Spoilers TNG: The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Jun 15, 2014.

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Rate The Light Fantastic.

  1. Outstanding

    39 vote(s)
    52.0%
  2. Above Average

    21 vote(s)
    28.0%
  3. Average

    13 vote(s)
    17.3%
  4. Below Average

    2 vote(s)
    2.7%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    ^Probably because it would seem like a step back for Data in his current state of personal growth. Just my opinion though..
     
  2. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

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    That's an interesting discussion point. I wonder how everyone feels about that?

    I know for me personally, I watch/read to enjoy the adventures of people in uniform, in service to humanity. I can certainly see this being something new for Data's character, but I suppose so would him being a garbage man or a tax collector. At least for me, new isn't synonymous with interesting - in fact, the only point that I almost put down the book was when he was a short-order cook. I mean... a short-order cook...? Really?

    The long-term appeal of Data-as-stay-at-home-dad doesn't have any lasting interest for me, I'm ashamed to say. In a way it feels like a betrayal of everything the character stood for throughout TNG. What made him an intriguing character was being a foil for questions about the human condition, surrounded by people who could watch him grow and experience the world through fresh eyes. Same as the Spock character. Or Odo.

    I suppose that's why trek has never spent any concentrated time following these 'growth' characters in isolation. Stripped of their audience-participation characters, they tend to be tedious and uninteresting. Even Spock and Odo, whom I love, were both mundaned into oblivion in recent Trek lit by being sent off on lone missions. I get the feeling the writers missed why we were intrigued by these characters to begin with: for the charm to work of them holding up a mirror to humanity, they need to be around humanity. A mirror on its own is a pretty boring thing, no matter how shiny.

    YMMV, of course! I'm interested to see how others view it.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    I haven't read past the first Cold Equations book, so I can't comment on specifics, but I really think the Trekverse in general and Novelverse in particular have grown enough that things can expand beyond following just people in Starfleet.
     
  4. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    My first thought on how to explain it would be that it would feel too much like a reset, but I'm not sure that's really fair. I know some could argue against such an assertion by saying that seeing a new and changed Data within a familiar context would just highlight the differences, bring the changes into sharper relief rather than downplay or obscure them. As it is, I just don't feel like Data re-entering Starfleet would fit with the character now other than as nostalgia - not because of any great change in him, but more a change in the role he plays for the reader (or just me), to build on your argument just now. His perspective has shifted too far, I think. He orientates himself differently. I certainly get, from your post above, why you want him back in Starfleet - your perspective there makes great sense, and in a way I agree with it; Data was great because he was a foil, and without that interpersonal dynamic and exchange with the Humans he isn't as interesting. I suppose what I'd say to that is, that to me Data 2.0 has changed too much, so that the "rules" for Data 1.0 don't really apply.

    Basically, I don't think Data 2.0 fits with the role that Data 1.0 did; the original Data wanted to be Human. As you say, he was the outsider who wanted to be the insider; the interplay between his inescapable alien-ness and his attempts to grasp what Humans have by default, was what defined him. I think of Data 2.0 more in terms of how Jiro the android described things near the end of this book - his life transcends the Human, it doesn't fit into any one role, and he's starting to see that. Data is not a Human, he is an AI, one of an eclectic diaspora, a small and diverse people unified by their status as quiet, powerful, "superior" creatures in a galaxy ostensibly run by organics. He is in many ways still the same Data, but he's part of a world that he didn't really consider himself part of before, at least not in the same way. His identity was Starfleet, his identity was android, in the literal sense of the word that relates what he is to a human; he was a man-machine. Now, I think he's accepted his "racial" identity, divorced from a desire to be man, to be Human. I think his role has changed far more than he himself has, basically. Data has changed a bit, but where he stands in relation to everything around him, that's swung around mightily.

    Data, I think, is now our insight into a new world - that of the quiet, pervasive Game of ever-changing roles between AIs who are powerful yet vulnerable, united by a shared identity yet alien to one another, non-malicious but disturbingly "inhuman". That was there before, but always secondary to his role as it related to where he stood in regards to Humanity.

    I hope that Data shows up in TNG stories going forward from time to time; never a member of the main cast, but as a "special guest star", crossing paths with his old friends, seeking them out sometimes, but living his own life. I think Data's just starting to realize that he came back from death, but his old life maybe didn't...

    I agree with Moriarty on one thing: I would have pegged Data 1.0 as a career officer, too. But Data 1.0 died.
     
  5. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

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    It's interesting that you phrase it that way.

    I've been thinking about this a lot today, and my thoughts keep running up against that central question - at what point does genre fiction become free to break from its central conceit?

