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

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

  1. Leto_II

    Leto_II Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Location:
    Room 303, The Heart O' The City Hotel
    Additionally, Spock mathematically predicted (Hari Seldon-style) that, if the Terran Empire were to fall in the late 23rd Century, rather than in the 26th or 27th Century (IIRC), most of the neighboring races would eventually realign themselves toward near-total democracy and peace, even if it meant a century or so of enslavement for humanity as an immediate consequence. Whereas, on the other hand, if the empire fell centuries later, ALL adjacent spacefaring civilizations in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants would ultimately be annihilated, with no hope of recovery whatsoever.

    For Spock in the David Mack novels, the choice was really no choice at all.
     
  2. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    I confess, I prefer the alternative lit where it was all a master plan by Emperor Tiberius.

    :D

    SHATNERVERSE!
     
  3. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    To be fair, I did spent like two paragraphs of my Rise Like Lions review complaining about the tv show's take.

    Yeah, I do like Mack's retcon; it's clever and audacious. Unfortunately, reading about the DS9 MU is still kind of tedious.

    I thought Spectre was tremendous fun but the other two Shatner Mirror Universe novels were dreadful. Though those books were also riffing pretty substantially on Asimov's psychohistory and the Foundation! Weird coincidence.
     
    Idran likes this.
  4. JWolf

    JWolf Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The reviews need spoiler codes.
     
  5. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2008
    Location:
    In the future's past
    Not for books older than 6 months to a year they don't
     
    Stevil2001 and Idran like this.
  6. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2005
    Location:
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    As is clearly started in my Moderator Notices post: https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/mod...story-ideas-spoilers-etc.280025/#post-8990167


    @JWolf You know this is how the rules on spoilers work - you were part of the initial discussions about it when I took over as moderator here. You know what it says in that thread because you've responded to it. Just because you don't agree with a rule doesn't mean you get to ignore it.

    I'm issuing you with a warning for spamming for the 5 separate notifications you sent about spoilers in this thread.

    Any questions about spoiler coding or this warning can be addressed to me via PM, not in this thread.
     
    SolarisOne, Idran and Stevil2001 like this.
  7. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    Started Rough Beasts of Empire today, so I should note my next set of five:

    Phase Two: 2381-82
    6. Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III
    7. Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock by Christopher L. Bennett
    8. Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game by David Mack
    9. Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin
    10. Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony by Dayton Ward
     
  8. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    School breaks mean not only did I read this one quickly, but I've already started the next one...

    Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire
    by David R. George III
    Published:
    January 2011
    Time Span: 2381-82

    This is essentially two entirely separate novels crowbarred together, so I'm going to review each in turn, and then discuss they way they are brought together.

    The first is what's promised by the series title: Rough Beasts of Empire is (chronologically) the first of eight books about the Typhon Pact, the Warsaw Pactesque Federation adversary introduced in A Singular Destiny. Basically, it's a set of alien species often opposed to the Federation banding together. With six members and eight books, there's more or less one alien race explored per book. Rough Beasts of Empire covers the Romulans, who in some previous book (Articles of the Federation, I think? it's been a while) split into two different polities, each led by a female character from Nemesis: Praetor Tal'Aura's Romulan Star Empire (which has joined the Typhon Pact) and Empress Donatra's breakaway Imperial Romulan State.

    The main focus of the novel is that Romulus is an empire divided, which basically no one wants: Tal'Aura and Donatra both want to rule over a united Romulus. Many of the Star Empire's allies, particularly the Tzenkethi, would prefer to be dealing with a united nation as well. And then there's Ambassador Spock, still doing his Vulcan-Romulan reunification thing underground (literally and figuratively), who realizes that a united Romulan people makes reuniting with the Vulcans easier. So in classic Romulan tradition, we have plots and counterplots, as Tal'Aura, the Tal Shiar, Spock, Donatra, the Tzenkethi, and various Romulan families each pursue their own interests clandestinely.

