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. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    That's a deeply unrealistic scenario. Many NATO members resent U.S. dominance within the alliance, but that doesn't mean they ever intend to eject the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They know full well that they need us.

    So it would be -- and is already, really -- with the Romulan Star Empire and the Typhon Pact. The RSE needs the Pact, sure -- but the Pact needs the RSE even more. The Pact ceases to be a credible counterweight to the Federation and its allies without the Romulans.

    I don't think the Tzenkethi have a problem with letting the RSE take leadership in the Pact. That sort of "soft power" on Ki Baratan's part is acceptable to them. Hell, why shouldn't it be? It means that Romulus bears the biggest bulls-eye instead of Ab-Tzenketh.

    Their goal isn't to prevent Romulus from being the most powerful Typhon Pact world. Their goal was to prevent out-and-out domination.
     
  2. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I would imagine no bulls-eye at all being the ideal. One unified mass, with equally distributed spheres of leadership, rather than a single head of the serpent to be cut off.

    But even besides that--again, "soft power," or being the benevolent leader, is a more effective means to the end of dominance than that of aggressive posturing.

    Which would be far less likely to happen were Romulan space to remain divided. The RSE re-absorbing the IRS made the RSE bigger--and thus, the potential for domination increases, much as the USA is the largest power in NATO--and, coincidently...the most dominant. I doubt, were the USA to have been recently split in two, it would nearly have had the influence it does.

    But with the RSE re-unified, it now relieves itself

    With unity in the Empire, again--it is in a better position to dominate. And with Kammemor being a "nice" person, it would be harder for the other members to see it coming.
     
  3. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    That's an unrealistic scenario, and the Autarch knows it. Even divided, the RSE was simply too powerful for it not to end up in a position of greater power than the other Pact members. Power equality among the Pact members was never a viable possibility; the Tzenkethi's plan was to install a Romulan government that would be content not to seek overt domination.

    I think we're getting caught up in a difference of vocabulary here. "Dominance" vs. "domination." The Tzenkethi know and expect the RSE to be the most powerful Pact nation and to be in a position of leadership -- a position that can be more cynically described as dominance. It was never their goal to thwart that. Their goal was to thwart Romulan domination -- to avoid an RSE government that used its position of dominance to exercise an unacceptable level of power over the Pact and its other members.

    They always knew the Romulans would end up as the leaders; their goal was never to prevent that. Their goal was to make sure the Romulans running the Hall of State would be ones content to treat the other Pact members in a more egalitarian fashion and to respect their internal autonomy.

    You're forgetting their second agenda -- stability. A divided Romulan realm was never stabile, in the long run; the Tzenkethi knew that the longer the Romulans remained divided between the Star Empire and the Imperial State, the more inevitable a Romulan civil war would become. Such a war would inevitably drag the rest of the Pact into it, Tzenkethi Coalition included.

    So they're faced with two seemingly contradictory goals -- restore stability to the Romulan situation, and prevent the Pact from turning into a Romulan hegemony.

    The solution they come up with -- allow the RSE to be re-united, but place it under the rule of an internationalist rather than an imperialist -- is of course imperfect. But that doesn't mean their operation in Rough Beasts was not a success, or that it didn't achieve those two goals at least for now.

    Which is of course no guarantee that events won't overcome them in the future. No one ever claimed the Tzenkethi were the master manipulators who know everything that could possibly happen and are formulating perfect plans within plans to manipulate it all. Between the failures of the Tal Shiar and Section 31, it's pretty obvious that there are no infallible Chess Masters in the Trekverse. Think less David Xanatos and more George Smiley.
     
  4. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    And the rest of the Khitomer Allies. The Tzenkethi don't seem to be as exposed as the Gorn, but the Coalition would still nearly be surrounded.

    So they're faced with two seemingly contradictory goals -- restore stability to the Romulan situation, and prevent the Pact from turning into a Romulan hegemony.

    From the Tzenkethi perspective, the detente with the Federation Kamemor is intent on pushing may be a significant problem, perhaps one requiring an adjustment of one kind or another. This would be a significant problem from the Tzenkethi perspective, not least since the Romulan state and its institutions seem rather more functional now than under Tal'Aura's rule.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2012
  5. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    Killing an organization's leader isn't the same as sockpuppeting the organization.

    ?

    I'm willing to bet that most prominent people in the Federation, even in the Romulan Star Empire despite the terrible instability of late, die natural deaths.

    Would this have been different? The disease that killed Dor and Tal'Aura was one well-known to Romulan society for its long incubation period and near-undetectability. The main subject of public speculation about the disease seems to have been the possibility that it was transmitted sexually from one victim to another.