    It's difficult to decide that one, mostly because it's so easy for fans to devolve (myself included) into entitlement, right? "I'm owed this story/character." Which of course, we're not. That's the central challenge of any genre fiction - walking the line between giving what's expected, and not endlessly retreading expected ground. I suspect the answer is in between - the material should include enough of what made people love the property initially, while giving them something unexpected or exciting. Would we want to read James Bond, the insurance salesman? Or Jason Bourne, the taco truck man? Niche fiction is successful for a reason.

    But is it free to abandon its central conceit? I suppose if its intent is to be genre-defying. Or if the original property wasn't terribly successful - nuBSG, for example. With Trek though... I don't know, that's a proven formula, and those are beloved characters. To drastically change one in the name of growth? Feels almost like the writer didn't want to write that character, so they made a new one with the same name. Incidentally, we've gotten the "resurrected-character-is-back-only-not-really" play before, and it's always a grumbly road with the fans, sometimes even culminating with them wishing their character hadn't come back at all.

    Take Sisko's return, for example. Now, in my most NON- entitled voice - and keeping in mind I still supported the fiction with my money - that was a pretty big travesty. I loved Sisko the character - mostly owing to how hard the show had to sell me on him before I liked him - and was STOKED for the return of The Sisko! But then, what we actually got was... Well, it was bad. He's an asshole, who leaves his family and friends. Then gets a new ship, and is an asshole to that crew too. By the time they "restore" his character, the damage is pretty hard to undo. Literary Sisko is a deplorable character, and in the new continuity-rich environment, nearly unforgivable. I certainly don't want to read his further adventures, even though I'll keep buying them to support the writers. But something has been lost.

    So, to directly answer the question posed, I'd say that genre fiction is bound to its central premise. I know I'm not at all intrigued by reading non-Starfleet stories of former Starfleet characters, because "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise/Defiant/Voyager/Aventine/Titan." I think genre fiction that abandons its central premise for anything more than a quick ratings spike is in dangerous territory - I begin to get nervous that they no longer wish to write that genre, and I begin to move toward greener pastures.

    YMMV!

    Again, I should state that this was a fabulous read, and I highly recommend it. I only wish that at some point this new Data remembers that he once made a speech about having had a daughter that one day entered the Academy because "he wished to give something back to Starfleet, which had given him so much."
     
  6. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

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    I should add that the last was posted before your reply. Interesting and very well phrased.

    I suppose I'm responding from a place of betrayal on several levels, which is likely driving much of my thinking. One, your description of Data 2 as having rejected his humanity and accepted his "otherness" is, I think, very accurate.

    The trouble I have with that is multifaceted. It was the central nexus of Data 1's character, so it's hard to let go of. Also, it seems to fly in the face of the premise of the whole show: even if we're all different, the unifying blanket we wrap ourselves in is Starfleet, or the Service of the Greater. Vulcan, human, black, white... we're all one in exploration. To have rejected even that is difficult.

    Them beyond that is the narrative conceit - a character that rejects their humanity leaves me unable to relate. In a way, Data 2 has lost his interest in ME, the reader, and I have reciprocated - without meaning to - by losing interest in his narrative. This Data is content to spend time as a cook, drinking tea with his daughter. Not exactly a draw, eh? Would you attempt to sell a series of books based on that, and to an adventure audience to boot? I'd find that an extremely difficult sales pitch.
     
  7. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    ^ I understand entirely where you're coming from. I think you've explained the issues very well, and written a very good defence of your position. In fact, I think this exchange really proves some of your points perfectly, because we're essentially agreeing with one another about what we're seeing and the mechanics that are taking place, we just have different preferences, and balancing the desires of the whole fanbase or potential fanbase is hard. :lol: I have a lot of respect for what the various authors have to do in writing Star Trek stories - especially within an evolving meta-narrative - so that they don't fall too far toward either extreme (nothing changes VS everything changes), that neither play it safe nor deviate from what attracts the reader in the first place. The balancing act is a tough one, I imagine.
     
  8. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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    Just finished it, fantastic read.

    Loved the reg flashback, trust him not to make a "troi at the helm" joke.

    Looking forward to a sequel.
     
  9. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I have not started yet. Having said that why can't Data be a civilian advisor in Starfleet on an as needed basis?
     
  10. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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    No reason, but they're talking about data as an officer, and how the changes in his character since he came back make it tougher for him to return to that role.

    I kind of agree, which is a shame since I still want to see commodore data of the Enterprise-F. But data is still kinda questioning and second guessing himself since his return, so his character could yet develop in a way that allows that.
     
  11. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The book was highly enjoyable and hard to put down. Like IFM it felt small-universey at times, yet all the appearances made perfect sense within the narrative. Good thing parents can't walk in on continuity porn, so the enjoyment of the story was umitigated.

