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

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

  1. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    It has been eleven months and four days since I last posted in this thread, but this project isn't dead, and neither am I. I've been busy! But now it's time for my next batch of five...

    Phase Three: 2382-83
    11. Titan: Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin
    12. Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett
    13. The Next Generation: Indistinguishable from Magic by David A. McIntee
    14. Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History by Christopher L. Bennett
    15. Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night by David R. George III

    Literally starting Fallen Gods in minutes!
     
  2. thribs

    thribs Commodore Commodore

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    I did that. Started late 2017 and finished in late summer 2018. It’s a good marathon but those Typhon Pact books can be a slog. The Fall is a better event I felt, with the Bashir story being the highlight.
     
  3. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Titan: Fallen Gods by Michael A. Martin
    Published:
    August 2012
    Time Span: November 2382 ("roughly Stardate 59833.8"*)

    This is a hard book to say much about, because it's just boring. Like, little happens, so what is there to discuss? There's two main strands, so I'll take them in turn.

    The first is a by-now-typical Titan exploration story. Continuing its mission into the Gum Nebula, Titan has come across a huge pulsar, but despite the lethal radiation it spills out, it has a life-supporting planet in orbit. You might think this could be exciting, but it is far from so. First off, the beginning of the book alternates what's happening on Titan with what the aliens on the planet are doing, and the planetside chapters read like a parody of bad science fiction. Nonsense words just piled on top of each other interminably, lots of names with apostrophes, an alien race that is divided into two factions, one literally devoted to destroying things and the other to not destroying things. There's no nuance or worldbuilding taking place here. The entire planet is a two-dimensional cipher.

    Meanwhile on Titan... not much is happening, either. Like in Seize the Fire, there are an inordinate amount of meetings. It feels like these characters are never doing things, they're just being told things. There's a fifteen-page chapter where Melora Pazlar tells Captain Riker that there's life on the planet, something that we already know, and something that doesn't require this level of justification. When Titan sends a shuttle to the planet, it's hard to care about what it's trying to accomplish, because Michael Martin has done no work to make this planet or species interesting enough to be worth saving. In light of the Titan series's original mission of bringing a sense of wonder back to Star Trek, this book is a dismal failure.

    The other plot line continues a thread begun in my previous read, the Typhon Pact novel Paths of Disharmony. Now than Andor has left the Federation, Starfleet has decided it doesn't trust the Andorians still serving, and wants them out of sensitive positions, moved into positions where they can't do any harm. Titan has seven Andorians serving aboard, and so a starship is coming to pick them up and take them back to Federation space. This paranoia is unbecoming the Federation, and hard to believe in. The Federation isn't even in a state of hostility with Andor! These particular Andorians haven't even given up their Federation citizenship! In Deep Space Nine, Worf was never treated in such a way and the Federation was at war with his people. The book tries to justify it with the statement that "during the months since Typhon Pact–allied Breen agents made off with Federation slipstream technology, Starfleet Command has been more concerned about internal security than at any time since the parasite infestation eighteen years ago." But in Martin's eagerness to cram in a gratuitous reference to "Conspiracy," he seems to have missed that surely Starfleet was much more concerned about internal security during the time it carried on a two-year war with shapeshifters! Compared to that, Andorexit is nothing.

    This thread develops when an Andorian vessel appears to lay claim to Titan's Andorians itself. The commander of this ship is a cackling, evil caricature. Andor leaving the Federation didn't convince me in Paths of Disharmony, and if this is the kinds of stories the writers are telling about it, it's definitely not convincing me. A lot of this story is dependent on you caring about what happens to Titan's most prominent Andorian crewmember, Pava Ek'noor sh'Aqabaa. I don't, because Martin does little to make me, and I even read the old Starfleet Academy comics from which she derives. (I did find the last chapter with her in it very existentially spooky, though; that was well done.)

    The legalistic manner the forced transfer plotline resolved in felt very contrived. And then Riker and another captain smirk about how two of their officers are going to get some. Lol sexy Deltans, amirite?

