Reading Marathon: The Typhon Pact... and Beyond!

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Stevil2001, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. USS Firefly

    USS Firefly Commodore Commodore

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    I like the Typhon Pact a lot.
    The strongest is the overal arc and the weakest moment is easy, the destruction of DS9.
     
  2. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I was pretty happy with it overall.
    My favorite instalments were Zero Sum Game, Brinkmanship, and The Struggle Within. My least favorite was Seize The Fire, I don't think I even made it two chapters through that one before I gave up.
     
  3. Smiley

    Smiley Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I liked Rough Beasts of Empire, Zero Sum Game, Plagues of Night, Raise the Dawn, and Brinkmanship, so it was fairly successful for me. The remaining works were not as much to my taste.
     
  4. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book I: The Persistence of Memory by David Mack
    Published:
    November 2012
    Time Span: January 2384

    First off, let me say it's nice to read an adventure for the Enterprise that has nothing to do with space politics. Though not every Destiny-era story I've read so far has been political, all of the Enterprise ones have: Paths of Disharmony, The Struggle Within, Plagues of Night, Brinkmanship (and, earlier on, Losing the Peace). But even though space politics influence the story (the Breen are involved), the focus of the story is elsewhere, at long last.

    Persistence of Memory is the first book of a trilogy, and it's also a novella-length frame around a novel-length flashback. I'll discuss the flashback first. Part Two, "Noonien," is a first-person present-tense (both unusual in Star Trek fiction, let alone together) following Data's creator, Noonien Soong, from the moment of his apparent death in "Brothers" up until the present. In a sense, it's there for a very long exposition dump; we find out how Soong might seem to die but did not, what he's been up to in the interim, how B-4 from Nemesis fits in with what Next Generation itself told us about Soong's android prototypes, and so on, what he thinks of the events of the novel Immortal Coil, and so on.

    But in another sense, it's a great portrait of an unusual mind, a man obsessed with himself and his legacy. Mack wisely doesn't give him a tragic or overwrought backstory to explain why he is this way; he just get on with telling us who Soong is. We see how he plans quite elaborately, again and again, his tendency to devise long complicated routes to his goals often preventing him from actually reaching those goals. He's never emotionally fulfilled in one sense, and in another, he clearly finds fulfillment in the plan, not entirely the achievements. But he hates those moments where he realized someone out there might know more than him. I really enjoyed all of this, and read it very quickly. It also lays a good groundwork for the "return" of Data, though I don't have much to say about that event itself, since we haven't seen much of it. I will weigh in on this once future novels have done something (or failed to) with Data.

    The framing novella, though, feels like David Mack on autopilot, something it flags up itself a couple times by mentioning other stories where he's done the same things as here. There's a super-secret away mission without backup gone horribly wrong (i.e., A Time to Kill and Failsafe), and the Enterprise takes refuge in a gas giant (i.e., "Starship Down" and Wildfire). The characters feel very flat; compare Brinkmanship where the narrative makes the Enterprise's mission personal to Crusher even without a clear personal hook-- here there is one for many of the crew, especially La Forge, but it never feels personal. I'm not really into fast-paced intense action sequences in prose when there's no emotional stakes, and Persistence of Memory was no exception. I've read its like before, and I imagine I'll read it again.

    The frame would be competent, but not bad, if it wasn't for one thing: the death of the Enterprise's security chief, Jasminder Choudhury. There are two problems with it. The first is that it is a borderline ridiculous repetitive thing to have happen to Worf, who has been married twice, and had his wife die both times. Now he's in a third committed long-term relationship (though not a marriage), and she dies too. Like, really? Come on, come up with a new idea. Books II and III will have to work very hard to convince me that this is not as clear-cut an example of fridging as you can have. I had to stop reading the book and explain to my wife how bad it was, so much did I roll my eyes.

    The second problem is that I just don't care about Jasminder Choudhury. While ongoing Treklit concepts like New Frontier and the Deep Space Nine relaunch were filled with likable characters I cared about, post-Nemesis TNG fiction has struggled to build up any interesting original characters, either using them inconsistently (e.g., Leybenzon, Kadohata) or never using them interestingly at all (e.g., T'Lana, Chen). Choudury was in the latter group; the only book I can even remember her making an impression in was The Struggle Within. Her characterization within this book and most others was so uninteresting and generic, and I don't really have any sense of how she related to most of the other characters; the book says Picard feels "profound sadness" at her death, but you don't believe it. I just didn't care, while surely against the whole point of killing her is to make me feel something. (Brinkmanship made me care much more about anonymous Vennette farmers who didn't even die!)

