TF: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Oct 20, 2013.

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Rate A Ceremony of Losses.

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  1. Stephen!

    Stephen! Captain Captain

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    The Federation (Or at least Ishan) seemed to object to giving the Andorians the cure, because it contained a small faction of the meta-genome data and considered it a security risk.

    Wouldn't this be a moot point, since Andoria already had a copy of the meta-genome data anyway? So they'd just be giving Andoria access to data they already had. Granted, the scientists didn't have complete access to all of the data.

    Or claiming it was a security risk was just a smokescreen and it was more about spiting Andoria for leaving the Federation?
     
  2. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

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    Keeping a tighter lid on the data than was good for Andorians' long-term species health was Ishan's personal hobby, it seems.

    Keeping the truth about Operation Vanguard in general off the public radar was the same for a particular set of 23rd Century admirals. Small wonder the Tholians have stayed so PO'ed for so long.
     
  3. Elias Vaughn

    Elias Vaughn Captain Captain

    As I understand it, Ishan was less concerned with the Meta Genome data and more concerned with punishing the entire Andorian people for the slight of leaving the Federation. Before they seceded, no one currently in a position of power in Starfleet/the Federation government even knew what the genome data was, and the Federation has a history of over compartmentalizing data that later becomes relevant - their history with the Borg comes to mind.
     
  4. Snaploud

    Snaploud Admiral Admiral

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    It's a bit convoluted, but I believe Andoria never had the full meta-genome. The previous Andorian government only had the pieces of the meta-genome the Tholians felt was absolutely necessary for the cure. [Though, the assumption seemed to be that the data given to Andoria was limited enough that a cure would take several years. Those years were largely wasted because the Andorian government had withheld much of that information from the scientists.]

    My guess is that the Tholian's idea of a cure was a lot different from Bashir's idea of cure. Bashir was looking for a quick solution, and, as a result, his cure isn't very targeted. He had to give the Andorian people longer life-spans and greater intelligence to make his cure work.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
  5. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    No, that was Ishan's excuse. His real reason for withholding the Meta-Genome from the Andorians was twofold:

    1. He felt that Andor's secession was an act of betrayal and that to give the genome to work with the Andorians to find a cure would be tantamount to telling every Federation world that the best way to get something from the UFP government would be to threaten secession.

    2. Already prone to viewing Andor as an enemy, he wished to propagate that antagonistic view towards them throughout the rest of the Federation and prop up his own national security credentials by imposing his unilateral embargo. This would propagate his views and would boost his political support for the special election.

    Like the Treyisha-aligned Andorian administration, Ishan's intent was apparently to give the Andorians the necessary data at some point after the election... probably after making the Andorians come crawling back on their hands and knees. What justified Bashir's decision to defy Ishan was that doing so carried a significant probability that doing so would lead to irreversible population loss.

    That seems to have been why the Federation didn't just offer the relevant sections of the Taurus Meta-Genome back in 2383, under the Bacco administration. By the time of The Fall, it appears that the Federation had only just determined that somebody was withholding the Tholian data from the Andorian Science Institute when Bashir's subterfuge was detected.

    I am reminded of the lyrics to a song from the musical Spring Awakening:

    "Yeah, you're fucked alright
    And all for spite."
     
  6. Rowan Sjet

    Rowan Sjet Commodore Commodore

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    This was something I was wondering about while reading this book, that Ishan gets all the crap about withholding the information needed to create a cure (and rightfully so) but no explanation of what the Bacco administration was doing to help these past three years. I guess if they thought the Andorians had all they needed it may have been a case of, "Why bother?"

    I too would love to read that scene.
     
  7. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    A fair point! But as Bacco's death follows JFK, the eulogisation of an assassinated leader like him can whitewash his failings (such as Cuba). For Bacco it would be the fact that, with regards to Andor, she was no better than Ishan over the Shedai date - except that, apparently, Ishan was going to give the relevant data anyway.
     
  8. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    I thought about this today. Isn't it ironic that Elizabeth Lense once thought Bashir was Andorian given that she helped him solve the Andorian fertility crisis?

