Spoilers TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread

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)
    22.8%
  2. Above Average

    83 vote(s)
    46.1%
  3. Average

    46 vote(s)
    25.6%
  4. Below Average

    8 vote(s)
    4.4%
  5. Poor

    2 vote(s)
    1.1%
  1. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I was beating my brains out wondering if I missed the Star Trek XI reference. It was the Aventine transporter chief patting himself on the back for beaming away two people in two different locations going in different directions and rematerializing them on the same transporter pad. His assistant's reply was that it had been done before. :cool:

    (And just for the record, the point of divergence between the Roddenberry-verse and the Abrams-verse should not have prevented that feat of transporter wizardry from being accomplished in the 23rd century. :p )
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2010
  2. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I've moved to the D.C. area permanently.

    Fair enough -- but I did want to see that acknowledged. This is not a personal thing against you, but I think that it's far too common to see people on the Internet projecting their personal opinions onto the whole of fandom.
     
  3. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    So you know, it occurs to me I've had this book for most of a month. I read it in its entirety the day I bought it and have thought about it off and on since then.

    And I've never come on here to post my thoughts about it.

    So apologies if this is covering old ground, but I'm not gonna read the entire thread first; I've got lots of catching up to do. :eek: Spoilers AHOY!

    I found Zero Sum Game to be a fantastic book. As expected, David Mack delivers the goods, and I was pretty much enthralled with the story.

    I was really really glad to see DS9 in the post-Destiny timeline, if only briefly. I love the idea of Captain Ro, and I'm sure there'll be some great stories involving her. The general shakeup of the crew was handled nicely and I enjoyed Bashir's melancholy thinking about how long he'd been there and how much things had changed.

    Prynn's brief scenes were very sad and I really felt for her - that family can never seem to catch a break, can they? Part of me thinks it would've been fitting to go ahead and let Vaughn go, but I get the feeling there's still stories to tell with him. We only got the barest of tantalizing hints about Kira, and I'm really hoping Rough Beasts will clear up for us what's going on. It's too bad we didn't get to see Nog though.

    Everything to do with the Breen was wonderful. I think the idea to run with the idea of the Breen "Confederacy" and make them several different species united by culture and political identity was a brilliant way to neatly answer the questions about who the Breen are with some of their conflicting material in the shows. I do wonder at a culture who seems to prize efficiency and being molded together who builds such assymetrical starships, but eh, whatever.

    The stuff with the dissidents was very neat and makes sense, but I thought the character of the Breen engineer was the standout; by the end of the book, I honestly felt sad for what was happening to his ship and what was being done to him. Naming the ship after his daughter who died in a plague (right?) was an especially nice touch. I thought using his frustrations to explore some of the workings of the Pact was a nice idea.

    Unsurprisingly, the action was excellently done, and I especially enjoyed the whole sequence in space. In general, the whole "genetically modified as superhuman" was played up just enough to be exciting and thriller-ish without being over the top.

    Which isn't to say I don't have quibbles, of course. ;)

    I was expecting a lot more Aventine; actually, I'd say I was kind of disappointed by the amount of time Dax and co. got to have in a novel where she and her ship grace the cover. Most everybody got a bit scene which was nice (Leishman and co. definitely got a good scene), and I was especially glad to see that Oliana Mirren survived the events of Destiny, but I just wish there was more. The trick with the Klingon ships was well-played, and I believe they lampshaded its similarity to the Enterprise doing the same, yes? What we did get, with the brinksmanship and the eventual dash into Breen territory was very good.

    I wish there had been a follow-up to the Dax/Bashir dinner scene and her accusations about his reason for taking on such a mission, and in general I didn't care for that whole sequence. Maybe I misread it, but she came across as more bitter and immature than I would've expected? I'll grant this one's pretty subjective and I am biased in favor of Ezri.

    Sarina... Sarina was very interesting to me. The Section 31 revelation didn't so much shock me as disappoint me. In the character that is, not the writing, which was excellent. Sarina is definitely not the insecure, gentle soul she was when we saw her last on the show, and that was made abundantly clear in the scenes she had to herself. Honestly, I think she's essentially a different character now. I believe there was an allusion to 31 early on and Bashir brushes the concern aside, but it'll be interesting to see how this plays out; Sarina's going to rip his heart out, that's for sure - unless he wins her over first. This one isn't a quibble so much as a "Oh, I would not have expected that one." Although... are there any SI agents that aren't corrupt or subverted by 31? ;)

    And for all the praise I gave about the Breen, I still wish more had been done with them. The dissident plot, while interesting, seemed pretty throwaway and sadly underdeveloped. Maybe that was intentional, given Sarina's speech about the need to focus on their mission, but it left me wanting more exploration of the Breen themselves.

    I guess in general, my complaints about this book can be summed up by saying "I wanted more." More Aventine, more Dax, more Breen, and there's no way that all could've fit naturally. So, congrats again David Mack!

