TF: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Dec 22, 2013.

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Rate Peaceable Kingdoms.

  1. Outstanding

    18 vote(s)
    19.6%
  2. Above Average

    37 vote(s)
    40.2%
  3. Average

    31 vote(s)
    33.7%
  4. Below Average

    5 vote(s)
    5.4%
  5. Poor

    1 vote(s)
    1.1%
  1. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just downloaded the book on my Kindle.
     
  2. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    How significant could it be since the Hobus event is approaching?
     
  3. David Brennon

    David Brennon Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Just downloaded it. I look forward to reading!

    Did anyone else have issues with a Nook?
     
  4. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Read it - my major and quick thought about this arc (rather than individual novel) is one of indifference, the set-up suggests something far more interesting than what we get as a conclusion and a lot of the situations are repetitive from book to book.
     
  5. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan "Down with this sort of thing!" Premium Member

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    ^That sounds a bit like how I felt with Worlds of DS9.
     
  6. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The problem is that the book (and the arc) are weirdly paced, the 'secret' is revealed about a third of the way through the book and you think it must be the first part of a larger reveal because it's such a mundane overused cliche but then it turns out to be all there is to it.

    I just don't get why so thin an arc required five books.
     
  7. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So - Peaceable Kingdoms, weaker than even Revelation and Dust?

    This is...quite damning.
     
  8. Mimi

    Mimi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think that's a matter of opinion, personally. To me, Revelation and Dust is still the weakest. Half the plot had nothing to do with The Fall. Its hard to come back from that.

    I don't think this book is bad, or badly written. I enjoyed reading it well enough. But because it is the final entry of the series, it is going to hold the weight of any criticisms about The Fall in general. [For which there are quite a few.]
     
  9. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I read Revelation and Dust as well. It's essentially a prologue following an episode recap.

    Seeing Peaceable Kingdoms rated lower by more than a poster...well, final entry or not, it doesn't inspire confidence. At all.
     
  10. Mimi

    Mimi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Since it is officially spoiler time, here are some of my thoughts about the problems going on with The Fall:

    My main issue with the series is that it presents an overly complicated chain of events that have very little depth to back them up. So much time is spent uncovering things we already know.

    By the end of Peaceable Kingdoms, we have three major conspiracies that contribute to the assassination of Bacco:

    A. A fringe group of Cardassians are unhappy with the increasingly pro-federation Cardassia, and seek to go back to the old ways.
    B. A fringe group of star fleet officers are unhappy with the 'old guard' approach to conflicts, and believe that Starfleet should attack threats head on.
    C. The current president of the Federation, Ishan, is not who he says he is.

    The fact that all of them ended up being connected seems a bit...convenient to me. I would have rather seen only two of the above plots picked up, and then expanded upon so the villains had more compelling motivations.

    The problem is we spend very little time [if any] with the villains, making them all seem like caricatures. There's no chance of identifying with Ishan if he's just there being evil. Cardassians feature in only one book, when their internal strife is a huge part of The Fall's arc. The fringe group of Starfleet officers we see even less and they're almost entirely corrupt.

    I would have liked to see more shades of grey. Maybe Ishan had nothing to do with the assassination, but began to devolve into paranoia trying to protect his secret from the Occupation. Maybe we spent more time with a Starfleet officer who we could identify with, and really feel his frustration over his assumed naivety of Starfleet. Maybe we could have spent more time with a Cardassian who is watching his culture become assimilated and molded into just another wing of the Federation.

    There's just a lot of missed opportunities here.


    I also found it strange that an Andorian could be elected so soon after all that scandal. But that's a very minor issue.
     
  11. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The fringe group of Starfleet officers we see even less and they're almost entirely corrupt.


    Right, they aren't even characters as such, just strawmen to make the main cast look even better plus the fact that we already had the two Starfleet vessel showdown a couple of books back make the same event here repetitive. Moreover, we don't get any POV from the Captain in this book, just the fact that they accept an order to start blasting away at another Starfleet vessel without question - by and large, the 'other side' are completely without nuance.
     
  12. flandry84

    flandry84 Captain Captain

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  13. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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  14. Reanok

    Reanok Commodore Commodore

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    I found this book at the store today I can't wait to see how this book wraps up this terrific miniseries!:cool:
     
  15. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Only about 20% in. I wonder, with the Obsidian Order gone, if there are still any deep cover agents still operating on old instructions?
     
  16. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    I have to agree that the book was a bit anticlimatic. It felt a bit by the numbers to me. One thing that bothered me also was that the editing in this volume seemed a bit shoddy. For example there's a scene where a piece of dialogue is attributed to a character who isn't even "on screen". (Cruzen is given a line that should've gone to Konya)

    The ending felt rushed, and I guess ultimately the weakness was in that the book basically focused on snippets from character lives that were in the end ephemeral to the overall ARC. I feel almost like the Crusher/Daret/Ishan bits should've been an ebook filling in pieces, while more could've been done with the conspiracy within Starfleet Command (which to me seemed the more interesting thing than Ishan being a manchurian candidate).