    Also what's weird is that the two halves of the story feel like they were written by different people, because they barely even interact. Warp drive, even warp-capable ships, are a big threat to the planet by the pulsar, but no one even mentions this when the Andorian ships comes warping in.

    The big problem is that Michael Martin can't write characters as far as I can tell. No one here has a personality, each has a job and a species, and that's their entirety. They exist to deliver exposition and do whatever it is their species does. But how can I care about such poorly written characters? And thus, how can I care about anything in this book? Thankfully, this seems to be Michael Martin's last contribution to Destiny-era fiction.

    Continuity Notes:
    • There's an unresolved thread that the Tholian-allied Andorians created transporter duplicates of Andorian Starfleet officers who refused to come over. I've no doubt this will be of huge significance to the Typhon Pact story going forward. Certainly, something like no one ever mentioning this ever again would never happen.
    Other Notes:
    • The novel analogizes the Federation attitude toward its Andorian citizens to the United States's attitude toward Japanese-Americans during World War II. Alyssa Ogawa tells Pava about it. Yet for some reason, we don't get this scene; instead we get this painful scene where Pava tells Tuvok about the Japanese internment, so each character is constantly explaining American history to the other, smothering what could be a potent analogy.
    • A prime example of Martin's over-explaining: after two paragraphs about turbulence the shuttle is going through, we're told, "Bralik and Eviku sat in grave silence. The Ferengi geologist and Arkenite xenobiologist both seemed to have turned slightly green, no doubt because of the turbulence the shuttlecraft's approach pattern was generating." Like, why is everything after that comma even there? If it's so obvious you have to work "no doubt" into the narration, maybe you don't need to say it at all!
    • It's official, I'm totally over the novels' style of Andorian name. Take a look at the load of nonsense letters on p. 212 when the full names of all seven Andorians on Titan are given. It's unreadable. The way Martin uses them doesn't even make sense; the retcon that established this naming practice in Avatar makes it clear that Andorians went by the abbreviated version of their forenames even in formal situations: Shras, Erib, and so on. No one on screen calls Shran "Commander th'Zoarhi." Yet in this book, it's a profusion of apostrophes as Andorians are always calling each other by their surnames... something they literally never do in the canon!
    • There's also this really dumb bit where Pava can't remember that she saw Tholians on the Andorian ship because she has memory loss, until she sees Ogawa, who is wearing a scarf of Tholian silk, which triggers her memory. This makes no sense, because as the novel points out, it's a uniform code violation. It's also an improbably enormous coincidence: Ogawa just happens to wear her Tholian silk scarf for the first time on the day where Pava meets Tholians and loses her memory of them? It's also completely unnecessary, as there's no plot function for Pava's memory loss to begin with, given it lasts all of two pages.
    • I feel like Martin has completely squandered WhiteBlue's potential as a member of the Titan crew. Poor guy. :(
    • The trade dress on this installment is subpar. The spine and back cover don't match the previous books, even though they have the same designer, Alan Dingman! Couldn't he just open up his old Photoshop template and reuse it? The "A VOYAGE OF THE STARSHIP TITAN" on the back cover, which I always liked, is gone. The vertical "TITAN" on the front cover, which used to be done with a very subtle embossing, is now just part of the image. Plus the cover image itself is dead boring, beginning what will be a trend (at least Riker makes it onto this one, I guess, given all of the future installments are just ship images), after the first several books had excellent covers. Bring back Cliff Nielsen! And worst of all, we've gone from matte finish to glossy!

    * If this is the rough stardate, how many digits does the precise one have?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2018
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  4. thribs

    thribs Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, that Titan book it one of the weaker ones. The characters just came off very unlikeable here, It's yet to be followed on as we still don't know what happened to the duplicated Andorians.
    The next two are better though. They take certain plot points from TNG episodes and expand on them in an interesting way.
     