    My grade: A-
     
  4. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I'd second that. As much she's evolved as a person in seven years, I refuse to believe she's now an amoral unfeeling con artist. Whatever is really going on there, this is still an ending to a Trek novel that has left me as nervous as the ending passage of "Before Dishonor."
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010
  5. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well...I would compare Sarina to Vesper Lynd, of Casino Royale. Like Bashir, James Bond was captivated by her...seeing her as his One True Love.

    And then....

    Ah, well. I wonder if the haters of 31 would venture to speculate that her going into The Bureau was similar to Vesper's story?

    On the other hand...perhaps she is more like Elektra King, of The World Is Not Enough. Of course, Bond was not fooled by Elektra that much for long.
     
  6. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    You do realize those two ended up DEAD? ;) As did Seska, Nina Myers, and Dana Walsh to name a few more. Come to think of it, it's more often a male protagonist and a female double-agent. How often is it a woman finding out her boyfriend has split loyalties?
     
  7. ProtoAvatar

    ProtoAvatar Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    The book pretty much establishes this not to be the case.
    After Sarina sent Bashir alone to ride on a starship - Bond. James Bond - she kept telling herself that he'll be fine aka she kept thinking about him, rather than about the mission.
     
  8. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^Well...Vesper seemed to care deeply about Bond, too. As M pointed out in the end of the film:

    Frankly, when it's all over...I wouldn't be suprised if, say, Ezri and Julian have a similar exchange as M and Bond.

    Yes...I do. Which is why I'm trying to distance myself from Sarina, as far as "sympathy" is concerned. I really think she's got a target on her back. Frankly...I wouldn't be suprised if she get the Elektra treatment.

    (Think about it...how did she meet her end?)

    Ezri, Chapter 6--although granted, Julian's not her boyfriend right now.
     
  9. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Great... now I have the image of Sarina painting forward bridge stations in bright primary colors...
     
  10. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Sarina comes across rather callous in her scene with the Inquisitor; deliberately associating the Breen dissident movements with UFP spies and infiltrators. If she’s believed, it will presumably cause the BID to initiate even harsher measures against non-conformists and expend more time, money and effort into rooting them out. Commitment to the mission at the expense of the dissidents was a somewhat different argument when the dissidents suffered as an unintended and unplanned consequence of the mission. Actively dragging them into it, so to speak, takes the “mission first” directive to uncomfortable extremes.

    Keer reflects on an interesting saying from his homeworld: “It takes a million stones to build a castle, but only one out of place to bring down a kingdom”. Was his culture one of the founders of the Confederacy? At the least, it sounds like the saying would be offered as justification for joining the Breen, or else provides a basis for the Breen’s current belief system. Which is no doubt why it’s an easily-recalled saying in the present, but it’s also a nice touch that – possibly – offers our first tiny hints into how the Breen were formed or “recruit”.

    As the shipyard starts to fall apart, Keer without hesitation risks his life in an attempt to save the project. Keer is considerably more heroic in these scenes than Bashir, which of course fits in with the theme that “intelligence work is not noble” (to use Sarina’s words). This is why the whole affair is so disturbing to Bashir – he can’t find a sense of righteousness in what he’s doing (though he tries with the “we’re at war” justification that rings a bit hollow and evidently doesn’t fully convince him; he just uses it as a temporary crutch to get the job done). Keer, on the other hand, is in a more straightforward situation; his shipyard is under attack, he’s trying to save it. There is certainly “meaning” and nobility in that, and it’s interesting to have the “hero” outshined in heroism by a supporting character. This is, I’m sure, entirely deliberate, because it points right to the heart of Bashir’s current crisis.

    The character of Keer is again “humanized” further, both by his naming the ship for a dead child and through showing genuine distress at the murders of his employees.

    On Aventine, Kedair does get a little moment to shine, after all: “that sounds very thorough” “yes, sir, it is”. :lol:

    The destruction of the shipyard, Bashir’s escape, Sarina’s escape from Salavat, the Aventine completing the mission for them, were all straightforward but reasonably interesting. As I mentioned back at the beginning, action scenes aren’t my thing, so I’m not the best for evaluating their success. For what’s it worth, I thought they were executed well enough to hold my interest despite the uphill battle against my reading preferences. As expected, the part of the mission’s conclusion with the most emotional impact is Keer’s death. He gave the Confederacy intensely loyal service, but his commitment was evidently still balanced with an appreciation of his own individuality and personal background. That this most loyal of Breen can also choose to be proudly unmasked in his final moments offers a degree of hope and balance to the depiction of Breen society. This isn’t quite the totally bleak dystopia it might otherwise appear, given Nar and the Inquisitor, etc. It was a good call to play Keer as sympathetic, and a pleasant surprise to find that the first Breen POV character isn’t a villain, despite being committed to the “opposing side”.

