TOS: Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett Review Thread (spoilers)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Defcon, Nov 15, 2013.

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Rate Ex Machina

  1. Outstanding

    25 vote(s)
    50.0%
  2. Above Average

    20 vote(s)
    40.0%
  3. Average

    1 vote(s)
    2.0%
  4. Below Average

    3 vote(s)
    6.0%
  5. Poor

    1 vote(s)
    2.0%
  1. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Location:
    New Therin Park, Andor (via Australia)
    My customized Zaand:

    [​IMG]
    Vaylin Zaand, Rhaandarite bridge ensign by Therin of Andor, on Flickr

    (I once received an email offer to sell this figure to Adrienne Barbeau, Billy Van Zandt's wife, so she could surprise him with it. I explained that I'd already sent him a handpainted Citadel metal miniature of his character!)

    And the LA Times cartoon I recaptioned for Christopher when news broke about "Ex Machina" and its exploration of TMP aliens:

    [​IMG]
    Rec deck aliens by Therin of Andor, on Flickr
     
  2. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
    Location:
    east coast United States
    Christopher, I really appreciate you exploring the post-TMP era. Well done. :vulcan:
     
  3. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Location:
    New Therin Park, Andor (via Australia)
    Despite initial reports that "Ex Machina" didn't sell its first print-run fast enough, the novel does seem to have gone into multiple reprints. I'm sure the last one I saw in a shop was up to the fourth printing.
     
  4. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Jun 2, 2012
    Location:
    Yorkshire, UK
    This thread eroded all barriers to not buy this book right away. Now its downloading on my device I am off to start digging into it. :bolian:
     
  5. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Excellent! [/Mr Burns]
     
  6. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2012
    Location:
    Yorkshire, UK
    Last night I finished reading Ex Machina. TOS books always take longer time for me to finish for some reason.

    I failed to detect unusual amounts of continuity porn. The characterizations were enjoyable, including the fleshing-out of species like the Rhaandarites, Betelgeusians and Megarites. The mention of an Eeiauoan is appreciated - I like that older standalone adventures don't necessarily mean they're forgettable in the long run.

    I'm a sucker for species diversity in Starfleet and this novel had a TTN-vibe to it, almost like a spiritual sequel to the later book series.

    A major theme was the struggle between civilization and religion. To mature socially, a culture needs to learn to go beyond war, disease, poverty and religion although it cannot be achieved overnight. I sympathized with Commissioner Soreth's point of view but recognized that the Lorini required time (and patient schooling) to throw of the shackles of oppression, something that Natira realized as well in the end.

    A further aspect I liked was the sudden death of a 'redshirt', a classic TOS trope, but where the redshirt was a developed character and his loss regrettable.

    Picking up the novel, I expected round characterization, an intriguing plot, diverse species and a revisit to a familiar but until now underdeveloped place. My expectations were met and I'm happy to have finally picked up the book. :bolian:
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Wow, you could not have more completely misinterpreted my intentions. I absolutely was not portraying religion as an inferior or anti-civilizational force. On the contrary, I went to great lengths to demonstrate the diversity of interpretations of religion, the ways in which it can be wielded as both a positive and negative force, and the gross folly and bigotry of assuming that a society is primitive and backward just because it has a different set of beliefs than your own. Natira was wrong to assume that her people needed to grow beyond religion altogether, and her attempt to enforce secularism was the cause of much of the unrest. There were people like Dovraku who subverted religion to serve their selfish or destructive ambitions, but there were also people like Rishala who sincerely used their faith to serve positive and constructive ends. And by lumping the latter together with the former, Nashira and Soreth blinded themselves to a possible solution.

    Not to mention that the kind of condescending attitude you're expressing here -- that the Lorini were some kind of child-culture that needed to be shepherded by the superior Federation -- was also part of the problem because it offended the Lorini's dignity and made them feel oppressed, and quite rightly too. The right path was to respect them as partners and let them make their own choices, rather than trying to impose solutions that the Federation ethnocentrically assumed would be superior.

    Indeed, that's the whole point of the Prime Directive. It's about having the humility to recognize that your own culture is not automatically superior to others, that you're not more qualified than they are to decide what's best for them, and that trying to compel them to become more like you will only cause harm.
     
  8. Markonian

    Markonian Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2012
    Location:
    Yorkshire, UK
    My opinion on religion coloured my perception of its representation in Ex Machina. Whether religion is a superstition or not, it is a tool of society that can be employed for positive and negative ends, if I understand the point correctly.

    My criticism of the Oracular belief was severe but not meant to belittle the Lorinan civilization as a whole. Considering that the Yonadan phase alone lasted ten thousand years, such a stance would be arrogant.
     
  9. Jakks

    Jakks Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2009
    Location:
    California - U. S. A.
    Well, after seeing many references to Ex Machina around the Lit board over the past months, I decided to order it from Amazon.

    Reading it will have to wait tho...as that I just finished The Poisoned Chalice and am currently reading Christopher's more current work...Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.

    It is my intention to get Ex Machinaread before the final Fall book comes out at the end of the month...looking forward to it.
     
  10. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Location:
    Bristol, United Kingdom
    I loved it. Definitely one of the better Trek-lit reads, although I confess a weakness for the TOS movie era.

    I thought that some of the internal monologues of the minor supporting 'lower decks' crew went over the top a bit in some cases and dragged the story progression off course a bit, albeit briefly, but the flip side is that it gives the author something to work with in future stories I suppose. I certainly wanted to re-use the support crew in a similar way in my you tube comic.

    I'd really like to revisit Christopher's TMP era again. I must get round to ordering the other novels next year after my time-consuming Dungeons & Dragons project plateaus.