    It's entertaining enough. I didn't love it, but it's well done. It's hard to care about any of the Romulan characters, so really it's just Spock carrying you through the whole book. David R. George III has a pretty good grasp on Spock for the most part, as a principled man. Spock is attacked by a Reman assassin early in the book, and has the plan to turn him into the authorities, even though Spock is wanted by those same authorities, and that seemed very in character to me. There was a spot where he was overly naïve (I didn't buy that he would not foresee how his movement being legitimated could lead to long-term harm), but on the whole I enjoyed his story.

    I do wish Donatra had appeared in the narrative earlier: she doesn't really become significant until near the end, and she shines then, as a principled woman trying to save her people from autocrats. On the other hand, she's distressingly passive for a head of state, especially one who's declared herself an empress! I would have liked to have seen her fighting more actively.

    The Romulan plot kind of fizzles out, though. You figure out what's going on, the characters do too, and then it all plays out inevitably. There's no suspense as events draw to a close: some characters get what they want, and Spock watches it all happen. I did like how complicated it was, though. Almost no one here is an obvious black hat, and arguably the Romulan people are better off once the whole book is over even though the "villains" arguably won!

    There's a whole second book in here, though, that follows Benjamin Sisko. Now, Sisko ascended into the Bajoran wormhole at the end of Deep Space Nine to live with the Prophets, but he came back in the tenth-anniversary special Unity. Personally, I feel that after Unity, Sisko should have been quietly shunted off-stage somewhere to never play a major role in a Star Trek story again. How can you keep writing him into action-adventure stories in a way that doesn't undermine the celestial experience he would have had?

    According to this novel, though, Sisko reactivated his Starfleet commission during the Borg invasion in Destiny to command the USS New York. I can just about buy this, but everything that follows just seems wrong. Sisko is convinced that his is a life of sorrow (following on from the Prophets' warning to him in "Penumbra"): since he's returned from the wormhole, his daughter has been kidnapped, his neighbors have died, Elias Vaughn has been rendered brain-dead, and then a few chapters into this novel, his father Joseph passes away. I can just about buy that Sisko would be hurting from all this, though it's somewhat unconvincing for the novel to depend on past events only briefly described for its emotional heft. (Like, why the heck should I care about his dead neighbors?)

    But what I really don't buy is what Sisko does in reaction to all this. He shuts down, leaving his siblings to manage his father's funeral while he aimless wanders the streets of New Orleans, ignoring Jake. Then he permanently reactives his commission (accepting command of the USS Robinson)... without telling Kasidy! I can only assume that when Sisko returned from the wormhole, it was another man who looked exactly like him, because this bears no relationship to the man whose adventures I saw on screen for seven years. Sisko was a builder and a doer, never a runner. Even when he suffered the greatest tragedy of his life, he did his job: through all of "Emissary" he does his best to set up Deep Space 9 to run successfully even though he has no intention of staying in command of it.

    It also flies in the face of everything we've seen about Sisko as a family man. He would never ignore Jake like this; he would certainly never ignore Kasidy and his daughter like this. This is a man who lost it all and managed to put it back together. He is not so emotionally immature as to do what he does here, and the recent tragedies in his life don't make it palatable. The death of Jennifer is the defining tragedy of Sisko's life, and not even the death of his father comes close. This is the man who once said, "Running may help for a little while, but sooner or later the pain catches up with you, and the only way to get rid of it is to stand your ground and face it."

    It also is just so pedestrian. Sisko should be enlightened and shit, not doubting that his experiences with the Prophets ever happened. I get that George probably wanted the prophecy from "Penumbra" to have some weight, but this was not the way to do it.

    Unrelated to all this, there's this sort of weird non-subplot about the Tzenkethi in the Sisko half of the novel. The Robinson ends us patrolling a sector of space where they sight some Tzenkethi vessels. This leads to a series of flashbacks to when Sisko fought against the Tzenkethi under the command of Leyton on the Okinawa (as mentioned in "The Adversary"). Why? Who knows because Sisko doesn't even interact with the Tzenkethi in the present day of the story, he just monitors sensor contacts from the bridge of the Robinson. It's really strange and pointless and has nothing to do with anything; it feels to me like when the initial set of Typhon Pact novels was reduced from six to four,* George was asked to jam them into his book because they weren't going to get a focus novel otherwise.