    Privately? The Tal Shiar would be able to exclude the possibility of a sexual encounter between the two (unless one actually did take place, something beyond the ability of the Tzenkethi to know). Even if the Tal Shiar did come to suspect foul play, there isn't exactly a shortage of candidates. Romulans might be logically suspected of using a Romulan disease; the Federation and the Klingons, too. But the Tzenkethi? Why?

    Why probable?

    The Tal Shiar has gone through significant internal tumult in the past few years.
     
  6. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^Perhaps it has--which is, again, quite suprising. Again, a sudden lack of stability in one of the most feared agencies in the known Alpha/Beta Quadrants. One wonders if sabotage was a determining factor in that.

    But adressing whether the Tal Shiar would accept the possibility of a sexual encounter--again, how could the agency miss a foreigner coming into such contact with the Praetor as to infect her--without suspicion.

    But again--this leads to the question of the Tal Shiar falling into incompetence, due to "turmoil", occurring for one reason or another. What in the Bird's name would drag the agency into such a situation?

    This is, in part, what leads me to suspect moles--be they Tzenkethi or from Section 31.

    And to Sci's admission that the Tzenkethi are not master chess-players, with infallable plans. Frankly, everyone...fallability also means this: it is absurd to shrug off the idea that said plans will be exposed. That likelyhood increases, when plans backfire.

    Finally--once again, Kammemor is in a far better position to dominate the Pact than Tal'Aura, being a "nice" leader. Subtlety is a far more effective means of domination than overtness. Militancy--or "imperialism", which I feel is a laughably overused term in our common vernacular--leads to hostility, which therefore leads to failure in attempts towards domination. However, it also can lead to easier manipulation of those power-hungry militants; the subtle and "nice" can control them with promises of power, which in reality is all too false.
     
  7. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    No intelligence agency is perfect, and even the KGB and CIA in real life have had major, major screwups.

    Simply put, the idea that the Tal Shiar wouldn't, at some point, have a huge failure of this sort is itself unrealistic. There is no such thing as the perfectly competent espionage chess master.

    "Admission" is a strange word to use there, since it's essentially been my contention that there is no such thing as a master chess player with infallible plans. At some point, the Tzenkethi will no doubt screw up just as badly as the Tal Shiar, Obsidian Order, Section 31, and others have.

    It's possible, sure. But given the sequence of events presented in Rough Beasts of Empire, it's unlikely. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone other than the Tzenkethi themselves know of their role in the death of Ta'Aura.

    At the end of the day, the things that could allow Romulus to dominate the Typhon Pact -- its size, its wealth, its population, its advanced military technology -- are not things the Tzenkethi can control, and they know it. One way or the other, Romulus will inevitably lead the Pact. Could Kamemor hypothetically change her mind? Sure. Could a new praetor come along who thinks more like you're describing? Yes. These are not things the Tzenkethi can control. What they could do was try to manipulate events so that the scenario you're describing was less likely to occur in the foreseeable future.

    That's why the Tzenkethi wanted Kamemor in the Hall of State: They knew that, soft power or not, she wouldn't do what you're describing in the first place. She'll lead, sure -- but her style is to be first among equals, not the alpha of the pack. It's not in her nature to dominate, be it through the stick or the carrot.

    Again, sure, unforeseen events could thwart their manipulations. But they worked out the best compromise they could of bringing about stability the Romulan space while making overt Romulan domination of the Pact an unlikely policy. There's no guarantee it'll hold, but it's holding for now, and that's really all anyone on Ab-Tzenketh can realistically aim for.
     
  8. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You admit that the Tzenkethi will doubtless screw up. Frankly, such a screw-up would expose how deep they are in the pool, provided the Tzentkethi don't get out of said pool beforehand. By that I mean: a screw-up leads to exposure of their current operation, which leads to suspicion, which leads to investigation....

    Again, Sci--Tal'Aura would have been far less able to dominate the Pact than a Kammemor would, because she is so overt. Overt means: visible.

    Also--if the borders between the IRS and the RSE are established, why go to the trouble? Stability would be achieved in that way--and it would be a nice "show of good faith" that the Pact wants peace. Further, it would ensure the RSE would not be the dominating force.
     
  9. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Sure. But who knows what they'll screw up at?

    It's possible, of course. But the fact remains that there is at this point no evidence that anyone else has any knowledge of the Tzenkethi role in Tal'Aura's death -- nor any guarantee that their role would be suspected or detected in any later investigation. Don't project your omniscience as an audience member upon the characters.

    Yes, I understand your argument. And I am saying that even if Kamemor is in a better position to dominate, she never would, and this is why the Tzenkethi wanted her as Romulan Praetor.

    Nonsense. Neither side was going to be able to live in peace with the other in the long run; they would inevitably go to war with one-another and drag their respective allies into the conflict. Far better for interstellar stability if there is a single Romulan state run by an anti-imperialist.
     
