TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by JD, Oct 21, 2010.

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How would you rate Zero Sum Game?

  1. Outstanding

    41 vote(s)
    22.9%
  2. Above Average

    82 vote(s)
    45.8%
  3. Average

    46 vote(s)
    25.7%
  4. Below Average

    8 vote(s)
    4.5%
  5. Poor

    2 vote(s)
    1.1%
  1. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I can't say for sure but I'd imagine that the head of the CIA isn't the sort of enlightened humanity Roddenberry saw us growing into.

    Trek is supposed to show us the sort of people we CAN be. Of course they're not perfect but this behaviour strikes me as WAY over the line for Bashier. And all for the promise of regular sex with a woman. The idea that Sarina is using him will bother him more than the fact that he killed those people in cold blood, That's the sad part.
     
  2. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^ But that it ended the way it did suggests that Julian won't kick her to the curb the second the jig is up or that there is more to this plot twist than what the final section indicates as when one of my fan fiction stories dropped a hint that Garak was directly affiliated with Section 31.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Yes, but sometimes that means showing other people who fall short of that and lead us into temptation. Stories require conflict and peril.

    Come on. Bashir can get sex anytime he wants. He loves Sarina. He thinks of her as his soulmate.
     
  4. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I guess that excuses it then. :rolleyes:

    "She's my soulmate. I'll commit murder for her." And let's be clear, it was murder. He deliberately killed unarmed civilians. During an illegal infiltration of Breen space. Just like the Breen did when they blew up the station at Utopia Planitia.
     
  5. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Who said anything about excuses. And by whose authority was it an illegal infiltration. At least he was remorseful of his own actions, where Dukat's attitude would be "200 lives for 200 lives. That's justice. Not malevolence. JUSTICE."
     
  6. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Note the roll eyes. I was being sarcastic. ": a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual"

    Let's see, two officers in one government's military crossed the borer without permission and in disguise with the intent of sabotage and destruction. Sounds pretty illegal to me.

    Where do you get that he was remorseful? We're told how his actions made him want to vomit, made him ill but I don't recall him expressing regret. I do remember him firing a shot into one solder's head "just to be sure" while the solder way unconscious.

    If what Bashier and Sarina did wasn't illegal then neither were the initial actions of the Breen.
     
  7. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^ Pages 333 and 334, where he's not quite ready to end Vaughn's life and when he says, "If I'm wrong, it's a mistake I can live with."
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I'm not trying to excuse anything. Personally I don't approve of what Bashir did; I would've preferred it if he'd found another way. I'm just saying that it's a misunderstanding to call it gratuitous or random. There was an operational justification for it. If one accepts that it is sometimes necessary to kill in order to save one's own life, the lives of others, or the security of one's country -- which is something that is implicitly accepted by anyone who wears a Starfleet uniform -- and if one accepts the premise that the Breen's construction of this ship was a direct threat to Federation security -- a premise that Bashir clearly accepted because he agreed to the mission -- then it logically follows that Bashir's actions were necessary under the circumstances.

    And that's not out of character. We've seen that Bashir is not a conscientious objector. He has been willing to participate in combat missions during wartime. If he is convinced that it is for the greater good, he can accept that killing is necessary and can participate in missions that involve taking lives. He's just never done it so directly before.
     
  9. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I'm not saying it was gratuitous or random. It was deliberate. Cold bloodily so. The technicians in the Ops Centre were unarmed. His weapon had a stun setting. They were also civilians but let's assume that he didn't know that, even though his HUD was programmed with all sorts of information. He shot six unarmed technicians with a kill setting. If you do that in Iraq or Afghanistan today, it's called a war crime.

    He was willing to undertake combat missions in WARTIME. War has not been declared. As a matter of fact it's mentioned numerous times that it's a cold war and that this mission could lead to open warfare, His actions could lead to war.

    This is the same man that worked to allow the Jem'Hadar the be free of dependency on Ketrecel White. He also was appalled with using biological warfare against the Founders. Even in open warfare, with the Federation on the ropes, Bashier worked to save lives.

    Let's not forget Sarina's bombing of the civilian train. How many non-combatents died there? Just because he didn't plant the explosives himself doesn't clear him of this act of terrorism. Guild by association. He was part of the mission that resulted in the bombing.

    He allowed himself to be blinded by love or lust or desire. The reason why he did what he did doesn't matter. He committed murder for the woman that he believes he loves. Would he have done the same for Ezri? Or Melora? Is his chance at love worth all those lives?
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    So is shooting at enemy troops in war.


