Spoilers TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Nov 17, 2013.

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Rate The Poisoned Chalice.

  1. Outstanding

    53 vote(s)
    50.5%
  2. Above Average

    46 vote(s)
    43.8%
  3. Average

    5 vote(s)
    4.8%
  4. Below Average

    1 vote(s)
    1.0%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I voted Average. I can't find anything specific to complain about. But there's nothing in particular that jumps out at me to praise, either. It's a functional middle-of-a-series book.
     
  2. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I really enjoyed a lot about this novel, including a lot of the nods to oft-forgotten (or avoided) bits of Trek lore, including the Roman TOS people. As someone mentioned upstream, there was a real sense of layering the dense web of Trekdom. And while I think all the authors do that these days, each has their own style and choices. Overall the novel felt less thematically playful than either of the first two novels (one of which was a great success, the other far more problematic), and it is very much like the forward-inclined plotting of Mack's volume. I loved some of the cameos, such as Martok, which really captured the performance and mannerisms of their television or film counterparts.

    I also liked the comparison with the wild period of the twenty-third century, mentioned by one of the characters. This novel certainly felt like that at points - especially the late end of that period as depicted in Swallow's Valeris novel. The sniper villain was rather akin to another Starfleet sniper with an army rank, that being Colonel West! And the wild fringes of the Empire and the House Fleets: very ... feudal. A lot of left and right hands not knowing what is going on. It also reminded me of his Horus Heresy novel about two competing assassination plots, Nemesis. But whereas that novel suffered from interesting concepts (the use of the domestic setting and the monster villain) and let down by less exciting, more generic action movie plotting and characterisation, this was more interesting and more fun.

    I only have a few plot points of concern. Was the Titan not meant to be more than a week away from the Federation? As in like two or more months away (as was the case in Destiny). But the novel has the Titan come to Earth no more than after being called back a week earlier. It seems a bit of a blip, but one explicable by a line or two about how the ship had come close to home perhaps? As it stands, it really unfortunately shrinks space a bit, and seems incongruous with the scope of Titan as a setting and as a thematic series to date. Also as someone else noted, I thought Garak's election was 'After the Fall' too? And, maybe this was just me, but some of the characterisation between the Fall's novels seems off - especially Ishan, but also Velk (and even a stalwart familiar character like Akaar changes between this and the last novel). But this is not a fault, per se: it comes from differing perspectives and different styles between authors, and is true of much Trek series.

    Finally, how much was the surveillance culture introduced in this novel an allusion to real world events? How much with the idea of a leak last novel? With this novel, in trek terms I thought this spying was done only by S31, but this felt (of course) much more real world and more close to what our 'fallen' humanity does.
     
  3. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    One thing I noticed while reading the novel: Three years have passed since Titan's last adventure, yet all the ensigns are still ensigns. Was nobody promoted? Torvig and Lavena would have been an obvious candidates, and Dakal (despite his comparatively recent graduation).

    Every position filled by a commander would be over the top, of course, but is not some auto-promotion feature after serving a couple of years?*

    *That would exclude artificial lifeforms, as we saw that Data never made it past lieutenant commander in 15 years.
     
  4. Kertrats47

    Kertrats47 Commodore Commodore

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I know it sounds like I'm gushing, and I probably am, but I loved loved LOVED it. Here's my review.
     
  5. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Finally got my copy in yesterday, 40 pages in, and already feeling this is the Titan I liked.
     
  6. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Harry Kim syndrome!
     
  7. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

    Joined:
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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    One other continuity oddity was the treatment of Andor suggested by the end of A Ceremony of Losses and in this novel:

    Of course that final point is in the conditional tense, but still...this seemed a foregone conclusion. I guess not in the world of politics, especially not with a violent Velk around.
     
  8. mickmike

    mickmike Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    [.[/QUOTE] Harry Kim syndrome![/QUOTE]

    Harry Kimdrome?

    thanks, i'm here thru thursday. ENJOY THE VEAL!
     
  9. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

    Joined:
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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    That was nice, although I totes didn't know that phrase. Google gave me this (although my first allusive thought was Arrested Development and Anne Veal ;) )
     
  10. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Am I missing something here??


