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. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    You mean in Rogue? That novel suggested Section 31's relationship with the Tal Shi'ar was decidedly one-way and not in the Romulans' favour, its leadership willing to take problematic lists of alleged Romulan agents and look the other way almost long enough for the Tal Shi'ar to weaponize a subspace singularity.

    Going by Rogue, Section 31's ability to penetrate Romulan civilization is controlled entirely by the Tal Shi'ar. Whatever Section 31 knows about the Romulans is what the Tal Shi'ar lets it know.

    Good point. Tzenkethi society, though, seems, more xenophobic than Romulan, so that creates all manner of problems.
     
  2. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    The first problem with this idea is that Section 31 was duped; they thought Koval was a double agent who was working for them, but he was actually (as revealed by his duplicity towards Section 31 in Section 31: Rogue) a triple agent still working for the Tal Shiar. So there's no reason to think Section 31 is particularly good at penetrating the Tal Shiar.

    The second problem is that the Tal Shiar doesn't know about the Tzenkethi's operations on Romulus. Indeed, the Tal Shiar was amongst the organizations being so manipulated.

    Except the Tzenkethi didn't have moles in Romulan society. They simply manipulated Romulan political actors without anyone realizing it.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't see how other races could inject moles into Tzenkethi society. No normal humanoid could impersonate a Tzenkethi, and Tzenkethi social order is so regulated and restrictive, with everyone literally bred to fill a specific function in society, that I don't see how there'd be room for outsiders to infiltrate anyway. The only option would be turning real Tzenkethi, convincing them to spy for outsiders, but they're so xenophobic that that seems unlikely.
     
  4. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    ^ I'm sure not every single one of the Tzenkethi is an absolute xenophobe. There must be some variance in the way they think. Even the Borg, a collective hive-mind, had rebels. Painting a whole civilization with the same brush is not always a good idea...as history has proven.
     
  5. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I'm sure Christopher didn't mean that there aren't some Tzenkethi who would be willing to spy for foreign governments -- but their society is so tightly regimented that just getting in the position to find Tzenkethi dissidents is likely too difficult to be a plausible option. Same thing with the Breen and Tholians, really.

    If the Federation wants spies in the Typhon Pact, its best bet is probably to focus on recruiting Romulans, Kinshaya, and Gorn.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Of course a normal society wouldn't be so uniform, but my point is that Tzenkethi are specifically bred for particular traits and roles in society, so even their psychology would be much more state-regulated than that of most species. And yes, as Sci says, gaining acces to such a closed society would be a tall order. If any member of the Pact could effectively keep its activities secret from other governments, it would be the Tzenkethi.
     
  7. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This occured, as I recall, years before "Inter Arna". As Ross himself pointed out, we don't know when Koval started working with Sloan. One can't assume he was being a false mole, then--merely a worthy opponent.

    Of course they didn't know--at the time, at least--otherwise, they'd have tried to stop it.

    I'm frankly astonished (not to mention amused) at the idea that that's even possible: to manipulate events and people--to the point of even causing assasinations--so thouroughly and succesfully, with such a guarantee of success, without some sort of "boots on the ground". Even the most "out-there" of conspiracy theories involve "ground troops" of some sort.

    Unless they were somehow confident that they would "get lucky" in the results of their "external pressure", or something....
     
  8. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    They had "boots on the ground." They had Tzenkethi living on Romulus, posing as merchants and in other fields, who were manipulating Romulan politics by covertly assassinating key Romulan leaders. And they did it without any Romulans working for them. Rough Beasts of Empire is very clear on this.
     
  9. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Very good! Very good. :)

    Now, that brings me back to my point--assuming Romulans, or any of the other members, do not have such people--merchants, or what have you--on Tzenketh...I'd sure as heck like to get a look at the minutes of the negotiations that somehow managed to result in something so one-sided!
     
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    With respect, no, that had not been your point. Your first point had been that there would be hell to pay if the rest of the Pact found out the Tzenkethi were manipulating the Romulans; your second point was that the Tzenkethi must have had moles on Romulus and that therefore the Romulans could have moles on Ab-Tzenketh. At no point were you suggesting that the Romulans could manipulate the Tzenkethi through covert assassinations without using Tzenkethi moles.
     