    The characters we expected to be more central to unraveling the plot, whether it be Picard, Riker, Akaar, et. al. became side pieces to the action down on the planet. This would be fine if we had an additional volume to tease out the big picture stuff, and have more to do with the presidential race, but that tension never seemed to be conveyed properly in the book. The epilogue was okay, but we don't care about anyone in that scene because, unlike say the final A Time To... books we never saw much of the staff outside of one throw away chapter.
     
  17. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    I enjoyed reading Revelation and Dust. Can't really say the same for Peaceable Kingdoms. Obviously that is totally subjective, but I feel that's okay for rankings like this.

    Part of what redeems Revelation and Dust for me is that there is much that is beautiful in it. I very strongly disagree with Edit_XYZ's (and others') characterization of it as a prologue and episode recap. There is something very profound and intimate that is going on as Kira sees, for the first time, what happened when Sisko first entered the wormhole. I also think it reveals something fundamental about the Prophets– but that's a discussion for a different thread.

    Basically, I think there is a lot (a whole lot) more to RaD than there was to PK.

    With the official release of the book and with more people reading it, I'm going to go ahead and post my very spoiler-heavy initial thoughts (written immediately after finishing the book), in spoiler code below. (In a few places, I have added clarifying material [in brackets].)

    I think Mimi articulated very well some concerns that I shared about the "big picture" of the novel (though I don't in my review go into the particular concerns she laid out) and I think Nob Akimoto articulated very well some things I didn't like about the writing.

    So, without further ado... (spoilers ahead, ye have been warned):

    Oh, how I really wanted to love this book.

    After The Crimson Shadow and A Ceremony of Losses, the bar seemed to be set incredibly high. Even The Poisoned Chalice left me with high hopes for the finale [even if I did not care as much for that particular book].

    But, jeez. Just didn’t quite do it for me.

    Two things underwhelmed me.

    First, the writing. I’ll be curious how I feel about this on my eventual re-read, but, in this round, the book was a slog to get through. I lost count of how many times the current situation was restated from the perspective of a new character, even though we, the readers, knew everything that was said. I suppose it was useful to be reminded which particular pieces of the puzzle each character had, but the solution seems inelegant at best.

    Beyond that, the writing itself felt rather turgid. A lot was said that did not advance the story, and didn’t really deepen the depiction of the universe either. (The Poisoned Chalice had a fair amount of verbiage that wasn’t story-advancing, but at least it was world-building.)

    The pacing of the story, too, felt off. With such a big build-up, four whole novels, brought to a boiling point at the end of The Poisoned Chalice, I thought that beginning with a flashback that wasn’t immediately relevant (or clear in its relevance, at least) was a bad choice. I had a lot of trouble caring about the characters introduced in that first chapter, not in the least because it was hard to put them in a context. Mystery is one thing, but mystery must have some attraction to it; the opening did not feel mysterious, it just felt confusing. I was super excited for this book, so I knew that I was in trouble when I had trouble staying interested through the first chapter.

    Not to harp on the flashbacks, but they just felt like they were choppily interspersed with the present-day narratives, which contributed to the book’s pacing issues. I don’t think the book really grabbed me until the Enterprise began its pursuit of the small craft that was running away from the Andorian freighter (ie. halfway through the novel).

    There also seemed to be a number of “Chekhov’s Gun” problems– things Ward would introduce but never really follow up on. The whole flashback with Kadohata, Crusher and Data, for example, felt unnecessary; we didn’t get any particular new insight into those characters or the history of Federation-Cardassian relations, and it took a nontrivial amount of time to read. And while I realize that the Enterprise’s diversion to Ferenginar was not Ward’s doing alone, he seemed to do so little with it, which was a great disappointment. I’ve been wanting to see what’s going on on Ferenginar for years now, and it’s quite a shame that the opportunity was by-and-large wasted.

    The second thing which underwhelmed me was the story itself. I came away asking myself what message the authors were trying to convey with this series– what was the theme?

    The revelation that Ishan was behind Bacco’s death just felt so predictable, and frankly stretched credibility past the breaking point. For such a complicated story, it was a painfully simplistic conclusion. (I was also frustrated to have Ishan’s role explicitly revealed in Velk’s internal monologue. It turned narrative suspense into frustration that our heroes were still in the dark.) I mean, really. The story boils down to:

    A Bajoran collaborator using a false identity, now sitting on the Federation Council, in collusion with a Tellarite businessman turned politico, allies with a Cardassian anti-Federation extremist group to assassinate the president of the United Federation of Planets in a bid to grab power so as to adopt a hawkish stance, such that the Federation arrives at what he believes will be an era of “peace through power.”
    *sigh* You know, after writing it all out like that, I realize just how plausible and realistic it actually sounds. How depressing is that?