    True and true. But they posed a danger to his mission if they lived, because they could've warned others who could've stopped him. As Sarina persuaded him earlier in the book, stunning them wouldn't have been enough because they would've woken up and spilled the beans before he could complete his mission.

    I'm not saying I entirely agree with that logic. In principle, I agree with you: he should've found another way. But in the circumstances, he couldn't see another way, and there was a cold logic to Sarina's argument about the necessity of killing in such a circumstance. For that matter, I can't think of another way either, not given the limited time and resources he had available.

    Of course he knew that. The book explicitly said so. There was a paragraph specifically about Bashir pondering the ethics of shooting the civilians and concluding that, since they were working on a ship that was a threat to Federation lives, that made them effectively enemy combatants, so that wartime rules of engagement applied. I already mentioned that a couple of posts ago. I sympathize with your position on this, but you don't do yourself any favors if you don't base your argument on solid facts. At least be sure you understand what you're disagreeing with. That's where I am -- I don't agree with what Bashir did, but I understand what made him believe it was necessary.


    It was stated a couple of times in the book that this was effectively a war even without a formal declaration. And it was a "full-sanction" operation, meaning that he was operating under Starfleet orders that gave him a license to use lethal force.


    And that's what he believed he was doing here -- protecting Federation lives from the threat they'd face if the Breen got slipstream. Now, personally I'm not sure I agree with the Federation's desire to keep a monopoly on that technology just to avoid becoming a second-rate power. I'm actually inclined to agree with you that it was irresponsible of Starfleet to risk starting a war in order to maintain that monopoly. I don't think the Typhon Pact would use slipstream to go to war with the Federation; their objective isn't to conquer the UFP so much as to outcompete it, to reduce it to a second-rate power. Now, maybe if the Pact became more powerful than the UFP, their more bellicose members would cause more damage and destruction in the long run; but I'm not convinced there was an immediate threat to the Federation if the Pact got slipstream. So here I'm pretty much on your side -- I question the validity of this mission. But I blame Starfleet Intelligence for that, not Bashir. He was doing what he was convinced was necessary for the greater good, even if he was perhaps somewhat misled into believing that. At worst, he's a dupe.

    Bashir and Sarina gave the train's occupants time to evacuate first. If anything, they showed more consideration for the passengers' safety than the Breen troopers who fired indiscriminately into the crowd and hit several innocent bystanders. (Between this and The Calling, I'd say that if you ever find yourself in a David Mack book, you should be sure to stay away from crowded subways.)


    I'm sure that's how the Breen would define it, and I think Dave did an excellent job of showing that point of view through Thot Keer's reactions. So it's not like the book was one-sided or simplistic in its portrayal of the moral issues here.
     
  11. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    If the Breen are working to reduce the effectiveness of the Federation, to reduce it in power and ability, then everything the Breen do is a threat to the Federation. Perhaps the Federation should start dropping nerve gas on their colonies, piloting drone ships into their planets at .99c, creating protomatter warheads to destabilize their stars like the Bashier changeling attempted. If all's fair in war and war is underway in all but formal declaration then should the Federation do any less? If you go to war, you declare it. You don't slip spies into a city, bomb civilian infrastructure and kill civilians. That's not war, that's terrorism.

    If all Bashier was trying to do was save Federation lives then he would have been attempting to turn the Jem'Hadar's freedom from the white into a weapon. He would have applauded Section 31's infection of the Founders. Certainly, the Dominion would be much less f a threat if all the Founders were dead and their troops were going through withdrawal. He was concerned with all life. Even that of his enemies. If he allowed himself to treat his enemies they way they would have treated him then he's become them. And that's what I fear has happened to Bashier. He crossed the line and now will allow himself to kill where he wouldn't have before. And the next time, it'll be even easier. And the time after that. Isn't it worth the love of his soulmate?

    This is a Federation reacting from fear. The Typhon Pact is the first multi-species government that could rival them in power. So the Federation lashes out. In the words of George W. Bush "If you're not with us, you're against us." That's a scary thought. The only government that the Federation will allow to form is one that supports them fully. No difference of opinion allowed. If you're peaceful towards us, then join us, Since you won't, you're an enemy.

    Let's imagine if the Romulans reacted as the UFP did when Kirk stole the cloaking device. Would the Romulans be justified in sending some spies to Earth, blowing up a civilian transport, gunning down civilian technicians and destroying the whip used to test the cloak along with Spacedock? After all, war hasn't been declared.

