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

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

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Rate A Ceremony of Losses.

  1. Outstanding

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  2. Above Average

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    32.2%
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  1. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think I'll ever understand the logic whereby finally getting resolution on a storyline that the books have been developing since 2003 (Andorian reproductive crisis), and making use of a plot device that the novels have had since 2005 (Taurus Meta-Genome), after directly building upon work established in a previous book from 2011 (Paths of Disharmony), constitutes a deus ex machina.

    A deus ex machina would be if the Q had cured the Andorians five pages before the novel's end after all of Bashir's efforts had failed. It involves the sudden intervention of exterior agents who have had no prior involvement in the storyline and whose solution is one the primary characters have not worked towards or earned themselves. The solution to the Andorian reproductive crisis was the culmination of years of foreshadowing, characters' efforts, and the use of a long-established plot device. You could reasonably call the Taurus Meta-Genome a McGuffin, but it is not a deus ex machina.
     
  2. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    I'm with you on this. I sometimes get the idea their are people who will find fault in everything the authors come up with, just for the sake of finding fault. But that could just be me.
     
  3. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Exactly. Couldn't have said it better.
     
  4. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Well said. I'd add that not has the story concept been in development for that long, but it's an idea of such significance that it's been retconned into twenty third century novels and stories such as The Chimes at Midnight. That the concept would be solved in this way is merely the culmination of several people's efforts. I'm fine with the way the situation was resolved and don't have a problem with someone like Bashir- who's always wanted to be hero- doing something heroic.

    No. I think your analysis is spot-on. People like to complain about an idea if it doesn't fit their idea of what constitutes good writing. Anyone who's written fiction (published or no) understands that there are many plausible ideas and directions in which to take a story. But if the author's trying to make a particular point to his or her audience, there may only be a limited number of ways said point can be driven home. In a situation like The Fall, a series of books designed to fit together as a single continuity, the amount of wiggle-room a writer has is even smaller. Mack's book can be read as a stand-alone for people who don't want to read the other books, but it still has to fit with the other novels in its series.

    --Sran
     
  5. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Let's use your Q example here, just for comparison sake.

    Q has been around since the beginning of TNG. He's been in I don't even know how many novels dating back to then. His pedigree is even deeper than the Deus Ex Genome. Let's say that instead of Bashir taking a week with the Deus Ex Genome, Bashir did some messing around with Q instead of Section 31, and the whole thing happens as seen in this novel. Except that Q for whatever reason, as he's wont to do, was the final solution instead of Deus Ex Genome.

    What's the difference in plot devices?


    And for the record, I liked the novel. I just found this part a bit too convenient.
     
  6. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    The difference is that using the genome involved real people putting their heads together to find a solution to a complicated problem, something that readers can relate to. That the means by which the solution was found were illegal was an excellent way of introducing conflict into the story.

    Q wasn't trusted by Starfleet, but I don't recall anyone facing sanctions or discipline because they interacted with him. Going behind SI's back to Section 31 was bad enough. That this was done to acquire data classified at the highest levels made the stakes even higher.

    Bashir asking Q to help him cure the Andorian people isn't dramatic because there's little risk to him. Bashir throwing away his career and his freedom tells a much better story because it involves significant sacrifice on his part to ensure that someone does the right thing.

    --Sran
     
  7. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Everything that you mentioned could have equally occurred if the solution was Q instead of Deus Ex Genome. The solution was the solution, and one way or the other, it was decided that this Andorian crisis had to be wrapped up. Whether it's Q snapping his fingers or Bashir and the Gang taking a week to finally put their heads together, it's still a Deus Ex Machina to a problem.
     
  8. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    It was decided by writers and publishers that the Andorian crisis needed to be wrapped up. That has nothing to do with the in-universe explanation for how and why the fertility crisis was dealt with by Bashir and his colleagues. It's not as though Bashir sat around thinking, "How can I devise a way to cure the Andorians in seven days?" He was presented with a plea for help from Shar, and he found a plausible means of providing that help.

    --Sran
     
  9. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    That's exactly right. Bashir didn't sit around thinking about how to save the Andorians. For years this problem existed, and he pretty much ignored it. So did everybody else. Then, over the course of a week, he and the others solved it. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am!

    As everyone has said, the solution was always there. At any point, Bashir or any of the others could have tried to solve the problem. But they didn't. This was a failure by the editors and publishers to adequately plan the solution to the problem they devised to create drama in the Federation. They had to resort to this last minute miracle in order to correct the problem they created.
     
  10. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    Because they were asked for help by a representative of the Andorian people because the Andorians were out of ideas and options. Bashir was CMO of Deep Space 9 for more than sixteen years. It's not as though he didn't have other things on his plate during that time. He decided to help Shar and the rest of the Andorians because he believed it was the right thing to do. That's not deus ex machina. That's character development as a means of telling a story.