  11. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    For all of its faults, Romulan society is much more open than Tzenkethi society. Romulus is a borderline-totalitarian society riven by distinctions of class and ancestry and species, but in many other respects it's open--Kamemor's reforms allowed media to debate public policy, for instance. Tzenkethi society is altogether different, with the genetic and social programming of even the Tzenkethi's leadership going uncontested and the autarch having the right and ability to dominate even the Tzelnira.

    How could even Romulan agents get past the Tzenkethi, a species that genetically engineered itself for xenophobic paranoia?
     
  12. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    None of this suggests that Section 31 had any particular foothold on Romulus other than what the Tal Shiar allowed it to have.


    I'm frankly astonished (not to mention amused) at the idea that that's even possible: to manipulate events and people--to the point of even causing assasinations--so thouroughly and succesfully, with such a guarantee of success, without some sort of "boots on the ground".[/QUOTE]

    The autarch seemed to be pleasantly surprised by the scope of Alizome's success, actually.
     
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, my inclination would be to compare Romulus to, say, pre-Interregnum England -- a dictatorship to be sure, but one in which Parliament still often had a major say, and where there was still more openness than we tend to think of in modern totalitarian societies like the Nazis or the Soviets.
     
  14. MatthiasRussell

    MatthiasRussell Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^ Agreed. Especially under the rulership of the current Praetor who is unusually fair and balanced.
     
  15. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which still stands. No one can deny that there would be.

    What I was suggesting, Sci--what had been my point--was that if the Tzenkethi were able to manipulate the Romulans with boots on the ground (and I freely admit, perhaps "moles" was too narrow a term, and I apologize for the confusion*)...than why wouldn't the Romulans, or some other power in the Pact, be able to do the same?

    Now, rfmcdpei theorizes the explanation that Tzenketh is more paranoid and xeniphobic than Romulus.

    Perhaps I could allow for that. However--as I said before, I am astonished at the idea that the Pact members would consent to a treaty that would allow one member to effectively close its borders so thoroughly to the other member races. Also, if the Tzenkethi are so xenophobic, why would they even have merchants or traders, in the first place? (Indeed, surely the members of the Pact would smell a rat at this hypocrisy--they are open in the sense of sending its citizens out...but closed in the sense of allowing others--even its own allies--in.)

    Of course...the "real life solution" is--"the plot wouldn't work, if the treaty made sense". But to be honest...DRGIII is far too good a writer to engage in such plot holes. I therefore assume that something else was going on amid that novel's events--that he does have an explanation, which he hasn't yet revealed to us.

    Finally...are we somehow to believe that Romulan security--especially including the Tal Shiar--is somehow so loose and so lax as to allow foreigners to carry out such assasinations--especially of the Praetor?! How could the Tal Shiar, of all organizations, even allow such people to have such an opportunity--and somehow leave no tracks for the Tal Shiar to pick up?

    As rfmcdpei also noted, even the autarch didn't expect it to work like it did.


    At the very least...I cannot believe that the Romulans would not even suspect outsiders. So--suddenly, we're to believe that the Tal Shiar's competence level has suddenly plummeted, for whatever reason.



    *(Then again--perhaps I might be justified in invoking moles, after all. So somehow foreigners were able to sufficiently be in a position to assasinate the Praetor and--probably--Donatra...and "try" to assasinate Spock...without inside help? Again--the Tal Shiar, and the reputation of Romulan security in general, makes that very hard to believe. I could understand Spock--and perhaps Donatra, their both being enemies of the Empire at the time. The Empire could have neglected to ensure their security. But the Praetor? No.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2012
  16. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    One thing about Romulan political culture is that the crazy radical people in the elite have mostly been knocked out of the game, mostly by assassination by one faction or another. The Romulan people, for their part, seem decidedly uninterested in further great risks.

    It could be that the shocks of the past few years have shifted Romulan political norms to a new normal, a more peaceful and cooperative normal.
     
  17. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    This isn't my theorizing. What's been written about the Tzenkethi to date establishes the Tzenkethi as a civilization dominated by a species that, after having been taken as slaves by any number of more advanced neighbours, went to edit itself to a state where xenophilia was a rare but editable genetic flaw.