    I don't recall the US attacking the USSR when a MIG was flown into South Korea and the pilot defected. Why didn't they US attack China when the patrol plane was forced to land in China a few years ago? Technology is always going to leak out or be stolen. You respond with appropriate force and no more. The Federation is the one that escalated this.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well, you're twisting the facts here, and you're misusing the word "terrorism." That word has been frequently abused as a catchall label used to induce an emotional response, but it actually has a precise technical meaning that does not apply here. Terrorism is an act committed with the specific intent of inducing terror in an enemy populace -- of making them so afraid and dismayed about the consequences of their actions that it makes them unwilling to continue them. If you're on a clandestine mission to deprive an enemy of a tactical asset and you're required to commit violence in order to save yourself or prevent your discovery, that's not terrorism, because the goal of that violence is to keep your activities secret. The goal of terrorist violence is exactly the opposite, to be overt and public, to serve as a propaganda tool.


    Yes, exactly. That's the point of the story. Bashir has evolved as a character. At the start of the novel, we see him lonely and depressed because the life he used to know has pretty much eroded away. He's unsure of himself and looking for a new purpose. And that makes him vulnerable to being led down a darker path. Moral compromise can be a source of effective drama. Yes, it's a darker route for characterization than Star Trek usually takes, but so was "In the Pale Moonlight."

    Bashir is now a character in peril, not of his life, but of his identity, his principles. The question to be explored in future tales is whether he'll be able to turn back from that.

    Well, the Breen didn't just steal the technology, they blew up a Starfleet spacedock and killed a substantial number of people, probably including civilian techs. So one could argue that this was a proportionate response rather than an escalation.
     
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Because, of course, real people never act out of character or deliberately violate their own moral codes.
     
  14. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    The Breen attack was proportional to the attack on the spacedock and the prototype. Everything that came before that was beyond what the Breen had done. Add to that the fact that the Breen didn't have a fleet of ships near Earth. Just a cloaked courier. The Federation had one of their newest ships as well as numerous Klingon vessels. If you're looking to escalate a situation, putting a fleet along the border is a great way to do so.

    Bashier's principles aren't in peril. They're done, finished, kaput. He's crossed the line. He may try to make amends for what he's done but he can't undo it. We know know what it will take for him to throw away his values. A woman.

    Another thing that bothered me was putting a Slipstream ship at the forefront of the extraction. I know it was to get in and out as quickly as possible but it's strange to worry about the Breen having the plans for the slipstream drive when you're giving them the chance to capture an intact, working vessel with that very technology. Why worry about building a prototype when you have a working vessel in your space, ripe for the taking.
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Because, as the novel mentioned several times, the Federation design had to be modified in order to work on Breen starships, and capturing a single Vesta-class starship wouldn't matter nearly as much as making sure that the Breen have no way to modify their entire fleet. And, of course, because no other class of ship would have the ability to extract Bashir and Douglas as quickly as necessary.

    ETA:

    I'm not sure why the United States would have attacked the Soviet Union in response to a Soviet or Soviet ally defecting to U.S.-allied South Korea.

    Because the crew destroyed the classified data and technical components before the Chinese got their hands on it, and also because, let's face it, a single spy plane is just not the sort of game-changer that slipstream technology would be.

    For an adequate comparison to real-life events, you'd need to look at things like the development of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union (or, in the modern world, by Iran). And you're kidding yourself if you think the United States didn't engage in any covert operations against Soviet facilities like what we saw in Zero Sum Game.

    Waitaminute.

    Let me get this straight.

    The Typhon Pact infiltrated a Federation shipyard, stole classified Federation technology, destroyed a Federation shipyard, murdered dozens if not hundreds of Federation citizens -- and you're accusing the Federation of escalating things? The Federation response was pretty much to do the exact same thing to the Pact -- which is pretty much the definition of a "proportional response."

    Normally, I'd agree. But I think the thing to remember is just how fundamentally different the Federation's position is in the wake of the Borg Invasion. They have a giant dead zone in the middle of their space, and they have billions upon billions of refugees they have to take care of, and they have to find some way to maintain national security when they're surrounded by powers that are either hostile or out to compete with them for limited resources. And if they lose that competition, 1., who knows what a Typhon-Pact-dominated quadrant would look like?, and 2., how many Federates would die because the UFP can't expand to the uninhabited worlds it needs to house them?