    In any case, I really loved it. Not what I expected at all, especially several characters popping up. Can't wait to see how this is going to conclude. Bring on Peacable Kingdoms!
     
  11. trash80

    trash80 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Its geek speak, 1337 = ELITE see?
     
  12. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

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    Ottawa, Canada
    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Yeah, I got that joke and moved on.
     
  13. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Thank you, James!

    Snagged my copy today..
    Thanks for bringing back Blue-White. He's one of my favorite TrekLit characters.
     
  14. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    Oct 28, 2011
    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Lots of spoilers ahead.

    Definitely liked this one. A lot of great stories told. Surprisingly enough, given my past feelings about her, I really enjoyed Vale’s story, especially as it joined up with Troi’s. Bashir becoming an adopted Andorian was a great touch, one I really liked.

    My favorite storyline was Riker’s. It was nice to see one of our heroes given some real power to throw around. Like playing a video game in god mode (which is always more fun, in my opinion). I think (and hope) that his promotion will stick.

    I say that in part because this book really felt like a finale (or part one thereof, at least) to the Titan series. I am personally okay with that, so that was not a negative component of the book for me.

    I enjoyed the Tuvok/Nog storyline, but more in theory than in practice. I can’t really say I enjoyed reading it. Felt like an attempt to match the style of A Ceremony of Losses, but without the proper pacing. Reminded me of the Trok storyline from Plagues of Night, which I also had trouble with. Just not my kind of story, I guess.

    Definitely enjoyed seeing Tom Riker again. Hope we’ll see more.

    Good use of the Titan crew. I enjoyed the proportions we got of each character.

    While James Swallow justified it very well story-wise, I wish that Bashir had not been released from prison. I figure there will be some resolution to his storyline in Peaceable Kingdoms, but I think that progressing his story beyond what we were shown in A Ceremony of Losses guts, to some degree, the effect of that book. I think it would have been more arresting to have really made Bashir disappear for a long time– if not in-universe, then at least from a real-world publication perspective. (For comparison, if Edward Snowden is ever captured by the US, you can bet your rear that he’ll disappear for a very, very long time.)

    Was a little disappointed, honestly, to see Velk implicated in the Bacco assassination. I think it ruins the parallels to the real world. (Call me blind, but I just don’t see a mainstream American politician arranging the assassination of an incumbent in order to grab power. But perhaps that’s a conversation for another time.) But I’m reserving full judgement until the end of Peaceable Kingdoms. Certainly Ishan continues to make the point about leaders who take advantage of turbulent times for their own personal gain.

    I liked the story that was told in this book, but I thought it was hurt by the pacing. If Revelation and Dust suffered from feeling like the first book in a series, I think The Poisoned Chalice felt too much like a middle book (without actually being one).

    [EDIT: After reading the rest of the thread, I think I'm maybe a little too harsh. I think the big thing for me was that the conclusion was not as concluding as I would've hoped. I was also disappointed by how little productive we really got out of the Tuvok/Nog story, especially given how much of the book was devoted to it. But, I don't mean to minimize the things about this book that were really great, which are numerous.]

    Voted above average. 8.5 out of 10.

    ***

    Am wondering where all of this is going. I have a theory, which I've included in a spoiler below. I assume that this storyline will come to a conclusion in Peaceable Kingdoms (which I also assume is totally written and locked-in). But, on the off-chance that my assumptions are wrong, I want to avoid potential story ideas.

    I tend to believe that the True Way are, indeed, truthful when they say that the idea did not originate with them. But who then?

    The goal of our mysterious adversaries right now seems to be to have Ishan Anjar be president, probably so that the Federation would have a hawkish president who would be actively anti-Pact. Potential consequences? War with Andor (although it’s not clear that that was likely before Bashir went on his little flight). Sundering of the Federation-Cardassian Alliance. Probably war between the Khitomer Accord powers and the Typhon Pact powers.