    --Sran
     
  9. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. So far as the Bacco Administration knew, the Tholians had already given the Andorians everything they could possibly need for the Science Institute to come up with a cure.

    I just re-read the relevant passages from A Ceremony of Losses(Chapters Five and Sixteen); as near as I can tell, nobody in the Federation outside of Bashir figured out that the ch'Fortua administration was keeping any of the Meta-Genome data from the Science Institute until after Bashir and company had already developed the cure; one of Bashir's co-conspirators figured it out after Bashir had already talked to Ishan. At no point in Bashir's conversation with Ishan did he share his suspicion that ch'Fortua was withholding any info from the Science Institute.

    When the Andorian issue had come up earlier in the book for the Ishan administration, Ishan's advisers seem to have been prompted to discuss it with him as a result of the combination of: 1. Ishan's pre-existing decision to institute a Federation embargo of Andor for domestic political purposes; 2. media attention over Shar's arrest; and 3. the presence of Typhon Pact representatives courting the Andorians for membership in the Pact.

    Further, remember: Ishan found out that Bashir was working on the Meta-Genome because a Starfleet Intelligence agent figured out that Bashir had been called to DS9 by Ambassador Quark; she knew that the Ferengi government had been acting as a diplomatic backchannel for their contacts on Andor, and that Bashir had convened a medical research summit of genetic experts. Ergo, she put two and two together and hypothesized that Bashir and company were working on the fertility crisis with Meta-Genome data -- data she seems to have assumed would have come from the Tholians via the Andorians, rather than realizing it had come from Starfleet archives via Section 31.

    So as near as I can tell, the Ishan administration (and, therefore, the Bacco administration before it) never realized that the ch'Fortua administration was keeping any info from the Science Institute. And by the time that Bashir had developed the curse, Ishan's reasons for keeping the cure from the Andorians were all about not wanting to reward secession or appear politically weak, with a secondary concern over Bashir's having accessed Meta-Genome data that he feared could have been stolen and used by Federation enemies.

    So in other words -- it is not that Ishan gets crap for withholding information the Andorians needed to create a cure; it's that Ishan gets crap for withholding the cure itself, already delivered into his hands by Bashir had he wanted it.

    I'm afraid, as I just outlined above, that this would not be an accurate summary. As I said before, neither the Bacco administration nor the Ishan administration ever realized the ch'Fortua administration was keeping any Meta-Genome data from the Science Institute. When Councillor Cort Enaren of Betazed proposed sharing Federation data on the Genome with the Andorians, he proposed doing so in order to attempt to pre-empt the Tholians, not because anyone knew that data was being kept from the Institute.

    The idea seems not to have been proposed during Bacco's days because the Bacco administration had thought the Andorians had all the data they needed, and because they had not, y'know, instituted a unilateral trade embargo on the planet for no damn good reason -- and had not thereby given the Typhon Pact an opening to press the Andorians to join it, thereby prompting Ishan's meeting over Andor in Chapter Five. Enaren was proposing a way to cut off the Typhon Pact's overtures after Ishan's actions had prompted those overtures.

    Meanwhile, it's important to remember that Ishan seemingly did not realize that the Andorians needed immediate help to find the cure or else go over a population tipping point -- but that he was alerted to this fact during his conversation with Bashir. If Ishan did not know this, Bacco did not either. Which would make Ishan's decision not to share the data in Chapter Five foolish, but not a deliberate attempt to risk extinction in an attempt to gain political advantage (because, again, so far as he knew, it was not an immediate crisis, and the Andorians already had all the data they needed)... but upon being alerted to the Andorians' status as a species on the brink in Chapter Sixteen, this means he was now deliberately risking the species's extinction in order to gain political advantage. Any plans he may have had to "eventually" give the Andorians the cure after the election are thereby immediately morally invalidated; it's the equivalent of telling someone who needs to be taken to the hospital immediately that you'll take her there after you stop and get a cheeseburger.