    I read most of Rough Beasts on a flight from Newark to Orlando, going home after Thanksgiving; my wife sat next to me noted that the cover indicated a team-up between Sisko and Spock. "So far," I said, "their storylines have had nothing to do with each other." I think I was two-thirds of the way through at that point; the rest of the novel didn't remedy it. As close as the two plotlines come is when Spock gets a secret message to the Federation president asking for information to be passed onto Donatra, Sisko and the Robinson are assigned to do it. Why? I don't know. The president's staff tells her that Spock is the diplomatic service's expert on Romulans so that without him available, they should ask Starfleet. The head of Starfleet ends up recommending Sisko, because 1) according to a deleted scene he worked at the Federation embassy on Romulus, and 2) he met Senator Vreenak. Really!? There's no one in the whole Federation Diplomatic Corps who knows more about Romulans than that?

    It's a contrived attempt to jam together what really are two completely separate stories. Take out the trip to see Donatra and the flashbacks to the Tzenkethi conflicts, and Sisko's story has nothing at all to do with the Typhon Pact in general, or the Spock/Romulus tale in particular. I also didn't really see any thematic resonance, though George tries to bring up a commonality of home at the very end. Based on the acknowledgements, it seems like George realized that with Marco Palmieri gone from Simon & Schuster, the Deep Space Nine story wasn't going to advance unless he slipped it into unrelated novels. Unfortunately, it doesn't serve it to advanced it in such a weird way.

    Continuity Notes:
    • There are a few small references to Diane Duane's Rihannsu novels: "High Rihan" is said to be the name of the Romulan language, some Romulan characters reference the Elements that Duane's Romulans swore by. It's subtle enough that it works: I didn't really like how Martin and Mangels' Enterprise novels gave all their Romulan characters Rihannsu-style names nothing like the screen Romulan names.
    • Amanda is said to have passed onto her son Spock a love of physical books. I don't think this derives from anything seen on screen by the time this book came out (other than that Amanda was a teacher), but lines up well with Discovery, where she gives Michael a physical copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which Michael passes onto Tilly.
    • There's a joke about how Romulans have a lot of ancient sayings about serpents. A previous George novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, takes its title from a Romulan saying.
    Other Notes:
    • Kira has become a vedek!? I know future novels will fill in more of the backstory in the four-year gap between this novel and The Soul Key, but I find it hard to believe that George could ever make me believe in such a transformation, which is as bad a misunderstanding of Kira's character as this book is of Sisko's.
    • It also seems pretty shitty to (essentially) kill of Vaughn.
    • So who's in command of the station, then? If we're told, I missed it. But Kira's gone, and Vaughn's gone, and Ezri's gone. Even Bowers is gone. I guess that leaves Nog or Shar?
    • Sisko emotionally isolates himself from the crew of the Robinson and gets called out on it; George repeated this subplot almost precisely with Sulu's transfer in Allegiance in Exile.
    • The book's title is taken from the notes accompanying a Romulan painting. Based on the full poem (the novel's epigraph), the painter was really into William Blake.

    * I'll talk more about the overall shape of the Typhon Pact series in a future review.

    EDIT: Oh that came out long!
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    TAS: "Once Upon a Planet" established that Amanda instilled Spock with an appreciation of light reading, including Lewis Carroll. My assumption was that the reference in Discovery was a nod to that, but nothing in the writers' or producers' interview comments have suggested as much.
     
  10. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    I'm aware of that; I was referring to Amanda's appreciation of physical books specifically. I guess we know Spock likes them enough to give them as gifts as per The Wrath of Khan (though he ascribes it to Kirk's "fondness for antiques"), but there's no preexisting source I'm aware of that gives Amanda a liking for books as objects. (We know from "Court Martial" that this is unusual in the twenty-third century.)
     
  11. The Xandarian Worldmind

    The Xandarian Worldmind Attention, Richard... Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2015
    Location:
    ...It is critical that you pay attention...
    Uh, yeah, I have completely forgot this penumbra prophecy. Does anyone remember what it was about/if it pays off?

    I think there were plans for a DRG3 penned Lost Era novel focusing on the Tzenkethi war, so maybe some of that was reworked here.


    These two novels don't do anything to explain Kira's change in career.