    The Tzenkethi are active traders. What they did was alter the biology of the Tzenkethi species such that seeing non-Tzenkethi as anything but useful pawns in the cause of defending Tzenkethi civilization from foreigners is something that Tzenkethi individuals are literally incapable of doing.

    Conceivably, non-Tzenkethi intelligence services might be able to establish links with Tzenkethi making use of these intelligence services to wage proxy battles against Tzenkethi opponents. Conceivably, if these proxy battles wouldn't threaten Tzenkethi civilization. More than that would require the Tzenkethi to be a very different species.

    As of Raise the Dawn, the three past leaders of the Tal Shiar have been killed, victims of assassination or state execution, with internal tumult in the leadership being key.

    Also, the method of Alizome's killing--infecting Dor and Tal'Aura with natural disease agents--is pretty subtle. The Tal Shiar might have reason to suspect something unnatural if it was pointed to it, but for that to happen you'd need some reason to suspect that. The most that there is surrounding the deaths of the two Romulans is a suspicion that one communicated the disease to the other in a sexual encounter.

    How could the Tal Shiar, of all organizations, even allow such people to have such an opportunity--and somehow leave no tracks for the Tal Shiar to pick up?

    Why is Donatra probable victim of an assassination? As her state of mind was described immediately before the discovery of her body, a suicide that was consequence of despair at the utter failure of her various political projects and indeed her entire life was at least as probable a cause of her death as assassination.

    (None of this, incidentally, speaks to the ability of Section 31 to be able to infiltrate Romulan society very well. The evidence to date suggests that, to the contrary, the Tal Shiar is able to manipulate Section 31 well, limiting the organization to what it wants to give the organization. Starfleet Intelligence would probably be able to do a better job, being a legitimate organization with clear goals and the like, but that much better?)
     
  18. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^To your last point--first, as far as we know, Koval had overseen a Tal Shiar plot to assasinate the deputy chief of SI. So, if we're going to compare extent of manpulation...

    (Interestingly enough--the cover was the admiral suddenly came down with a disease...much like what happened with the Praetor. So...surely the Shiar would recognize its own methods?)

    Second--again, the manipulation of 31 by the Tal Shiar occured before it was revealed that Koval was a mole--some years before. It's likely--in fact, probable, that Koval was not a mole as of Rogue.

    My personal theory (which I actually borrowed from another fanfc writer) is that, following this, Sloan effectively blackmailed Koval into becoming a mole via the threat of expoing Koval's involment in the admiral's death. A bit of "payback" for Rogue, if you will. (For a dramatization of this, I recommend my tale "Of Mastery And Fate", which you can find in the Fanfic forum.)

    But back to a previous point--the virus. Again...how could the Tal Shiar allow foreigners to have the opportunity to come into such contact with the Praetor so as to have her infected? Has it really become so incompetent, over the years since Koval's assasination (an event that is, in itself, a bit astonishing, on that account)?

    BTW...I find it amusing that, for all the Tzenkethi's best-laid plans, the end result was a level-headed Praetor that is, because of such, in a much better position to bring the Romulans into a position of greater influence in the Pact. So, then...the plan backfired!
     
  19. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Only if you have no reading comprehension whatsoever. The entire point of bringing about a Kememor administration was that Tal'Aura was a nationalist who would use the Romulan Star Empire's greater population and resources to overtly dominate the Pact. Kamemor has done the exact opposite, instead adopting a policy of equality with the Pact members and non-antagonism towards non-Pact powers -- which is exactly what the Tzenkethi wanted.
     
  20. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You're forgetting one very important fact of life: resentment of overt domination. Subtelty is the key to power--influencing without their knowing it, via "friendship".

    Tal'Aura, by being so nationalistic--by overtly trying to increase the RSE's standing in the Pact--would have, in so doing, antagonized the other members. Give it enough time, and the members not taking kindly to such domination--read: most of them...would want to thus eject the RSE from the Pact, to prevent that domination from happening.

    Kammemor, on the other hand, being non-antagonistic, becomes a leader, not a dominator--killing with kindness, if you will. After all, though her policies of equality and non-antagonism...the Pact powers do not see her as a threat--and therefore, "open up" to her, more.