  5. USS Firefly

    USS Firefly Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What a great review!
    It's like you say everything I thought of the novel.
    I am also reading the Titan novels and now reading The Fall - The Poisoned Chalice.
     
  6. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I didn't even make it two chapters into Martin's solo Titan Typhon Pact book, Seize the Fire, and I haven't bothered with any of his solo stuff since. I've actually had the first Romulan War book sitting in my bookself of stuff I haven't read yet since it first came out, but I haven't bothered actually reading it.
     
  7. thribs

    thribs Commodore Commodore

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    The Romulan War one is good but it does rush through a lot of stuff. Feels like it should have been more than just two novels.
     
  8. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    It was meant to be a trilogy, but the publishers insisted it be reduced to two.
     
  9. thribs

    thribs Commodore Commodore

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    Even three books feels too short. A lot of time is covered in those novels. Would have been nice to go more slowly through them.
     
  10. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

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    The second book felt extremely rushed. It felt like someone had invited you over for a tutkey dinner, but all you got were bones with only a few scraps of meat still on the bones.
     
  11. marlboro

    marlboro Captain Captain

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    Mar 12, 2015
    That's a good one. James Swallow has a knack for these types of stories.


    What's the backstory on the cancellation of the third book?
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    To put it simply, Pocket's license was due to come up for renewal in 2012, and apparently renewal was iffy enough (or the editors cautious enough) that they decided they didn't want to have any unfinished stories when it ran out. So The Romulan War was reduced to two books so that it would end at the right time. The 2012 books were designed to work as finales if it came to that -- Vanguard concluded its run, TNG had Cold Equations, DS9 had Plagues of Night/Raise the Dawn, and VGR had The Eternal Tide. Those last three and Romulan War all resolved lingering threads and cleared the board for either an ending or a fresh beginning.
     
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  13. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    May 22, 2000
    Vanguard’s conclusion was planned and executed without regard to the licensing issue. We (Dave, Kevin, and I) made the decision to wrap it up and made our case to Pocket and (via them) CBS, both of whom - I might add - tried to talk us out of it. :)
     
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  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Oh, okay. I guess I remembered wrong.
     
  15. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    New York City
    Responding to an old post.........

    Except they weren't left off the screen. We spent a great deal of time with Klingon politics, Romulan politics, Bajoran politics, and Cardassian politics. Yet we spent no significant time with Federation politics, not even in situations (like the Dominion War) where the government should've been front and center. Which is why I wanted to do Articles in the first place, and why politics were such a big part of not just my two novels, but the prior ones in the "A Time to..." series by Robert Greenberger and David Mack.
     
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  16. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, imagine I wrote "24th-century Federation politics" then. The other societies you list are not supposed to be utopias, but the Federation (to some extent) is, but I think the depiction of its politics in the fiction shows a lack of utopian imagination.
     
  17. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett
    Published:
    October 2011
    Time Span: Stardate 59881.2-59927.6 (November/December 2382)

    After its initial four-book run, there were a number of what I guess you might call "supplemental" books in the Typhon Pact series, beginning with this, the series's only eBook novella. Given my reaction to the original set of books, and this book's short size, I wasn't expecting much out of it, but to my surprise, it's the best Typhon Pact story thus far, the first to really deliver on the concept's storytelling potential, even if in a limited way.

    Like most of the Typhon Pact series, it falls squarely into one ongoing series despite lacking one on its title page; in this case, it's a Next Generation novella, focusing on the Enterprise-E dealing with some of the political fallout of the formation of the Typhon Pact. In classic Next Generation style, we have A- and B-plots focusing on different characters. Picard, Worf, and Crusher on the Enterprise work to bring the Talarians (from TNG's "Suddenly Human," an episode I've actually never seen) into the expanded Khitomer Accords (the NATO to Typhon's Warsaw Pact), while Jasminder Choudhury and T'Ryssa Chen travel to Janalwa, the capital planet of the Kinshaya, where there's democratic political unrest against the theocratic government of the Pact's most reclusive member.