    Ro Laren
     
  12. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    The "Sarah" Prophet tells Sisko: "Your path is a difficult one. She [Kasidy] cannot share it with you. [...] That [marriage] is not your destiny. [...] You must walk the path alone. [...] If you do [marry Kasidy], you will know nothing but sorrow." Sisko thinks about it when deciding to run away from Kasidy.

    Oh, I forgot she was a possibility.
     
  13. The Xandarian Worldmind

    The Xandarian Worldmind Attention, Richard... Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2015
    Location:
    ...It is critical that you pay attention...
    Oh, it was from the show? I guess I haven't seen it in years.

    Yeah, she isn't exactly the first DS9 character I'd have command the station but I can at least see how four years of character development can change that.
     
  14. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2008
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    For what it's worth, Plagues of Night / Raise the Dawn takes a lot of the plot threads that you (correctly, I think) don't like and pulls them together magnificently. It's possible for stories that begin in annoying places to end in great ones. But you're not wrong about this book; it's a weird, kluge-y mess that does some real damage to a lot of characters for no immediate reason.
     
  15. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    Yeah. In the context of the show, it's mean to foreshadow Sisko's departure at the end. But if Sisko comes back, then there's no sorrow deriving from the marriage, so I feel like the events of Rough Beasts of Empire (and whatever is to come) is meant to fulfill it. Sisko thinks about it directly in the novel.
     
    Jarvisimo likes this.
  16. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2008
    Location:
    In the future's past
    Great review dude. I totally agree.
    This board's general reaction to RBoE seems to be what sent DRG3 from our ranks. If my memory serves, he felt things around here had gotten too negative after its release. Of course, after everyone finished the trilogy (RBoE as well as the duology of Raise and Plagues all form a trilogy really), people seemed to have mellowed, as those books made RBoE much better in hind sight.
     
  17. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Location:
    California
    I was most surprised by the fact DRGIII never once touched on the more pertinent (to my mind) statement from "Sacrifice of Angels," that as "penance" for making them stop the Dominion, the Prophets decreed that "The Sisko is of Bajor, but he will find no rest there." Especially since at some point, IIRC, Sisko started to flirt with the idea that the Prophets were intentionally, directly inflicting pain on him.

    For what it's worth, pretty much the entire board had the same reaction you did to Sisko's post-Destiny arc, to the point that our incessant bitching and moaning about it drove DRGIII from the forum, never to return. Even though the situation has been kind of patched over in the meantime, I'll argue that the Sisko arc that begins in this novel is the biggest, most damaging misstep of the entire novelverse, because it's still playing out. I think we all felt that Sisko coming back from the wormhole should end up with him being quietly off-stage unless something rather cosmic is required, and that the post-Destiny Sisko really does come off as a very different man than the one from the series and the earlier phases of the novelverse, even after his head is pulled from his ass. The other big controversies I can recall (The Janeway Incident and the Romulan War Mediocrity) were both undone/moved beyond without any real lasting damage, and in the former case, the immediate fall-out was well-handled in the Voyager novels in a way that was sensitive and true to all the characters involved.
     
  18. The Xandarian Worldmind

    The Xandarian Worldmind Attention, Richard... Premium Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2015
    Location:
    ...It is critical that you pay attention...
    Sisko really should have just stayed at his house on Bajor and be the guy you talk to every five books when there is great danger and you need someone with experience to guide to.
     
  19. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    I get that George wanted to do something unexpected (I too had these expectations), and that there's more to come in this story, but even unexpected things have to arise from the characters as they are, and this doesn't. I'll be curious to see if it gets better for me as many have said it does for them.
     
  20. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2008
    Location:
    In the future's past
    I didn't mind Sisko coming back to the fleet because DS9, for me, wouldn't be DS9 without him. Even during the early part of the DS9 relaunch, when reading those early books (which i've read in the last year or two)...I always had the sense that Sisko still had a role to play. Maybe that's due in part that I had Unity on my shelf long before i'd filled in the other holes in my DS9R collection, or because it felt like he was missing. I just assumed he'd come back and become an Admiral stationed at the station or on Bajor or something; but George's interpretation is totally valid, outside of the swings in his character, IMO. Anyways...
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017