
  8. Stephen!

    Stephen! Captain Captain

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    Is it simply just coincidence that Borg cubes start invading the Alpha Quadrant a few months after the destruction of the Frankenstein?
     
  9. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    It might be mere coincidence … or maybe it was — wait for it…

    Destiny!

    Sorry, couldn't resist. :)
     
  10. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    GUARDS!!!!
     
  11. ClayinCA

    ClayinCA Commodore Commodore

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    See, I thought that made the attraction more realistic. Fiction (and indeed, life) is full of examples of someone who's a bit wild at heart finding that someone who's calmer and quieter can help the "wild" person to center him- or herself. I can especially see that in someone like Trys (who, for the record, I found delightful for all her faults, or even because of them).


    [Gene Wilder] Destiny - ! Destiny - ! No escaping, that's for me! [/Gene Wilder]
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Go back and re-read the description about the advantages of being intimate with someone who can psionically sense your body's responses. Trust me, she doesn't find him dull. :evil:


    She's far too disciplined for that. And as she told Worf, she's long since accepted what Krishna taught Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita, about the appropriateness of using necessary force so long as it's done without malice or personal gain. She's trained her mind for decades and is able to detach herself from her actions and simply act, as both her philosophy and her security training demand.

    But Jasminder went through hell in the Dominion War (although I left it to later writers to explore the specifics if they wished), and even someone as mentally balanced and serene as she is would still inevitably be scarred by such a thing. The events of the battle brought back memories of that trauma, and though she's too disciplined to let it affect her in the heat of the moment, she's still human and had to deal with those emotions after the fact.

    After all, without that vulnerability, she would've been entirely too perfect, don't you think?


    I see it more as cosmic irony.
     
  13. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, great a new one.:p
     
  14. Bec

    Bec Commander Red Shirt

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    I finished reading Greater Than The Sum the other day and I must say I was very pleased.

    It's a thoroughly enjoyable book and I loved Christopher's writing style, easy to follow but yet still very descriptive, without being overly verbose for the sake of it, like a Ms. Jarman. No, it was just the right balance.

    It soon became clear to me that this book wasn't about the Borg. No, the story is about family. It'd be hard to miss that point.. what with Picard's fears about starting a family, Chen's abandonment issues, the Liberator's desire to be able to procreate and so on. Family was certainly at the fore here, perhaps a bit too much at the end. It started to feel like that the whole book was connected to the issue. Everything tied in to family. But, then, I suppose you could say that's true of life too. Hmm, anyway, minor complaint.

    Choudhory (sp?) would probably be my favourite of my new characters. She just seems so different to the norm. We didn't see enough of Elfiki for me to form an opinion yet.

    As for T'rys, hmm... I'm not so sure. I noticed earlier on in the thread, someone said she seemed very Mary Sue-ish and I think I can understand that viewpoint. She was the only one out of everyone who was able to communicate with the creature, she obviously has no problem getting guys and making them fall hard for her judging by Konya's thought near the end, she's perfectly capable in social situations (although, she may have no discernible social boundaries and has a problem with the chain of command, she never seems to be shy or embarassed and is extremely outgoing), she has a sob story that allows her to connect with the one character who seemed to dislike her - Kadohata, she's funny...

    In short, this girl is just too good. Everyone seems to love her. And she solves some of the main problems in the story. That's a Mary Sue in my book.

    Sure, she's not perfect. But her problems with the chain of command seem only to make her more endearing to the crew by the end of the book.

    And yeah, she's got family issues. I did like that scene with Kadohata actually, it showed there is actual real pain there and that she's had some problems in her life. Good. Everyone should have. I'd like to see her past explored more. Let's get to some dark stuff.

    Does Chen feature in Destiny? I'd be interested to see what David Mack and other authors do with her.

    Basically, I just can't decide whether I like her or not. She's an intriuging character to be sure but I didn't like to way everyone seemed to think she was the bee's knees by the end of the book.

    The science portion of the plot wasn't even a huge problem for me. I was able to follow what was going on, more or less. There was one chapter that had a lot of scientific terms that just went completely over my head though. I don't have a science brain. I still don't think I know what a carbon world is.

    The only other criticism I have isn't even a valid criticism. And that's Guinan. First of all, it was a great surprise to see she had a fair-sized role here. I didn't even realise she was going to be in the book so it was a very welcome treat!

    But why, oh, why.. did she have to leave the Enterprise again at the end? I love Guinan. And I want her to stay on the ship. For good. I don't care if Choudhory can fill her shoes or not. They can both stay. Picard may not need her but I do. :lol: Bring Guinan back!!

    Looking back on what I've said, it sounds very negative. But that wasn't my attitude to the book at all. I thought it was a great read and I really enjoyed it. In fact, I'd say it's my favourite of the TNG-R so far.

    Great work, Christopher!!
     
  15. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Not really, no. She has a few "walk-on" moments in books one and two, and a cameo in book three, but she's not a major player in the trilogy.

    Part of the reason for that is that I had finished the detailed outline of the trilogy and was already writing the first book when Christopher developed the story for Greater Than the Sum. To help set up the trilogy, he established some of my new characters (Choudhury, Elfiki) and tied up some loose story threads related to the Borg that I didn't address in the trilogy.

    By the time I realized how important a character T'Ryssa Chen was to his story, it was too late for me to retrofit her into the trilogy in a meaningful way.
     
  16. Bec

    Bec Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, I see. Well, since Elfiki and Choudhury are your characters, I assume we'll see some development of them. That's enough for me. Thanks, David!

