Spoilers ENT: Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Mar 19, 2014.

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Rate Tower of Babel.

  1. Outstanding

    17 vote(s)
    24.6%
  2. Above Average

    31 vote(s)
    44.9%
  3. Average

    19 vote(s)
    27.5%
  4. Below Average

    2 vote(s)
    2.9%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. trash80

    trash80 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    UK
    I enjoyed the book a lot, it had a definite campy prototype-TOS feel about much of it
     
  2. Killie

    Killie Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Nov 27, 2011
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    Scotland
    Another enjoyabe entry in the series from Christopher and I am sure to read the next.

    I posted the review here if anyone is interested.
     
  3. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2011
    My review:

    This novel is a solid read. Beginning, middle and end? Check. Great world-building? Check. Good character work? Check.

    But it doesn’t exceed the sum of its parts.

    The novel was billed in some parts as essentially a primer on the Rigel system. And that it does pretty damn well. It felt like a lot of Rigel was told and not shown, and I would’ve enjoyed getting more from the colonials, but that’s all nitpicky stuff. Christopher has created a fascinating super-civilization and it promises many great stories to come.

    But beyond describing Rigel, it felt a bit “by the numbers”. The plot had little momentum, and the character work was hit-or-miss. Nice stuff from Williams, Kirk and Trip, and some nice moments from Reed and Archer, but none of it is breathtaking. (I was frankly disappointed that it was another instance of a woman seducing Archer for duplicitous purposes. I realize Archer is being saved for Danica, but it just felt boring at this point. And Archer didn't spend that much time in hot water, as things go, so it didn't feel worth it in the end.) I appreciated the Sato-Thanien story, but it felt too quickly resolved, almost fable-like in its lesson. It's not that it's bad, it's that it's "only" nice.

    The Three Sisters are interesting in an academic sense, but I don’t find them particularly engaging to read. I share Deranged Nasat's ambivalence about the Maras revelation, but I come down more on the dislike-end of the spectrum. I understand Christopher's concern about propagating misogynistic stereotypes, but I think he doesn't give himself enough credit. I think he could've navigated that balance quite handily. The problem arises when a sexually active female character is assumed to be unintelligent because she is a female, and a sexually active one at that. There certainly are unintelligent people out there, there certainly are sexually active women out there, and there certainly are individuals who are both. Setting aside, for the moment, the sex and gender components, there's a lot of untapped storytelling potential (especially in Trek) in situations such as the apparent one faced by Navaar: how do you deal with an ally, a friend, a family member, who is totally not on your level? That was an interesting component of the Triumfeminate's story, and I wish it could've been maintained.

    Garos– he’s good. Really good. Very enjoyable to read. Looking forward to more of him.

    The Saurian story is coming together very well. Christopher is definitely building to something huge with Maltuvis, and he's doing it very, very well. Looking forward to the story being continued.

    The Federation's early years being characterized by threats from criminals and pirates is a good angle, and a nice contrast to the threats from 150 or 225 years later. I worry a little bit that stories will get tiresome, but I think Christopher will be able to keep it interesting.

    I share the feelings articulated upthread that it sometimes felt like there wasn't much plot-driving conflict (outside of Williams/Kirk/Grev specifically and Sauria), but I don't think the solution would've been to make us fear for the characters lives. I'm frankly looking forward to enjoying (most) of these characters for some time now. In all of the Star Trek television series, exactly two main characters were killed off during the actual run of the show. Star Trek is not and never has been about telling stories in which you fear that your heroes won't survive. Yes, it happens sometimes, but it's best used very sparingly.

    In any case, we’ll see how this book changes in the light of its sequels; it certainly wouldn’t be the first Trek novel to be improved by the stories which came afterwards.

    And it’s not a bad book by any stretch. It wasn’t painful to read, and it was satisfyingly resolved. I think it’ll have good re-read value.

    But for having such potential, it just didn’t quite bring it home. The themes articulated and issues raised are great, very timely and thought-provoking. It's a nice story that's enjoyable to read– which just makes me wish it could've been a little more.

    From what he says on his website, it sounds like Tower of Babel had a bit of a rough writing process. (That card trick, Christopher!):bolian: ) That's a shame. I feel like this book was really close to being among the best TrekLit out there; it just needed a like more time in development.

    Still, I did enjoy it and I can't wait for the sequels! Despite all I've said, the series definitely is in good hands.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Ahh, but that component is still very much in play, just not the way you thought -- since Maras is a lot smarter than Navaar or D'Nesh. They're nowhere near her level.


    There are some more variegated threats ahead, I assure you. And bigger ones.




    Honestly, I'm not entirely satisfied with this book myself; I was too rushed and there was too much that I didn't work out in as much depth as I should. And I really have no one to blame for that but myself, because I made a point of arranging for plenty of time but then made poor use of it. I fell badly behind on the outline due to a health issue, and so it was kind of a cursory outline and not a good foundation to build the manuscript on, so I got very stuck on portions of the manuscript, and had to basically improvise new plot threads in a number of portions, with very little time left to finish them. I did what I could to clean it up in revisions, but I can't disagree with the comments that it's not all it could've been.

    But it's motivated me to try harder to make Uncertain Logic a stronger tale.
     
  5. Braxton

    Braxton Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA
    The early years of the Federation, even the first 100 years, should be ripe with story possibilities. Maybe it's just me, but I feel that this part of the Federation's history should be more than capable of creating stories and making them interesting.
     