  10. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As a rule--and I'm speaking as a reader/audience-member---if the ratio of audience knowledge to relevant-character knowledge results in a major imbalance on our part...the greater or more significant the imbalance, the greater the rist that said character comes across as an idiot. The "Don't go in there!" effect: the further we see the character go into what we see as a clear danger to them, without said character giving any indication of awareness of said danger...that character looks more and more like an idiot.

    Sorry, but that's a fact of life. The greater the imbalance, the greater the sense that someone should know such-and-such.

    I find it amazing that the Tzenkethi seemed to think they could afford to gamble on Kammemor's character, like that. For all they know, her being so "nice" is an act. Could they afford to take that chance?

    ...who was known for advocating peace with the UFP. In other words--if tensions between the Pact and the Alliance reach a high enough point, the risk is considerable that Kammemor would push for the RSE changing sides...thus weakening the influence of the Pact.

    So, them, Kammemor's presence as Praetor results in impositions upon those who would want to expand Pact influence--lest "conflict" arise with the Alliance. Either keep the influence it has...or decline. No expansion--we must maintain the peace.
     
  11. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I'm sorry to hear that you have trouble separating your knowledge as an audience member from a reasonable assessment of what the characters can know.

    1. It's spelled "Kamemor."

    2. The idea that that's an act is highly implausible. Kamemor had by 2382 been active in Romulan politics for decades and decades -- she was part of the Romulan delegation negotiating the 2311 Treaty of Algeron in Serpents Among the Ruins -- and she had in the past suffered from political marginalization as a result of her anti-imperialist views. If you're a Tzenkethi looking to put an anti-imperialist Romulan into the praetor's office, Kamemor is your best bet.

    I think it's a huge reach to jump from, "She favors peace with the Federation" to "She'll betray her Typhon Pact treaty partners."
     
  12. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    The four praetors before Kamemor's ascension--Dralath, Narviat, Neral, and Hiren--all died unnatural deaths, Dralath dying after attacking Narendra III as his final depraved act and Hiren's death being part and parcel of Shinzon's decapitation of the Romulan government, the last three praetors reigning and dying in the space of a decade.

    Having the Tal Shiar not be as capable as it might be in this worsening political climate is normal.

    Going by the description of Dor's infection in Rough Beasts of Empire, all the body contact it takes to transmit the disease is a handshake.

    If the disease has a long incubation period and is very difficult to detect unless you're specifically looking for it, then it would be very difficult for Romulan Security to pick it up. This is especially the case since it seems to be endemic to the Romulan population--maybe it's present among other Vulcanoid populations, maybe it's not.

    Why would the Tal Shiar think that the disease would have been acquired from a non-Romulan?
     
  13. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

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    The only foreshadowing we had that Dor's encounter with Alizome would go badly was a sentence wherein he wondered why a Tzenkethi had adopted the Terran custom of the handshake.

    What Sci said about Kamemor's established history as a proponent of peace and non-aggressive policies generally.

    From the Tzenkethi perspective, war if Tal'Aura reigned was inevitable, whether it would be triggered by a war of Romulan reunification that dragged both blocs in or by Tal'Aura resuming her prior aggressive intentions towards the Federation. Taking the chance on a new candidate for Praetor who looked unlikely to fight either war was worth the chance.

    That doesn't follow.

    Kamemor not favouring a war against the Federation is a good thing for the Tzenkethi, who don't want to risk a war that might well leave the Tzenkethi worse off despite being part of an alliance. Kamemor not favouring fighting a war against the Imperial Romulan State, preferring instead to depend on Typhon Pact allies to supply the RSE while the IRS gradually fell apart from the inside, is also a good thing from the Tzenkethi perspective, again since a war with the Khitomer Accords is not in the Coalition's favour.

    So, them, Kammemor's presence as Praetor results in impositions upon those who would want to expand Pact influence--lest "conflict" arise with the Alliance. Either keep the influence it has...or decline. No expansion--we must maintain the peace.[/QUOTE]
     
  14. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Here's my review.

    http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2013/06/star-trek-typhon-pact-zero-sum-game.html

     
  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Funny story, Christopher, I ran a Section 31-themed Star Trek (Decipher) RPG campaign. I was going with the idea that they were morally ambiguous and their actions were arguably justified to save the lives of the many rather than the morals of the few.

    And as the campaign progressed, they STILL came off as major [insert Klingon vulgarities].

    I believe moral ambiguity and Star Trek is a natural fit, ironically, because hard moral choices should go hand in hand with its idealism. Section 31, when written well (like here), best contrasts against Starfleet Intelligence (which I'd love to see a series about). The criminal and self-justifying versus the noble.