    So, yeah, did Bacco make a bad decision by not immediately sharing Federation data with the Andorians? Yes. But her decision was not motivated by selfish political considerations -- it was motivated by an inability to understand the immediate necessity of the data, and by ignorance of ch'Fortua's holding the Tholian data secret. The most damning decision Ishan makes is not in Chapter Five, when he shares Bacco's erroneous understanding of the Andorian situation; the most damning decision he makes is in Chapter Sixteen, when he knows that the Andorians need the cure immediately to avoid extinction and that the cure is in his hands to deliver right away, courtesy of Bashir. It is in Chapter Sixteen that his initial vindictive decision not to reward Andor for seceding becomes a deliberate decision to risk the extinction of an entire species for political gain.
     
  10. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Heh. :) Of course, Bashir is now Andorian - legally, at any rate. She was right all along, only premature!
     
  11. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Found this quite a tough read due to the nature of the plot.

    Certainly it's here that Ishan, for me, became a cardboard villain - an embargo against Andor? For leaving? How juvenile is that? Trade tariffs, yes; border controls, yes, embargo? That'll screw over the Federation members as well! He then follows that up by deciding that yes, as penalty for leaving the Federation, the Andorians should become extinct!

    Also loathed the whole "we must obey our orders unthinkingly" aspect, OK yes, it's setting up Dax and co's rejection of that, but it was a bit clunky. Were it not that the darkening of the Federation gets rejected one again, this would have been harder still to read.

    I am more intrigued as to what goes on in Section 31: Disavowed, maybe that'll wrap up some long running plots.

    Where the book succeeded most of all is in Bashir, in addressing the consequences from Zero Sum Game - that he was haunted for years by his actions there made complete sense, as does the notion that he found a sense of redemption in saving the Andorians, a storyline which has been in play since 2001!
     
  12. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Is Ishan really that unrealistic, though? I mean, think about the leaders of belligerent nationalist movements that get vomited up when societies face major trauma in real life. Think about politicians who do things like, launch wars of aggression against countries on the basis of lies about weapons of mass destruction. Or who provoke ethnic wars over half-imagined national grievances. Or who are just aching for a wars with emerging powers, to the point where they'll put into place embargoes designed to hurt normal people.

    Their reasons for acting are all identical to Ishan's -- they want a foreign enemy they can act against in order to bolster their power on the domestic front.

    On top of that, Ishan's logic is not entirely unjustified. He is right in noting that the Federation has limited resources, and that Federation worlds should not feel free to blackmail the UFP into giving them whatever they want by threatening secession. He's not entirely wrong when he says that Andor turned its back on the Federation. And, remember, when he institutes the embargo, he doesn't know that the Treyisha administration is withholding Tholian data from the Science Institute.

    Where he goes wrong, like most militarists, is that he takes his logic too far. He takes his own need for a foreign enemy and his sense of betrayal and decides to therefore start an embargo that just hurts normal Andorians. Then, when Andor does the rational response to that by allowing the Typhon Pact to court them, he reacts even more disproportionately by viewing Andor as an active threat to the Federation -- even though his belligerent actions created the problem. All of this is completely plausible behavior from Ishan; we've seen nonsense like this in real life.

    And I don't think the embargo actually hurt Federation worlds to any appreciable degree. It's pretty clear from the references to Andor lacking in foodstuffs and medicines, and to references to the return of poverty to cities like Lor'Vela (to the point where some Andorians even resorted to prostitution out of desperation) that Andor's infrastructure still hasn't recovered and that secession hasn't helped this any. More than likely, Andor needed trade with the Federation more than the Federation needed trade with Andor.

    Well, no. We need to get very specific here: Velk says in The Poisoned Chalice that the Andorians would have gotten what they needed eventually. Ishan wasn't deciding the Andorians should go extinct. He was, rather, deliberately risking the extinction of the Andorian species once Bashir told him that he had the cure and that it was needed immediately, and he was doing so out of a combination of motivations that included his own sense of betrayal, his anger over their letting the Typhon Pact court them, his legitimate concerns over proliferation of the Shedai Meta-Genome, and, most of all, his political need to appear "strong" for the election.