    But would all the Pact powers join in? I’m not sure. Yes, of course they have all these agreements, but those can be changed. I don’t see Kamemor making war on the Federation unless directly attacked. And, after Silent Weapons, I don’t see the Gorn being that eager either. That leaves:

    -the Kinshaya: Hardly a real threat on their own.
    -the Tzenkethi: Yes, a threat, though it doesn’t seem like they’d be all too eager themselves to get into a war unless directly attacked. They’re interested in keeping the Federation at bay, not conquering them.
    -the Breen: Yes, they are probably a threat. But it’s still unclear, after Silent Weapons, how hawkish they would be themselves. Remember, they had their own little parliamentary upheaval not too long ago.
    -the Tholians: Yes, they are probably a threat, and they really are at the heart of this whole thing. Bacco gave ‘em the ol’ runaround, and Tezrene basically formed the Pact out of spite.

    (Interesting to note that, unlike other recent Trek books, The Fall has given us zero insight into the Typhon Pact powers’ trains of thought.)

    Without the Federation, the Cardassians aren’t much of a threat to anyone, because they will stay weakened.

    So, a hawkish Federation president would probably lead the Federation and Klingons and Ferengi (though we’ll see what happens when the Enterprise gets to Ferenginar) into a war with the Tholians and maybe the Breen and maybe the Tzenkethi, though possibly (maybe probably) not all three.

    Perhaps our adversary’s plan is as follows:
    -manipulate the Federation into a shooting war with some, but not all of the Pact powers. (Again, without the Romulans, the Pact is greatly weakened, especially since the Klingons are that much less threatened and more able to focus their resources elsewhere.)
    -cut off Cardassia from the Federation, so as to keep them weak
    -promote Romulan isolationism, which is how the peace has been kept with them for most of Federation history
    -the Federation emerges from its war victorious, which reasserts Federation dominance in Local Space and which preemptively quells further attacks (recall what Bashir’s attacker said about the Federation always being a target because they’re the “good guys”)
    -the Typhon Pact would probably be dissolved, seeing as some of the powers went to war and others (ie. the Romulans) did not; perhaps we’d continue to see some alliances between the Tholians, Breen and Tzenkethi, but it wouldn’t be the same
    -and, lastly, by removing Bacco, the Tholians are mollified a bit and the whole thing is made less personal. (Again, remember that Tezrene formed the Pact partly out of spite for Bacco.)

    This would leave Local Space looking like this:
    -United Federation of Planets: the big dogs. Maybe not as big as they used to be, but don’t mess with them, ‘cause they will bite.
    -Klingon Empire: definitely going through some internal upheaval (as alluded to in The Poisoned Chalice); the Federation’s ally, though, as Sloan said in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” not much of a threat to anyone
    -Romulan Star Empire: moderate, though possibly isolationist; possibly eventual allies of the Federation, so long as they are distanced from the Typhon Pact
    -Cardassian Union: weakened, isolated; no one is interested in a powerless but ultranationalist nation. (Of course, this part of the plan has already been foiled by Garak’s election to the castellanship.)
    -Ferengi Alliance: unclear, at this point, though probably much as they’ve always been
    -Breen Confederacy: possibly cowed by a war with the Federation, possibly isolationist in response to the debacle during Silent Weapons
    -Tzenkethi Coalition: reduced in power; they could do all their cloak-and-dagger stuff before because they had the power of the Typhon Pact to back them up; that will no longer be the case
    -Tholian Assembly: unclear, though they might have less beef now that Bacco is no longer in power
    -Holy Order of the Kinshaya: irrelevant as always

    By maneuvering a hawk into power, these adversaries will force the Typhon Pact into a war with the Federation that none of them really want. That will force the sundering of the Typhon Pact itself, which will ultimately leave the Federation in a much better position. By taking advantage of the Romulans’ and the Gorn’s current moderation (and possibly the Breen’s newfound isolationist tendencies), these mysterious forces could crack the Pact open like an egg. That could be the ultimate goal here.