    So, William Leisner will be the next author to deal with T'rys then in Losing the Peace. Will be interesting.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I've said before, I wasn't going for family specifically, but for the idea of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, the Trekkish ideal of how we're stronger when we work as one with others, whether in a family, a crew, a community, a nation, or a collective consciousness. T'Ryssa's overriding issue was a tendency to retreat from challenge and commitment and her efforts to outgrow that, and while that's rooted in her family issues, I didn't think of family as being the defining element of it. The Liberated's pursuit of procreation was about enabling their society to endure and unify; family was more a means than an end there.


    And I think that's selectively interpreting both the portrayal of the character and the definition of a Mary Sue in order to perceive them as equivalent. Yes, she has some attributes in common with a Mary Sue, but a giraffe has attributes in common with a horse. The differences as well as the similarities need to be considered before a fair assessment can be made.

    Trys was able to communicate with the entity because of luck, because she'd been through a particular interaction with it that enabled it to understand and contact her mind. Any other telepath, perhaps any other person, who'd been through the same prior contact could've done the same. As for Trys's ability to attract men, she attracted exactly three men in the course of the novel, and we know that at least one man, Geordi, had no romantic interest in her at all, finding her too young and flaky. And nobody "fell hard for her"; two of her partners were casual flings, and the other was a casual relationship with the potential of developing into something deeper. Saying "he knew he would miss her a great deal" doesn't equate to undying love, just strong affection.

    Consider: was Ensign Ro a Mary Sue? She's a character who was the focus of her debut episode, who had unique knowledge and experience that made her invaluable to solving the problem, and who won the respect and acceptance of the crew by the end of the story. But that's not a Mary Sue, that's just a new cast member being folded in. Stories that introduce new regular or semi-regular characters to an ensemble quite often follow a similar pattern. The way to get the audience to accept a new character is to show that character's positive attributes and how he or she wins the respect and acceptance of the regulars.

    And that's one of the key places where the "Mary Sue" idea falls short here. A Mary Sue is a guest character who inappropriately dominates over the regulars. T'Ryssa Chen is a new regular, or at least semi-regular. So naturally she gets a story whose emphasis is on establishing her value as a team member in the eyes of the characters and the readers. Ensign Ro got her self-titled episode, Ezri Dax got "Afterimage," and Trys got GTTS.

    This is TNG. Part of what defines TNG is that its cast members like and respect each other. Again, what you're describing is merely an attribute of a regular cast member, not a Mary Sue.

    Heck, if you define a Mary Sue simply as someone who's highly capable and appealing and well-liked by the crew, then the entire TNG cast consists of Mary Sues. I mean, what about Choudhury? Everyone in the book admires her, she's extraordinarily skilled and gifted -- hell, even I think I made her a bit too perfect.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_planet


    Because Dave had already outlined Destiny without her and was rather dismayed to see that she stayed aboard in the initial outline. Since he had such a monumental task ahead of him with the trilogy, I didn't want to put any extra burdens on him. And I decided it worked better if she left after all -- it meant that Picard didn't need her help to bring his crew together anymore, that he'd already succeeded.

    Still, there's no reason she couldn't return in the future.

    Thanks.


    But she has a somewhat larger presence in Bill Leisner's Losing the Peace -- last I heard, anyway.
     
  18. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    I'd say size of her role in LTP falls somewhere between that in GTTS, andthat in Destiny. ;)

    As in, "May you live in interesting times" (and the post-Destiny universe is definitely an "interesting" time...)
     
  19. Bec

    Bec Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments, Christopher.

    I appreciate your points about Trys too. I can understand a lot of what you're saying and you make some valid points. I think I just suffered Trys overload, but like you say that's only natural in a set-up appearance. I'm interested to see where she goes from here.
     
  20. jezor

    jezor Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Got this out of our local library (yay, West Hempstead Public Library) this weekend and read it in less than a day. Without disrespect to the other writers who have tackled this crew lately, I really thought that Christopher nailed the characters' personalities, especially Picard and (of all people) Guinan, who worked in this novel in a way she rarely did even on-screen (again, no disrespect to Ms. Goldberg meant). A few other random thoughts about this very enjoyable book:

    1) In reading about the Rhea (and especially the aesthetic criticisms of the Luna class spoken by some characters), I kept thinking of poor Sean Tourangeau (the Titan's designer) down the board here in the TrekArt forum, who wasn't given a voice to defend his creation!

    2) I found the epilogue somewhat underwhelming, particularly the idea that the Borg were now able to defeat the MVA "ultimate weapon" because Leybenzon failed to inject it into them, leaving it available for analysis. Given how many times the Borg have beaten these virus-type things, I thought that it wouldn't have ultimately defeated all of them even had Leybenzon succeeded, and even had he injected it, they might well have been able to analyze it with their own internal systems before it finished them off, so they'd have essentially the same edge. Or did I miss something critical?

    3) I have some Borg fatigue, as others have expressed, but in thinking about it, what other enemy is left to give these characters a serious challenge? At least the Borg have finally evolved; I never found their clunky movements and vulnerable systems (as depicted on screen, especially in VOY) to be all that representative of what was supposed to be such a dangerous race. Vindictive Borg, creative Borg; that's true adaptation to the threat.

    As I say, minor quibbles in what was otherwise a very enjoyable read. Thanks to Christopher, and I look forward to the next books in this series. {ProfJonathan}
     

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