    This is depraved indifference, not active genocide.

    Again, I just thought it ran true to life. Just ask Private Chelsea Manning about the costs of defying unjust orders.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  13. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    One of the main attractions for me where Trek is concerned is that it takes the better over the more cynical path. While that does indeed eventually happen here, people like Ishan infuriate me. I see enough of these gits and their actions in real life and such individuals frequently get away with all of it. Suppose that's one neat difference between Trek and reality.

    Wouldn't really see all that much similarity between fiction and a real-life case personally, I'm wary of making those sort of comparisons.

    In a way it's not so much that the book failed to make me care so much as it did.
     
  14. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    ^ What's the point of having characters who stand for good if no one stands against them? A story without conflict is no story at all—and the bad guys can't always be the external "other." Sometimes the most bitter struggles are those within an entity, whether it's a military, a government, or a nation. There's no logical reason the Federation or Starfleet should be immune to such internecine strife.
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Well, fair enough. But I suppose what I liked about The Fall
    was that it showed the Federation realizing what kind of man Ishan was and then throwing him off. After all, at the end, he did not get away with all of it.

    Which frankly makes the Federation a fair deal more enlightened than our modern so-called liberal democracies. You'll notice, after all, that nobody arrested George W. Bush on the floor of the United States Congress, or Tony Blair on the floor of the United Kingdom Parliament, the way Ishan/Baras got arrested on the floor of the Federation Council.
     
  16. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Where Ishan's concerned, I'm wondering if less wouldn't have been more - there's nothing that really requires him to be as aggressive as he thinks he should be, it may even pay off even better for him.

    As to the nature of conflicts, personally I'm not a fan of the internal division strand, not saying it can't work but it's rare. I will admit to a tendency to wanting to waltz into such stories, give 'em all a slapping and tell 'em to grow the hell up! Obviously - not an option.

    Of course, if you hadn't done such a good job of conveying all this in the book David, I wouldn't have been anywhere near as affected, would I?
     
  17. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah, quite. What's making this a little more complicated than I expected is I've split comments on the series across all 5 book review threads! I quite liked the sheer extent Ishan goes to to cover up his past and acts, that was different - AND he still lost! Yay.

    That the whole series takes place over such a comparatively short period of time also works in its favour. Yes, there's Ishan engaging in all kinds of dubious activity at best, but it is going to be of limited scope.
     
  18. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Sure -- but sometimes people overplay their hand. It just happens. Just last year in the U.S., you had Senator Ted Cruz and his faction decide to shut down the entire U.S. government out of their attempts to hijack the legislative process to match their political agenda, risking the welfare of people who depend on federal services and risking global economic collapse if the U.S. defaulted on its loans... and it completely and utterly backfired on him. Cruz and his people lost, a budget that doesn't match his priorities at all got passed six months later by the opposition and by less-extreme members of his own party, and Cruz suffered politically for it. Less would definitely have been more for him -- but he thought he could advance his agenda by striking hard and fast, so he did it. Same with Ishan.

    (Incidentally, as I read The Fall: The Crimson Shadow and A Ceremony of Losses, I couldn't help but think to myself of the parallels between Cruz and Ishan -- newly-elected legislators who rise to national prominence on the back of a constitutional crisis they created, advocating for a belligerent policy agenda. It was uncanny!)

    I know I keep harping on about real-life politics, but I'm doing that to illustrate how the things we see political leaders in The Fall doing are themselves completely plausible and full of real-life precedent.
     
  19. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, I can top that Sci - I've got Cameron as PM!

    It's not so much that I don't see the thinking or how they get from A to B, it's that I really do despise it. As someone who works in a political environment, I see it on a regular basis but got to work with the world as it is.

    I should correct something I overlooked in my initial post too. I found this a tough read because it wasn't pleasant watching this stuff happen to the characters, but that I'm responding that way is testimony to it being well-written.
     
  20. BritishSeaPower

    BritishSeaPower Captain Captain

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    Alternative Title: "One Week to a Better Andoria"
     

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