    Continuity Notes:
    • Jeffrey Lang's Immortal Coil is very heavily referenced. I don't think I've read it since it came out in February 2002. (If I ever reread it, it was before August 2003, when my reading records begin.) Mack provides a lot of recaps and summary, but it's kind of a complicated book with a lot going on.
    • I was surprised that (unless I missed it) in among all the sewing up of continuity, there were no references to Arik Soong, Noonien's ancestor from Enterprise who supposedly inspired a family turn to cybernetics.
    • There's a nice mention of the Grigari, who I really liked in Federation and the Millennium trilogy.
    Other Notes:
    • "[A]s Picard had begun the paternal duty of reading his boy to sleep, he had been impressed with his scion's growing vocabulary and seemingly insatiable appetite for narratives. By the time he cracked open the sixth tome of the evening's recitation, he began to question whether it would be unethical to let Crusher use a mild hypospray to hasten the boy's descent into slumber." Judging by the overwrought wording of this passage (e.g., "scion, "narratives," "tome"), little René isn't the only one showing off his vocabulary.
    • There's a scene from the perspective of Aneta Šmrhová, Enterprise tactical officer, that establishes in three years, she's never really done anything interesting. I'm always kind of disappointed when the novels imply that absent a television program, our heroes don't go on twenty-six-plus wacky adventures per year.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
  5. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I really like Choudhury, so I was pissed when she was killed here, and it only got worse
    when the second booked killed of Ezperanza Pinero and the third killed off Rhea McAdams
    .
     
  6. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    Yeah, I'm not sure Choudhury's death really paid off as much as it should've. By that point, the revolving door of Riker, Troi, and Data's (or rather, Vale, Troi, and Data's) replacements in the ensemble we saw in novels between Nemesis and Destiny had settled down a bit, and the death of Choudhury felt like a reminder of the bad old days (not that that ended up being the case). I think the biggest problem is that Choudury's non-violent approach to security and tactics gave her a gimmick (for want of a better term) that made it easy for her to get distinctive moments of characterization, while even after all this time, Šmrhová's one-line character bio in my head is still "don't Google the spelling," and I feel that Konya is still the more interesting character in security-guard situations.

    IIRC, the dramaturgical motivation behind Chaudhury's death was less fridging her to give Worf some angst, and more about balancing out Data's return. I'm not sure I agree, but that does bring to mind another issue I had with the miniseries (well, more with the state of the novelverse at the time as a whole), but I'll hopefully remember to mention it once you get to The Body Electric, since it's a bit of a spoiler.
     
  7. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hm, yeah, this makes sense. Like I said, I liked how Choudhury was handled in Struggle Within, which brought out some of the strengths of the character.

    This was my guess, though that almost seems worse. If you 1) wanted to kill someone to prove Data's resurrection was serious, and 2) didn't wan't to kill Worf's third romantic partner, who is there? Chen, I guess, but she's the closest the Next Generation novels have gotten to a successful original character, so that really depletes your cast.
     
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    I'm glad you like Konya, whom I created, and Choudhury, whom Dave created in the outline for Destiny but I wrote first in Greater Than the Sum. In both cases, my thinking was that it didn't make much sense to portray security personnel just as fighters; the ideal way to maintain security is to prevent violence from breaking out in the first place. Security chiefs shouldn't just be people standing in the background until a phaser fight breaks out; they should be like the Secret Service, going in ahead of the command officers and making whatever advance arrangements and negotiations are needed to make sure everything's all safe and cozy (in a word, secure) once the command officers arrive. Or like Enrico Colantoni's character on Flashpoint, a crisis responder who tried every possible method of negotiation, investigation, etc. to resolve crises nonviolently and only resorted to force when all other options had failed.

    The early TNG writers' bible had a line in it -- "Any military operation is automatically a failure of the ship's mission." That's kind of misusing "military" as synonymous with "combat," which it isn't (militaries do a bunch of other things when they aren't fighting, from construction to disaster relief to diplomatic and scientific missions), but the idea goes doubly for security, I think. We shouldn't see getting into fights as security's job, but as what happens after they fail to do their job. Star Trek has never been good at showing that. Choudhury was my attempt to take the word "security" seriously and literally, to show what it would actually entail to keep people secure. I wish that were the norm in Trek, not a standout trait.
     