    As to the identity: unsurprisingly, I suspect Section 31. It’s still not clear to me why they gave Bashir the Shedai metagenome in the first place. It seemed too easy. And the Andorian Crisis definitely added fuel to the fire and accelerated the escalation of the instability caused by Bacco’s death. Forcing the destruction of the Pact would definitely be high on their list, and killing the President would not be inconceivable for them. Manipulating, indirectly, people like Ishan Anjar would also be consistent with what we’ve seen of them.

    tl;dr: So, in short, I think Section 31 used the True Way to murder President Bacco, implicating the Tzenkethi in the process, with the ultimate intention of manipulating the Federation into a war with the Tzenkethi, Tholians and perhaps other Pact powers that will lead to the sundering of that alliance and the return of the Federation to unquestioned dominance in Local Space.
    Can’t wait for the end of the year!

    ***

    I agree that The Crimson Shadow is a bit vague on this point, but I think there's nothing that quite reaches the level of explicitly contradicting.

    Also, for much of The Crimson Shadow, there is discussion of the impending election. I can't remember if there is a specific timeline attached to that. Possible explanation: did Garan resign? And did that provoke a more rapid election?

    Yeah, I share your concern about Riker's Conspiracy. Makes me wonder/worry about what they'll do in Peaceable Kingdoms. I hope they'll find an elevating solution, like they did with the holoprogram.

    Of course, one way to do that:

    Paralleling Garak stepping up to the plate in The Crimson Shadow, I wonder if we'll see Captain Picard, the hero of Starfleet (recall that Akaar appointed the Enterprise as a "roving problem solver" in Losing the Peace; the Enterprise, and presumably its captain, seem to have a very good public reputation), running for election to the Presidency.
    Yeah, these are both things that I really liked. I especially like how you articulated your point about the integration of Trek lore. That was definitely something I felt, but would not have been able to put my finger on.

    I think you get at a great point about this novel being less thematically playful. I think that was part of my disappointment. After The Crimson Shadow and A Ceremony of Losses, I had high hopes. Definitely agree with your point about the cameos.

    Yeah, I really liked the comparison with the 23rd century, especially in the context of Vale's remark about not really remembering much about the Cetacean Probe Crisis of 2286. Was a great reminder of the vastness of the Trek universe. And was nicely realistic, too. Paralleling Vale's ignorance of an Earth crisis from a century ago, I definitely could do with brushing up on my English history around 1913 (I'm American). Also enjoyed (in a frustrating way) all the stuff about right hands and left hands not knowing what the other was doing.
     
  15. CaptainDonovin

    CaptainDonovin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Finished yesterday & really enjoyed it. Can't wait to see how this ends, been a great mini-series.
     
  16. flandry84

    flandry84 Captain Captain

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    What's the betting that Andor will make a full pardon for Bashir a condition of their readmission to the Federation?
     
  17. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    I got it on thursday, and finished yesterday afternoon. I loved the book, and can't wait to read more about Admiral Riker! I await Peaceable Kingdoms with baited breath :drool:
     
  18. Reanok

    Reanok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    The Andorians were the good guys in this book and I really am glad that they helped Deanna Troi with her mission with Christine Vale
    Rescue Julian Bashir from prison asteroid and that there will be major payback against Ishan Nad Velk making threasts against Julian's friends if he tries to tell the truth of the shadai metagenome that help cure the Andorin crisis.
    I like Admiral Riker and hope we'll get to see more of the Titan crew featured in another story.
     
  19. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Him, and anyone who "conspired" with him, whether known to the authorities already or after the readmission. (Got to cover those contingencies for late arrivals.)
     
  20. j3067

    j3067 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: TF: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!

    Wasn't Lavena promoted in Over a Torrent Sea? I know what you mean overall though. I kind of chalk this up to societies' focus on self actualization in the Trekverse. I would not expect 21st Century military culture or standards to remain in effect especially with all kinds of longer and shorter lived species in the mix. I guess you could use TNG's Tapestry as evidence against this being the case, but it makes sense, to me at least, that there would not be the same stigma against someone on a slow curve as long as misconduct is not a factor.

    I always though Harry Kim's first best destiny was to be an ensign forever until Kirsten Beyer started writing him :devil:.

    As for the novel, I am on the fence between above average and outstanding. I just finished yesterday and I'm still mulling it over.