    The conversation between Nechayev and Dax is nicely written; their small scene hints at a more complex professional relationship than the exchange itself would suggest, which is nice to see.

    Another good scene with Bacco, and her nemesis Tezrene, the pair jostling for political capital, and this time Bacco comes out on top (the last round, in A Singular Destiny, saw Tezrene the victor). Tezrene repeats her ominous warnings about “Federation arrogance”. I can’t help but wonder if Tezrene’s increasingly on a personal mission against the UFP as well as a political one; I hope Paths of Disharmony expands on her character, and where her loyalties lie concerning the Pact which she represents, the Assembly specifically, and her own agenda.

    And of course L’Haan is here. This ending gives the whole affair a boost of significance, and raises my estimation of the novel as a whole. It throws a new light on the main events, and in a way that progresses the long-running plot arc of Bashir’s (reluctant) involvement with Section 31. It’s about time we had follow up on that, and it’s “good” to see that 31 haven’t been idle these last few years, having concocted a new means of “attack”. There are more questions raised, of course; Sarina accepted recruitment; why? And given that she evidently has genuine concern for Bashir (so her POV scenes confirmed), does she perceive herself as being used as much as or more than she’s using him? Does she actually see no conflict between personal love for Bashir and an assignment to use their relationship for 31’s benefit? If she is committed to 31 – and it looks like she is at this point – does she then truly think it’s the best place for him too? To what degree is her love for him real while just happening to serve as a duty also, and to what extent is it played up as part of her assignment?

    Overall, Zero Sum Game was pretty good. There were a few areas in which I was disappointed; the Aventine scenes could’ve used more insight into Dax’s state of mind (then again, the absence of any significant fretting does convey the sense that she’s moved on, so I suppose the novel gives greater insight into her current mindset than might appear). I’d have liked to see more of Marius; will he crop up in later novels? It felt like he could work as a recurring thorn in Dax’s side rather than just a one-scene wonder. The “genetic enhancement” issue wasn’t really explored in any detail, though we were reminded of it at several points. As I said earlier, there seems a lot of potential in comparing Bashir’s experiences as a genetically enhanced human to the Breen, both outwardly conforming and hiding their uniqueness. The comparison also includes the contrast of Bashir having hidden his talents while the Breen hide everything but their talents. A United Federation of Planets which is morally disturbed by inequality and a Breen Confederacy similarly disturbed by potential biases. These aren’t major omissions, though; it was a good Trek novel overall. Perhaps it has the misfortune of being largely action-oriented when I’d have liked a more “talky” Typhon Pact entry up first. Still, it portrayed the Breen culture in an interesting way - and leaving room for further exploration of their mindset and government at a later point -, it had plenty of insights into the Typhon Pact and wider galactic politics, and it brought a long-standing character arc into a new phase. So I’m pleased.
     
  11. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    :lol:

    "We need those stations active and usable! We're on a vital mission to protect the Federation!"

    "Your moral pleas leave me unmoved, captain". *continues calmly painting*.
     
  12. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^Well...as for Dax's coldness, perhaps she's in shock, or burying it inside her for the duration of the mission (and rightly so--it would distact her from her duties).
     
  13. Enterprise1981

    Enterprise1981 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    :vulcan:
     
  15. Stephen!

    Stephen! Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Although even if he stunned them, there's no guarantee any of them would regain consciousness in time to reach the escape pods before the asteroid was destroyed. So they'd probably end up dead one way or another.

    Maybe Bashir felt it was more humane to give them a quick death, rather than a prolonged one.

    Alternatively, there's also the possibility that the stun setting might not keep them incapacitated long enough, so if they were to regain consciousness, they could become a liability to him completing his mission, if they tried to interfere or managed to overpower him.
     
  16. ProtoAvatar

    ProtoAvatar Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Perhaps the breen Bashir murdered wouldn't have regained consciousness; perhaps they would have regained consciousness and managed to escape; perhaps they fellow breen would have found them and carried them to safety - Bashir robbed them of these chances.

    Also, being close to a nuclear reactor exploding equals a very fast death.

    Let's be clear - Bashir did the breen scientists he executed in cold blood ABSOLUTELY no favours.
    He acted as a common criminal.
    "humane"? Really?:guffaw:

    And Bashir did it gratuitously:
    The book establishes - directly, even - that stun is quite effective against breen.

    And Bashir killed his victims during his endgame.
    Them regaining consciousness would have changed nothing. You see, if Bashir was so slow as not to complete his mission/as to still be in that room by the time they woke up, the base's security would have apprehended/killed him.