  9. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons by David Mack
    Published:
    December 2012
    Time Span: March 2384

    Here's something to be said for defying expectations. Fiction can't always go the way you predict, otherwise you might as well not bother to read the actual stories. After Vhe Persistence of Memory, I predicted the next book would dive into Data's new quest indicated at the end of the novel, to resurrect Lal, and some of the backstory from Immortal Coil would come into play.

    Instead, we get a political thriller that feels only very tenuously linked to the first book. Sure, the villains are using Soong-type android, but it feels like a maguffin; this book doesn't really explore any ideas of artificial life. Sure, Data is back-- but he spends half the book locked up in jail, and we get, I think, just two scenes written from his perspective. Why bring him back and then do almost nothing with him?

    If you're going to defy expectations, the defiance has to be worth it. It has to be better than what your reader expected in some way. Unfortunately, Silent Weapons is pretty boring. Yes, technically, the political future of the Typhon Pact and the Khitomer Accords is at stake... but that was true two books ago, and three books ago, and four books ago... The Enterprise crew spends a lot of time investigating, but the questions are so murky, it's hard to care about the answers. It just feels like they go around in circles getting nowhere for a long time before things even vaguely begin to clear. Add to that that Mack's Breen characters feel like they run straight into Russell Davies's planet Zog problem, where you have a bunch of people with weird names and no personalities. (The contrast to how Brinkmanship gave personalities to a bunch of Tzenkethi with equally weird names is sharp.)

    The big event, such as it is, is the death of Esperanza Piñiero, President Bacco's chief of staff introduced back in A Time for War, A Time for Peace. I always liked her, especially when written by Keith DeCandido, and was bummed to see her turned into cannon fodder to prove the situation was serious. So far this trilogy is two for two on bumping off significant women characters. Who will buy it in book III?

    I guess it's just weird, because in the Acknowledgments, Mack thanks Jeffrey Lang for writing Immortal Coil because "[m]any of this trilogy's coolest ideas either originated in that book, or else would not have been possible without it to build upon," but there aren't really any cool ideas here at all, Mack's or Lang's. Maybe this book is setting up some interesting stuff to come in The Body Electric, but as it is, it feels like a pointless political sidestep away from the core idea of the trilogy.

    Continuity Notes:
    • I assume that the thing the whole big plot turns out to be about at the end is a reference back to Rise Like Lions? I barely remember Rise Like Lions at this point.
    • There are references back to the Typhon Pact's dastardly plots from Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn... but not Brinkmanship. Brinkmanship came out a month before Persistence of Memory, but given David Mack had to write a whole trilogy and Una McCormack a single novel, I assume books I and II, at least, were finished significantly before Brinkmanship was. This would also account for why Glinn Dygan feels out of character, not as serious as the earnest young man we saw in Brinkmanship.
    • The little account of La Forge's recent career, including new position as second officer, makes it clear that no such book as Indistinguishable from Magic ever took place, as does La Forge's continued relationship with totally non-entity Tamala Harstad. (No one's ever even bothered to write her a Memory Beta entry in over eight years.)
    • Starfleet officers have photo IDs they can flash. Who knew? Memory Alpha tells me they were seen on screen just twice, in "Mudd's Passion" and The Voyage Home.
    Other Notes:
    • It's neat that Chen gets to command the Enterprise and face down the Gorn... but odd that this scene doesn't draw at all on Chen's expertise with alien cultures. These books always say she's a contact specialist, but does she ever do it?
    • Whenever this book moves to discussing Rene, it feels as though as it is written by someone whose entire understanding of children comes only from reading a developmental psychology textbook.
    • There's a weird three-scene subplot about Crusher thinking of leaving the Enterprise that is so underdeveloped I'm not sure why it's even there.
     
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  10. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Department of Temporal Investigations: The Collectors by Christoper L. Bennett
    Published:
    December 2014
    Time Span: May 2384

    I had a mixed reaction to the first two Temporal Investigations books, which had some good ideas and were sometimes fun, but often got bogged down in continuity references that crowded out story. The third installment sees a format change, to novella, which makes it more focused and story-driven, plus we're all out of episodes to explain away, so Bennett has to come up with a plot that builds on Star Trek time travel, but isn't beholden to any previous story.