    The Federation is already a second-rate power. The real danger is being reduced to a third-rate power -- to being so out-competed that they're rendered helpless. If it were 2380 and the Borg had never come, I'd be right there with you. But post-Invasion, the Federation is too weak and the rest of the galaxy too politically unstable not to at least try to maintain a monopoly on slipstream technology.

    The real question to my mind is not the morality of the mission objective so much as the morality of the means used to achieve that objective (i.e., the killing of Breen civilians).
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2010
  16. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    We're not talking about lying on your taxes or having an affair or buying stock based on some inside information. We're talking about the deliberate killing of unarmed civilians. That is a line that Bashier should have not crossed. He would have found another way. He would have taken the chance that he'd be captured or killed. All life used to be important to him. No longer. Now, killing civilians is something he knows he can do. The next time it'll be easier since he can say "I've done it before."
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Which is something that people sometimes do. Even people who never thought they'd do that. People are often not as good as they would like to think they are.
     
  18. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    The Breen got onto the station, got the information, blew up a chunk of the station and got out with one ship.

    The Federation agents killed a guard, set off explosives on a civilian transport, got the plans, destroyed the base and the prototype AND stationed a fleet of Federation and Klingon ships along the border. That's escalation. One wrong move and we would have had a real live shooting war.

    Normally, I'd agree. But I think the thing to remember is just how fundamentally different the Federation's position is in the wake of the Borg Invasion. They have a giant dead zone in the middle of their space, and they have billions upon billions of refugees they have to take care of, and they have to find some way to maintain national security when they're surrounded by powers that are either hostile or out to compete with them for limited resources. And if they lose that competition, 1., who knows what a Typhon-Pact-dominated quadrant would look like?, and 2., how many Federates would die because the UFP can't expand to the uninhabited worlds it needs to house them?

    The Federation is already a second-rate power. The real danger is being reduced to a third-rate power -- to being so out-competed that they're rendered helpless. If it were 2380 and the Borg had never come, I'd be right there with you. But post-Invasion, the Federation is too weak and the rest of the galaxy too politically unstable not to at least try to maintain a monopoly on slipstream technology.

    The real question to my mind is not the morality of the mission objective so much as the morality of the means used to achieve that objective (i.e., the killing of Breen civilians).[/QUOTE]

    The mission itself is proportional in it's response. It went beyond that or did I miss the part about the Breen agent setting off an explosive device in the San Francisco subway system?

    This is what worried me about Destiny. it would lead to a continued darkening of the Federation. They're backed into a corner and so the values that built the Federation are being eroded. Bit by bit. The ends justifying the means. If the Typhon Pact makes a breakthrough that the Federation believes will give them an edge, are they justified in launching a pre-emptive strike? What if it's a civilian technology such as agriculture. Lots of refugees to feed. Better not let the pact get a leg up and lure some of the planets away. better nuke them from orbit, just to be safe.
     
  19. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    1. The Breen city in this novel is more akin to a city on a remote colony than the biggest city on the Federation capital.

    2. Douglas and Sarina kept the Breen civilians safe; the Breen Militia in that situation did not.

    Are they?

    Remember, there's a difference between what the characters are doing and what the narrative is saying about what the characters are doing.

    For all that Bashir crossed a moral line, the narrative doesn't seem to be necessarily saying this was a good thing. After all, it's portrayed as the key to the longstanding villains, Section 31, and their plan to gain control of Bashir. And let's not forget that ENT: The Good That Men Do made it clear that by the early 25th Century, the Federation is in another golden age.

    I'm not convinced that the arc of some Federation citizens compromising Federation values is one that the narrative is saying is okay. It could well be that the point is that this is a BAD thing. We'll see.

    Of course, you're overlooking the idea that there's a moral difference between all-out war and small-scale espionage and sabotage. There are degrees of action that can all have differing moral values in someone's eyes.
     
  20. kkozoriz1

    kkozoriz1 Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Tell that to the Breen civilians. Aliens enter your city, get involved in a firefight and blow up a train. Would you say "Well, I'm terrified but it was just a couple of spies. No biggee." If the plan was to sneak into the city, blow up a train and sneak back out without leaving a link to the Federation, would it be terrorism? You're still spreading terror and discord. Remember the Anthrax letters? Lots of people got really worked up over that and nobody stepped forward to lay claim. You don't HAVE to make a statement, sometimes the act IS the statement. "We can hit you where you live and you don't even know who we are."
     

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