    Whether the breen scientists were incapacitated or killed had no influence on the outcome of his mission.
    He killed them either for the lulz or because he inexplicably forgot that his weapon has a stun setting - and that, after he intentionally put his weapon on 'kill' just before he executed them.:rommie:
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010
  17. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    That's the point; he deliberately chose a kill setting because he was hardening himself with a "this is war!" attitude - an attitude that he wouldn't have embraced but for two reasons. One: there was no aspect of the mission that he could find his needed sense of nobility and righteousness in, save Sarina, and Two: Sarina was the one who told him about the "need" for lethal force in a situation like this.

    That's where Bashir starts slipping off the moral high ground, which is exactly what Section 31 was hoping for. He took an "important" step into accepting their outlook and their mindset. He was lost and afloat without anything to latch onto as righteous or noble, and he grasped onto the one aspect of his current situation in which he could find meaning, which was the advice of Sarina. Because Sarina, of course, is the only part of the mission Bashir can find anything "right" in. So he behaved in a manner at odds with his usual self but which allowed him to complete the mission while still clinging to a sense of meaning and nobility. And though he doesn't know it, that one "right" thing that he clung too and allowed him to complete his mission was something affiliated with - something of - Section 31. They're an important step closer to "having" him. :)
     
  18. ProtoAvatar

    ProtoAvatar Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Sarina told him about the 'need' for lethal force when it is necessary for the success of the mission.
    Bashir murdered the breen gratuitously, his use of 'lethal force' did not increase the chances of success of the mission.

    He killed completely gratuitously. He went far beyond what Sarina did when she killed that guard - at least that was necessary to maximise the chances of success of their mission.

    There are cases where serial killers murder people, entire families, because they think it's 'manly', 'badass' or something equally non-sensical along those lines.
    Bashir decayed to their level the moment he killed unarmed scientists for no reason at all - none that actually has some value, anyway.
    His only reason for killing was that "he was hardening himself with a "this is war!" attitude"? This is a joke, not a valid reason for MURDERING people! In war, one kills enemies if and when it's necessary, not because one feels like it; every other instance of murder is a war crime!

    Bashir may even have crossed the moral event horizon
    when he killed in cold blood, for no reason.
     
  19. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Out of interest - anyone know what the law currently says about such actions?

    So for example, you were an American army officer and you are sent into a hostile country (but one where war has not been officially declared), in the course of your mission you kill some unarmed civilian engineers.

    How does international law treat such a situation?
     
  20. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well, in my way of thinking: It is never necessary to kill (there's no objective external law of the universe that killing must take place). So the idea that you "only kill when necessary" is itself meaningless. You've just made an arbritary subjective judgement and pretended it's an objective reality. Your position on "necessary" and "not necessary" is simply a system of signifiers and categorizations that are used to draw distinctions that help you make sense of your actions and the universe. In this situation, what I did was okay. In this one, it isn't. These are fluid distinctions, never objective. Societies like to pretend they are objective, so they can force a conformity that allows for a state of something other than chaos. This is the basis of a shared morality rather than individual ethics, and a shared morality provides a means for the collective to deal with those people who otherwise wouldn't cultivate a sense of ethics at all. Morality and its pretend-objective rules are the safety net for those who cannot achieve an individual ethical outlook, and they provide a safety feature that allows society to function.

    And there is never "no reason" to kill. Killing isn't a reflex like a twitching nerve. Even if the cause is blind fear or rage as opposed to something calculated, something provided the impulse by which you acted to kill. So no-one shoots people for "no reason", even if they can't themselves articulate why they did it. At the same time, though, using some fake-objective framework to evaluate the act is not very helpful. There's simply why you do it (if you even know) and how you justify/explain/excuse it afterwards (or fail to). A shared system of moral distinctions simply helps society draw a close over or act on those incidents of violence whereby the ethical examination is missing.

    The problem as I see it is that people become dependent on the moral framework to give them pointers, forgetting that its function is as a safety net/back up to personal ethical examination, which should be the primary means by which you navigate. Shared morality is there so we can keep a stable society running, it is largely meaningless as a means to reflect ethically on individual action.

    Or so I see it. Of course people see these things differently- as they should. Each person is, ideally, unique. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. It's an ideal I hold very close to my heart. :)

    What we're discussing here is my favourite theme in Trek lit and indeed in fiction in general - as I've mentioned many times: how the individual balances the self against membership in the whole, balances personal ethics and identity against the fluid community, the structured society, and their notions of protective conformity. How that community maintains its safety net against chaos without denying the individual or the diversity of its members. Where lines are drawn, compromises made, where fear keeps mock-objective boundaries up where they cause harm, and where necessary caution justifies the establishment of a moral frame encompassing all to protect against harm. The difference and overlap between law, morality and ethics. How we be ourselves without causing undue harm to others and how we deal with threats and that which brings us harm. I'm gushing a bit, I know, but I find it endlessly fascinating and if there is any justification for fictional worlds at all it is to help us explore the beautiful chaos of this dilemma.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2010