    Real people face situations like that every day (albeit on a smaller scale) and find solutions to the problems they're facing. That they may not have been tasked with solving the problem at an earlier point doesn't diminish their contribution to its solution.

    Bashir had other things on his plate. He decided to help the Andorians because he was asked by a friend. That the editors and publishers made a decision about ending the Andorian reproductive crisis has nothing to do with the in-universe reasons for Bashir's actions.

    Except that it wasn't a miracle at all. As you observed, the information needed for the solution already existed. There was nothing miraculous about Bashir making a conscious choice to use the information to help the Andorians. As to why he never made a such a decision earlier, who knows? Maybe he was busy with other responsibilities. Maybe he didn't fully comprehend the severity of the problem until he heard from Shar. Maybe he thought the Andorians would be able to solve the problem on their own.

    Whatever his reasons, Bashir did the right thing by helping Andor, even if his behavior cost him his career and freedom. That he didn't help earlier doesn't diminish the act in and of itself. The events of the in-universe continuity have nothing to do with the decisions made by the editors and publishers of our world. Bashir was a human being who used his brain to find an intelligent and potentially lasting solution to a significant scientific, social, and political problem.

    If this scenario seems unrealistic, it's only another example of how our society has deteriorated so badly in that the idea of another person actually undertaking an act of compassion for a group of people he doesn't know is so implausible that it must have been engineered by God. Heaven forbid a physician and a Starfleet officer follows his conscience. Yeah, that's a miracle all right.

    --Sran
     
  11. Elias Vaughn

    Elias Vaughn Captain Captain

    For the love of god no.

    In the course of a week, Bashir and his team of the Federation's best geneticists (gene experts!) looked at data the Andorians had been working on for many, many years - data the Andorians very likely could have turned into their own cure if they'd had access to the entire Meta-Genome, which they pointedly did not - and discovered the solution. This was not deus ex machina'd out of nowhere; this is something they'd been working toward for some time. Bashir didn't discover the solution in a vacuum; he may have made the final few steps, but the marathon had been all but run by others.

    This was not Q waving his hands and magically making the Andorians all fertile. This was years of work by the Andorians, with Bashir only figuring out the solution by sucking it up and going to an agency he'd been working against for years himself for help. Had the Andorians had access to the entire Meta-Genome, they'd have done it themselves, but they didn't.

    Not liking the book is one thing, but misrepresenting the situation as you keep doing is just intellectually dishonest. Just because the situation's solution is not to your liking does not make it deus ex machina.
     
  12. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    A contra-example is probably useful here. In The Eternal Tide, q made Miral Paris no longer the Kuvagh'magh. That was kinda Deus Ex Machina-y an out, though I guess the way it was described leaves that plotthread still dangling.
     
  13. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    The best example is Sisko's asking the Prophets to get rid of the Jem'Hadar fleet in the wormhole. That's deus ex machina, and there's no comparison between that and what Bashir managed to do.

    --Sran
     
  14. ITCH

    ITCH Ensign Red Shirt

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    More than ambiguous I would say “mysterious”. By leaving the character in such undeveloped state contributed in keeping the readers guessing if she’s really working for Section 31 or not.


    I Ceremony I think Sarina is more like “M” in the James Bond movies. M provides the intel and everything and Bond gets to be the main character in the movie poster. As someone who works on logistics I know that when you do your work right you boss gets to shine and nobody knows who you are but when you fail… everybody knows your name and not in the Cheers' way…

    Based on the charges pressed on Bashir at the end of the book I’d say Sarina is GOOD (which is consistent with what we saw about her in ZSG). Since she ended up with just a “tail” (or at least not in jail), it’s obvious she manage to cover her tracks so well that Starfleet believes that Bashir got the Meta Genome information by himself and while working non-stop to find a cure, he still managed to get time to organize the conference, to sabotage the Defiant and the Tiber, the stealing of the Rio Grande and even the Halloween’s costume party in Sector General.

    Gee, Sarina even manage to notify Shar about Julian’s impending arrival to Andor and I didn't see her name in the top ten favorite names for Andorians babies!
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    You may have found it too convenient. You may have found it dramatically unsatisfying, and it may have been unsatisfying for you for the same reasons that most people find deus ex machina unsatisfying.

    Nonetheless, it remains an objective fact that the Taurus Meta-Genome is not a deus ex machina; it does not fit the criteria for one. It is not a character who suddenly enters the story near the climax to solve the problems of the protagonist, and the solution it yielded is not a solution the characters had no agency in creating.