    The series title is The Next Generation and Data has always been a part of that. Technically, it doesn't matter whether he's one the ship. He may or may not come back. We've seen Worf taken his sabbatical and returning before, Kira leaving Starfleet for good, etc. Data 2.0 is so different that it's hard to see anything from Data 1.0 surviving in him. Data wasn't resurrected, he was bascially reborn.

    I wonder whether Doctor Crusher is still at DS9 in late 2385?

    I've been longing for Moriarty's return ever since The Needs of the Many posited he was one of the issues for the AI civil rights campaign by the Soong Foundation. He's finally been done justice. Even better, he was a great villain in this novel: he was relatable, genre savvy and there were no permanent grudges in the end.

    Voted outstanding.
     
  12. Jeffrey_Lang

    Jeffrey_Lang Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I'm enjoying all the positive feedback, but, even more, I'm pleased to see the discussion about Data's role, your concern about his future, and, most especially, the dialogue around the responsibilities and "rights" (if I may use the word) shared by authors and readers in stewarding beloved characters. Very thrilling stuff. Glad to have done my bit to spark some of this. Thanks for the comments.

    And, no, I have no idea what's going to happen to Data next. I have my ideas, but, end of the day, it's not up to me.
     
  13. STR

    STR Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    2.0 is indeed a different person, but as Geordi pointed out (specific context notwistanding), he isn't always aware of what he wants. In fact, beyond being a father, he really hasn't demonstrated that he has any idea of what he wants.

    V1 went in to starfleet almost by default. V2 went into the casino business essentially by default. He runs his father's empire...because his father built it, etc (they went over this in the books).

    Is he growing so much one life or career isn't enough, or is he so lost as to where he belongs he's trying EVERYTHING. Data's increased abilities, resources and agency don't mean he's satisfied with his life. Maybe that leads him back to starfleet (and if it did, it wouldn't dictate he'd have the same role, the fleet itself is clearly different too). Maybe it doesn't, but it's no less of a "step forward" or backward than slinging hash or tending bar.

    Main point is that he's complex enough of a character that you cannot take his stated motivations as 100% truth (which is quite unlike v1). When he makes a declaration it may be more to convince himself than those around him. Where does that lead? Nowhere predetermined. It's the reasons WHY he makes those choices that demonstrate growth. Or self deception.

    And maybe, just maybe, his calling is wandering omlet master. The goal is happiness and we all find it in places familiar and foreign.
     
  14. Reanok

    Reanok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This book is an enjoyable read I like the fact the story is focused on the characters it's well written and I really like Data 2.0 and Lal's story in this book. And Geordi having his own story arc with Data and their interactions was something I wanted see since the Cold Equations books .I also have liked Moriarty's story that has been unfolding in this book the reason he's so desperate to get Data's help.
     
  15. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Very good points. :) I agree; Data doesn't know what he wants, and as Lal said at novel's end, he's going to be heading out soon to find a new role to play, even if he denies it strenuously. He needs to find a purpose, to experiment with the possibilities. I think, though, that his place in the universe, open-ended as it now is, can never be defined again in terms of a simple loyalty to any one organization, or fulfilment in any one purpose. Data is a new father in more ways than one - his days of being Humanity's son are over; he's gone out to make his own way. He's flown the nest, and his Human friends are going to have to accept that. Data hasn't achieved Humanity - for better or worse, he's transcended it.
     
  16. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    Like :techman:
     
  17. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    About 150 pages in, got it in yesterday, and very hard to put down.... I woke up, first thing I did was read 40 more pages. My heart broke a little when

    Lal purchased that house, talked of our house, and as a proud father, Data said it was her house, he only lived there
    .

    Good stuff!!

    Moriarty is very nice to read as well. My biggest fear was how Lang would tackle him, since he can be a huge cliche if not done right. Sofar though, really well done.

    I'll probably finish it somewhere today/tomorrow. I'll post my final thoughts then.
     
  18. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I suppose it helps that he knows he's a cliché. "They are, as they say, in my clutches" :lol:.
     
  19. Mage

    Mage Commodore Commodore

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    You know, that actually makes sense.
     
  20. Reanok

    Reanok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Moriarty was well written in this book. I finished this book last night .Jeffrey Lang wrote another terrific Data story.I hope we'll get another Data story that continues the ending is very intriguing.I'd like to see another Data& Lal adventure in a future book.
    I really liked the fact we get to see continuation story of a Tos the tv episode with Harry Mudd and Alice the android. I really like the fact we find out Harry's still alive and I really liked he was still around that were part of the story and the Androids he helped to create were mentioned in the book .I also like how James Moriarty and Regina's story ends in this book.