    (I think I am getting hung up on the assassination part. It still seems somewhat implausible from an in-universe perspective, but God only knows how believable it is from a real-world perspective.)

    I do still think that the conclusion of the overall story was simplistic and I wish the finale had had the same amount of nuance and complexity we saw in the earlier stories. But I think I now see what the authors were trying to get at.

    [EDIT: Some more thoughts on this after the review.]

    Some other thoughts:

    I was not keen on reading the second book in a row that features a large part of the action on a distant barren world that no one cares about, in which our heroes must engage in covert ops struggle against amoral foes.

    I was happy to finally see Picard interacting with his son, something I’ve felt was sorely lacking in past books.

    Was surprised at the ultimate winner of the Federation presidential election. I think it stretches credibility a bit, given the recent secession, but oh well.

    Was very happy to see Picard so unequivocally turn down an admiral- or ambassadorship, and was glad to see that future 24th century stories will likely be exploration tales.

    In the A Ceremony of Losses thread, I speculated that this book would mark the end of the current Grand Epic of the 24th century, in which most of the stories tie together to form an overarching narrative (and have an especially political focus). I may still be wrong, but this book certainly felt like a finale (and the entire series overall, now that I think about it). Getting in one last scene with each of the regulars. Having flashbacks to incorporate Kadohata and even Data briefly. Bringing back Sonya Gomez and Philippa Louvois. Tying off a number of loose ends, including Ezri Dax (indirectly) and Geordi’s romance with Tamala Harstad. It reminded me of a combination between “All Good Things” and “What You Leave Behind.”

    And, of course, the last chapter ended with a callback to “Encounter At Farpoint” (Picard: “Let’s see what’s out there.”) and “All Good Things” (Q: “See you… out there!”), with Riker saying, “Go see what’s out there.” Sure as hell felt like a finale to me.

    A focus on exploration tales would definitely lend itself to a focus on standalone stories– which is what I think we are going to get for the foreseeable future in the 24th century. And frankly, that’s fine by me.

    6/10. Average.
    I don't know. The whole thing is believable, but at the same time not. Rereading A Time To Heal today, I was struck by the realization that, of the last four Federation presidents presented in TrekLit, two have been "bad." I don't know, something about that feels like cheap writing to me. Is the Federation's democracy so dysfunctional that it has a 50% success rate at selecting a competent person to do the job? Do the authors mean this as a general statement on the efficacy of democracy? If so, then I find that to be such a cynical perspective that it exists in total conflict with the fundamental optimism which underlies the entire Star Trek franchise.

    Maybe that's what bothers me. The Federation is supposed to represent the ideal democracy, democracy at its best possible. To tell a story where someone as simplistically bad as Ishan Anjar (in that he arranged the assassination of his predecessor in order to grab power) can come within an inch of being elected president (as he would have been, if our heroes had not intervened) suggests that democracy, even its ideal form, is fundamentally vulnerable and naïve. And I disagree with that notion in the strongest of terms.
    Lastly, thinking about this today made me realize just how much of the last several years of TrekLit has been political thriller. And, for the most part, that's been great. But, especially as I think about A Choice of Futures or The Body Electric, I do wonder what the cost of that has been. Has it really been worth not getting a dozen novels about exploring strange new worlds? I don't know.
     
  18. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    Seriously? I got an email on new yearsday that this was shipped during the night. :D As if any parcels will be delivered on newyears day. :D :D :D
     
  19. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The ending felt rushed, and I guess ultimately the weakness was in that the book basically focused on snippets from character lives that were in the end ephemeral to the overall ARC. I feel almost like the Crusher/Daret/Ishan bits should've been an ebook filling in pieces, while more could've been done with the conspiracy within Starfleet Command (which to me seemed the more interesting thing than Ishan being a manchurian candidate).


    My problem is that there is an interesting idea at the centre here - a clash of ideologies about the future direction of Starfleet and the federation but it is badly articulated because pretty much everyone on the hawkish side is portrayed as either straight out evil or willing to kill people or fire on their own ships because they are unquestioning drones.
     
  20. Mimi

    Mimi Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I completely agree. The concept itself is solid. I think all three conspiracies might have been a little too top heavy, but focusing on one or two of them and really giving them meat would have made for an excellent series.

    Particularly because:
    They are somewhat justified. I don't think their methods were right at all, but the idea that Starfleet might be a bit naive when dealing with other foreign powers? That's a compelling argument.

    The same with Cardassian concerns about federation dogma taking over. Its ultimately a good thing, of course, but they're justified in their fears. I can't help but remember Eddington's comparison of the Federation to the borg.

    The villains are wrong and the things they do are bad- but their motivations are coming from somewhere. Making them mustache twirling villains just feels like we missed out on some great moral dilemmas and characters.