    As it was said in my campaign (completely spontaneously):

    NPC: Section 31 is a patriotic organization, a militia if you will, which believes the Federation's ideals are dangerously misguided and prone to appeasement rather than securing the security of the Federation. They operate clandestine missions of their own accord while working behind the scenes to prepare the way for a stronger more effective government.

    PC: So they're terrorists.

    NPC: We don't work against the Federation and often work as deniable assets.

    PC: Useful terrorists.
     
  16. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    My take on the action was that Bashir was aware what exactly he was being asked to do here. His mission was to destroy the Breen's slipstream drive plans and (heavily implied) punish them for their act of wetworks. In the 1995 Michael Douglas movie, "The American President" an American plane is destroyed by Libyan agents and rather than go to war, he has their intelligence headquarters bombed instead.

    Julian's mission is to destroy the slipstream drive and do so in a manner which is hard rather than soft. Destroying the shipyards is something they didn't need to do. They could have just plotted to blow up the ship itself or sabotage it. This was a revenge attack designed to punish the Typhon Pact so they didn't think they could causally murder Federation citizens again. Julian could have thought of a way to make it so he and Sarina were never even noticed but Sarina made it clear the governmen expected (and wanted) it to be at least SLIGHTLY messy.

    It's nasty-nasty business and against the kind of stands which Picard used to take up for. However, ST is at its best when it's examining those stands. The Federation turned over the Phase-Cloak device. It also hunted the Marquis mercilessly, showing their commitment to their treaties.

    The reaction this did? Neither the Romulans or Cardassians were inspired to show any similar level of devotion to peace. In a way which is against my Christian beliefs, the Feddies turned the other cheek and they were slapped there too. It's a dark road the Federation is walking but figuring out how to navigate out is a good lesson.

    This is where differences of interpretation come in. In my mind, Bashir has always had a dark side that the show hinted at but never really fully explored. Basically, Bashir is not as fulfilled being a Doctor as say, McCoy or Crusher. It's his calling but it's not his VOCATION. He's not really content to be a Doctor and isn't all that happy with it. He values life but not so much he's incapable of being a soldier.

    His status as an Augment results in a lot of retcons but, basically, Julian has regrets about not being a tennis pro and it's implied he went to Bajor specifically because "Frontier Medicine" gets the LAW off his back.

    In a very real way, Julian's friendship with Garak symbolizes that he wants more and perhaps sensed they both were kindred spirits (people underperforming at their abilities). I think David Mack nicely captures that he feels like he's wasted as Deep Space Nine's Doctor. He knows he could be Louis Pasteur and he's stuck being a local pharmacist. He could be many other things than "just" a Doctor and this eats at him. In a way, being an Augment means he could be good at ANYTHING so he's never really content.

    Ezri Dax said that Bashir played at being a spy and this illustrates she doesn't really KNOW Julian the way he knows her. Julian is every bit as capable as Dax w/ her hundreds of years of memories. Julian could be a Captain of a Starship like the Aventine. Really, Julian won the Frigging Dominion War because of his actions during it. Does he get the Federation Medal of Honor? No. A parade? No. Do Augments as a whole get treated any better than X-men mutants? Not a chance.

    Julian wants to be GREAT at something. Being a spy tantalizes him with this prospect because Section 31 (grotesque as it was) didn't shy away from him. He was never tempted to join but being a spy for them gave him a taste for being a larger than life hero, IMHO. If Starfleet ever just offered Julian his own version of the Normandy from Mass Effect and a license to raise hell, he'd be off DS9 and out of medicine in a heartbeat.

    He'd feel guilty but he'd do it. He's Doc Savage and wants MORE.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
  17. Sto-Vo-Kory

    Sto-Vo-Kory Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I finished this tonight (great book) and then started Rough Beasts of Empire. About 60 pages in and it feels like I should've read Rough Beasts before Zero Sum Game.

    Did I blunder the reading order for these two? Wasn't ZSG published before Rough Beasts?
     
  18. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ZSG was published first, yeah. So publishing order, and your reading order, isn't chronological, but the two stories really have very little to do with each other. It's not a big deal either way.
     
  19. Sto-Vo-Kory

    Sto-Vo-Kory Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^Okay. Thanks, Thrawn.

    I should've gone by your flowchart, but I thought I'd be safe by just reading the series in published order. I'll know better next time -- never doubt the Almighty flowchart! ;)
     
  20. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Rough Beasts kinda sorta forms an unofficial trilogy with DRG3's follow-up two-parter, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, with Zero Sum Game taking place 'off-screen' during the early segments of Plagues. But as Thrawn correctly says, ZSG was released first of all four. Don't worry, you'll still be able to follow it all anyway.

    .