  6. NX-01ftw

    NX-01ftw Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2014
    Will be picking this up soon. I am very excited to get to this one as A Choice of Futures is an excellent read so far. Christopher is a great writer.
     
  7. Cap'n Crunch

    Cap'n Crunch Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    While it's a good book, I still enjoyed A Choice of Futures more. I think that is because I really liked the exploration of the aliens (the Mutes and the ones in the Intrepid storyline) in the first book. While Tower of Babel certainly does a good job of exploring the Rigel system and it's cultures, I feel like it's not quite the same type of exploration, if that makes sense. I'm not sure I can explain it very well. I'm not saying I disliked Tower of Babel or anything, it's very good, I just liked A Choices of Futures more.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    ^I get it -- it's not quite a "where no one has gone before" situation, it's just getting to know a neighbor better. Not to worry though -- there will be a number of strange new worlds in Uncertain Logic.
     
  9. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Location:
    On the USS Sovereign
    Christopher can you refresh my memory as to when "Uncertain Logic" is due out?
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    When I find out myself, I'll let people know. All I know is that it's for sometime in 2015.
     
  11. Cap'n Crunch

    Cap'n Crunch Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2008
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    Glad to hear it!
     
  12. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    I just finished the novel and am going to do a review in a bit. I very much enjoyed it and am happy to have a series after the Klingon Empire one to read.
     
  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    STAR TREK: RISE OF THE FEDERATION: TOWER OF BABEL is an interesting model for what I think STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE should have been because it avoids what I think is a major issue of many novels and that's to go over the top rather than stick to more personal human stories. The Klingons are better enemies than the Borg because they're on the level of Star Trek and have understandable motivations, even if I feel they've been kind of flanderized (See TV tropes.org) from their original appearance.

    In this case, what appeals to me about this novel is it's about the beginning of the Federation and how their first and most implacable enemy is a bunch of criminals, pirates, and slavers. The Orion Syndicate and their allies are motivated by nothing more than their fear the Federation is going to make their businesses more difficult. They can't go against the Federation itself but they can certainly make the territory they control (along with the Rigellian First Families) impossible to control. In simple terms, they come off very much like the drug cartels of the latter half of the 20th century and even today who are capable of warping political discourse in Central as well as South America.

    I like the way Archer is written in these books and he works better as a diplomat than he arguably ever was as a starship captain. The fact he's unable to return to such due to neurological damage from the transporter (which Barclay always viewed with fear for a reason) is a good twist but I don't think every captain wants to be Kirk.

    Certainly, after the Xindi War, I felt Archer had become utterly sick of exploration for its own sake versus helping the people he already knew. I also like the set up for his short romance with the Rigellian ambassador in this book. Sadly, I'm not all that impressed with his "actual" love interest who came off as a satellite character. Then again, what do I know as I was always one of the T'Pol/Archer shippers.

    As usual, the biggest benefit from reading a Christopher Bennett book is that he manages a spider-web number of references and patterns between various bits of Star Trek lore that, nevertheless, comes off as completely organic. In this case, he takes the frequently referenced planet Rigel and incorporates all the various nods to it before creating a United States-esque confederation which has done well for itself but not quite well enough. It could be a very big power bloc in the UFP but, ironically, has let itself become so corrupt that it can't stand together to influence the burgeoning body.

    I'm both a lover as well as hater of the villains as while I very much enjoy the handling of the Orion as the major villains, I feel like with a race of seductive Bond villainesses, we should have more atempts at seducing our heroes but the one seduction in the book doesn't involve them. Which is a shame. I also like the forcefulness of the villain Garos but it's hard to take his pretensions of being a Machiavellian schemer seriously when it requires a Federation member to explain that the untrustworthy people he's allied with are, in fact, untrustworthy. You'd think he'd have a large number of schemes in place for WHEN they betray him versus if.

    The plot on Sauria is one I'm anxious to see how developed because it's interesting how the Federation utterly bungles the issue. While it starts a bit supervillain-ish, a military dictator named Maltuvis spreading a disease he blames on outsiders, it's really the UFP who shames itself by letting him get away with it because they are comfortable dealing with Maltuvis as they are with democracy in general. As such, a Saddam Hussein-esque monster gets entrenched when he could have been dealt with easily before because it's more conveinant. It seems Section 31 never learned about "blowback" from their CIA and KGB ancestors.

    There's some obvious Trump parallels which, of course, is just applicability in retrospect. Just like the best way to discuss The War on Terror is with DS9 despite ending before it began. The xenophobia, nationalism, appeal to race and general politicians just lying about their agendas brought up with the candidates just leaps off the page. Anlenthoris ch'Vhendreni may not believe any of the nonsense he spouts but that makes him MORE contemptible, not less. Ironically, even the ties to Russia have an analog.

    I'm also a big fan of characters Sam Kirk and Val Williams who are the biggest introductions to the canon of Enterprise while also being the probable ancestors of James Tiberius Kirk. They're both extremely likable and carry a bulk of the story on their backs without seeming tacked on. I hope to read more about them in the future.

    9/10
     
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  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    The political dynamics that cause us trouble now were around well before Trump became a candidate. He never would've been able to gain any traction as a politician in the first place if the system weren't already badly broken. I based Thoris's campaign on John McCain's 2008 presidential run, basically. I considered McCain a man of integrity until he totally sold out his principles in order to run the kind of presidential campaign the RNC wanted him to in order to pander to "the base."
     
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  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Good analog.

    I remember how embarrassing that campaign was--back befire we saw how it could work.