    These are the standards that define deus ex machina, and the Taurus Meta-Genome does not meet them. It is not a character who enters into the story suddenly near the climax to solve the problems, and its solution is not one in which the characters involved have had no agency.

    Even if you find it unsatisfying for the same reasons you find deus ex machina unsatisfying, it remains a fact that this is not a deus ex machina. You are going to need to find another buzzword to throw around.
     
  16. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    Q has never evidenced any interest in the Andorians. Has he even interacted with one in the novels? Having Q appear, in the background of this complete non-interest, and suddenly resolve Andorian fertility issues would be a deus ex machina.

    In this particular case, an issue that has been a long-standing problem for more than a decade was solved using plot elements introduced eight years ago to implement a solution imagined a decade ago. (This Gray Spirit, published in 2002, imagined that the Andorian fertility crisis could be solved with the introduction of foreign DNA into the Andorian gene pool. This is what eventually happened, although it turned out that the DNA was Shedai, not Yrythny.)

    Could it conceivably have gone on longer?

    It's worth noting that in Paths of Disharmony, set just two years before A Ceremony of Losses, Crusher told Picard that the current data suggested that Andorian extinction was an imaginable outcome of the fertility crisis. This is much less foreboding than Shar's statement to Bashir at the beginning of this novel that if the problem isn't solved in a year the Andorian species would become extinct by the end of the next century.

    To me, it seems like everyone was underestimating the severity of the crisis. Crusher was one of the preeminent medical minds of the Federation using data collected by--among others--Shar's supervisor, but she didn't think that the threat of Andorian extinction was imminent.
     
  17. mickmike

    mickmike Commander Red Shirt

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    It's going to be a while before i can read any of the fall books, Would anyone care to share what the deal is with Captain Unverzagt and the USS Warspite? Any chance of federation starship fisticuffs?
     
  18. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    A McGuffin? Really? Look up the concepts you use before you use them, Sci:
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MacGuffin
    That's even more inaccurate than your previous Chekov's gun.

    Go to the 'deus ex machina' tvtropes page from where you most likely got the ~'sudden intervention' bit you use in your obfuscation attempt and look up the examples there. You will find that the sudden intervention is optional, at best. A deus ex maxhina is essentially a power beyond the characters that solves unsolvable - for the protagonists - problems because the author said so - no internal detail given.
    Such as ancient, ultimate knowledge or the caeliar. Some ~'but they actually worked with the ancient, ultimate knowledge to solve the problem' doesn't change this.
    Another example - Q has been introduced ages ago in the trekverse. As mentioned, his snapping his fingers to cure the andorians would still have been a deus ex machina. Even if the characters would convince him in the book to do it.
     
  19. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Please don't lecture me on what a Deus Ex Machina is when I was the first one to provide a definition in this thread. Deus Ex Machina is not just about a character who suddenly appears to solve all the problems. Q may be used as a Deus Ex Machina, but the trope is not limited to such.

    And repeating yourself in your own post doesn't prove you any more correct. But, since you seem to believe that repeating yourself is a valid form of debate, here:
    Edit: Dangit... I was ninja'd by Edit_XYZ
     
  20. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    The previous poster's point is that you're using the phrase incorrectly.

    [/QUOTE]

    Actually, that's incorrect.

    As I noted above, it was noted as early as This Gray Spirit in 2002 that one way to solve Andorian fertility problems would be to introduce foreign DNA patterns, to stabilize it and solve problems. Paths of Disharmony suggested that the Yrythny DNA was insufficient for this task; although some children were born, the Yrythny DNA and the technology were insufficient to prevent this from being fatally glitchy overall. This novel then introduced the Shedai meta-genome, a DNA technology that had already been established in the Vanguard novels as responsible for any number of amazing technological achievements. The novel ended with the meta-genome's existence and its relevance to Andorian fertility issues being revealed.

    What happens in A Ceremony of Losses? Some of the most brilliant medical minds of the Federation, having good reason to think that a particular solution was possible using particular techniques drawn from particular data, got a complete dataset that allowed them to complete work that others had begun. (Shar, both in-universe and in terms of actual time, had been working on this approach for a decade.)

    This solution is many things. One thing that it is not, in-universe and in terms of time spent developing it in the course of the novels, is contrived or unexpected.

    The only thing in A Ceremony of Losses that could be considered contrived is the sudden worsening of the Andorian situation. In Paths of Disharmony, a Crusher speaking in 2382 with the latest knowledge said that the eventual extinction of the Andorian species wasn't impossible. In this novel, Shar speaking in 2384 said that if a solution wasn't devised within a year that the extinction of the Andorian species by the end of the 25th century was inevitable. What accounts for the sudden catastrophic worsening?