    The result is delightful. Dulmur and Lucsly are inducting a new artifact into the DTI's vault when Agent Jen Noi (a contemporary of Enterprise's Daniels) pops up to claim it for the 31st century instead. Soon, Dulmur and Lucsly are being whisked away to an alternate 31st century, and then even further afield. It's just fun, and surprisingly given its length, it feels big. There's lots of great stuff here: Jena Noi using time technology in hand-to-hand combat, megastructures of the kind we rarely see in Star Trek, the awesome scale (and kind-of logic) of the Collectors' plan, the Borg T. rex(!), the way Garcia and Ranjea rewrite their own histories but don't even notice, Lucsly's reaction to being in the future being to keep his eyes closed so he can't contaminate the timeline, the TIA's method for beating the Collectors (a lot like Mudd's technique in "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad," actually). Sometimes Bennett's writing can get bogged down and clunky, but that's not true here; this book zips along, playful and entertaining.

    It's not all roses; I was little annoyed the 24th-century agents have no real effect on the story, and the bit where Dulmur and Lucsly solve their personal issues by noting how the Collectors problems parallel their own and give a speech about it is a bit on the nose. But fundamentally I really enjoyed this, and I look forward to reading future DTI e-novellas. Given how often I feel like Destiny-era novels take to long to get to the point, maybe all Star Trek books should be novellas?

    Continuity Notes:
    • I did wonder if I was being silly, pausing Cold Equations to read this, but in the end I'm glad I did, because 1) I wasn't enjoying Cold Equations very much whereas I did very much enjoy this, and 2) there are a few small but meaningful references to the Breen plot from Silent Weapons.
    • There's a bit about how there was a brief, abandoned fashion for holo-communicators. At the time it was written, it was referring to the Deep Space Nine episodes "For the Uniform" and "Doctor Bashir, I Presume," but these days you can pretend it's a reference its use in the 2250s in Discovery (although, it's said to be clunky, which isn't true of the Discovery version).
    • I liked that Rom as Grand Nagus is making the Ferengi more conscious of the perils of time travel; given his experiences in "Little Green Men," it makes sense!
    • Some foreshadowing here-- what is the Body Electric?
    Other Notes:
    • I continue to like how the 31st-century time agents are to the DTI as the FBI is to local police.
    • A couple characters' rants feel too much like Bennett's own rants, and it threw me out of the story: the one about advanced technology the Federation ignores, and the one about how people confuse different alien species with the Preservers.
    • It's a Christopher Bennett book, so people are constantly commenting on how attractive the women are.
    That's it for this set of five; I'm on to reading other things. The average gap between rounds in this marathon has been six months, so statistics suggest I'll be back here in January for the next set.
     
  11. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Um, it's been a while, hasn't it? Well, here I am again!

    Phase Five: 2384-85
    21. The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book III: The Body Electric by David Mack
    22. Department of Temporal Investigations: Time Lock by Christopher L. Bennett
    23. The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow
    24. Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett
    25. The Next Generation: Q Are Cordially Uninvited... by Rudy Josephs

    A very novella-heavy stretch of the timeline!
     
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  12. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Always love reading your thoughts!
     
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  13. USS Firefly

    USS Firefly Commodore Commodore

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    Now I miss the Typhon Pact novels more :(
     
  14. Csalem

    Csalem Commodore Commodore

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    It has taken me until now, and reading this post, to realise the title is actually Uninvited and not Invited. And I have read the story. Everyday is a learning day...
     
  15. Mage

    Mage Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Holy crap..... How come I never noticed this...... It's so true. I love Christopher's work, despite some things that are a bit on the nose. But that one.....Wow.
     
  16. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I haven't read it yet but this actually kinds of bugs me; I feel like you can do one joke in a title (Q Are Cordially Invited or You Are Cordially Uninvited), but I'm not convinced you can do two. It feels overstuffed. (Though I'm sure that the joke is that Q is indeed uninvited.)

    There's a Doctor Who audio drama called The Mahogany Murderers that a lot of people misname as The Mahogany Murders. I was pretty amused when in the extras for a later release, the producer himself used the wrong title!
     
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  17. TheAlmanac

    TheAlmanac Writer Captain

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    The Doctor Who story which always trips me up in this regard is The Adventuress of Henrietta Street.
     
  18. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Hmm, maybe Christopher is appreciative of a pretty lady. I really liked Choudhury and was very sad to see her pass away. Memory Beta has a 'picture' of her (I forget where it was from off hand) but she is much as I imagined her to be. Beautiful and exotic. And I always loved her first name, Jasminder. I always liked feminine, exotic names.

    I also liked her replacement, Smrhova, who I have heard is based on the actress of the same name who is also very attractive :adore:
     
  19. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's from the cover of the German translation of Losing the Peace.
     
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  20. Mage

    Mage Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I adored the character of Choudhury, and was very sad to see her go. Smrhova, I'm not as sold on really.