    Each story on its own is interesting, and explores the repercussions of the Typhon Pact in a nuanced way. On Talar, negotiations are disrupted when women begin to demand more rights than the patriarchal government will allow them, which puts Captain Picard in an awkward position: the Federation promotes democratic ideals, but it also needs the Talarian government onside as a signatory to the Khitomer Accords, and so can't be seen to be supporting the rebels, even philosophically. It's a classic TNG-style moral dilemma, that only increases in complexity when Doctor Crusher is kidnapped by the female rebels.

    The Janalwa plotline is also interesting. Freedom of movement has increased between Typhon Pact signatories, and Spock's Vulcan/Romulan reunification movement has been legalized on Romulus, meaning a contingent of Romulan reunificationists are travelling to Janalwa is solidarity with suppressed Kinshaya dissidents; the Kinshaya cannot act against these citizens of an ally they way they might against their own citizens, providing something of a shield for the Kinshaya. Choudhury and Chen join the Romulans in disguise, and the story explores some of the complexities of nonviolent resistance with fairly explicit references to both Gandhi and the Arab Spring, in a way that also ties into Choudhury and Chen's emotional development.

    I enjoyed this plotline for how it extrapolated some of the political ramifications that might come from the establishment of the Typhon Pact. In creating an "anti-Federation," the Federation's enemies inadvertently enabled some of the Federation's ideals to flourish. In most of the Typhon Pact novels (Rough Beasts of Empire excepted), the Typhon Pact has mostly been evil antagonists without much complexity, so it's nice to see that reversed here.

    If there's a complaint that I have, it's that I'm not convinced a novella should have both an A- and B-plot. Either plotline could have been expanded more: I can imagine another version of the Talar plotline where Picard did more, instead of fretting about what to do. And while I appreciate finally getting some insight into the Kinshaya here, we just scratched the surface on them; the set-up of the plot means that it felt like most of the friendly characters we met on Janalwa were Chen and Choudhury's fellow "Romulans." Seeing more of Kinshaya society would be nice-- as would be probing the limits of political resistance more. Bennett specifically cites Egypt as his primary inspiration, but the Arab Spring in Libya, for example, was wantonly violent at times. (Admittedly, the death of Gaddafi happened the same month the book came out, so Bennett couldn't exactly take it into account!) I could also imagine a version of this story where making the choice to be nonviolent is personally harder for Choudhury, as well.

    But a novella doesn't give you the space for this, of course; I think The Struggle Within would have been even stronger as a short novel, or as a novella focused on a single plotline. But despite that, it's the best Typhon Pact story to date.

    Continuity Notes:
    • Choudhury shaves her hair and adopts mourning tattoos when she disguises herself as a Romulan, in the style of Nero and company from Star Trek (2009), picking up on a retcon first established in, I believe, the Countdown miniseries.
    Other Notes:
    • The scenes of the Kinshaya leaders using Breen troops to fire on their own citizens were very effective.
    • Maybe I'm something of a prude, but Picard/Crusher sex jokes just don't sit right with me.
     
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  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    And the first standalone e-novella (a few years after the end of the ongoing series and miniseries ones), an experiment that fortunately paid off and led to more.


    Wow, thanks! Great to hear, considering that it's kind of the overlooked installment of the series. The next time the Kinshaya showed up in the novels, the theocrats still seemed to be in power as if my novella had never happened -- which I suppose is plausible given the disappointing outcome of the Arab Spring, but still not what I expected. Luckily, John Jackson Miller did a fine job picking up on my Kinshaya threads and knitting everything together cohesively in the Prey trilogy.


    Yup -- making the Pact just one more set of villains was never the plan. It was meant to be in the vein of Worlds of DS9, an umbrella title for fleshing out underdeveloped alien cultures like the Gorn, Breen, etc. Since the Kinshaya didn't get a focus in the novels, I used TSW to fill that gap -- and I mirrored that with a focus on the Talarians, who were the least developed of the potential signatories to the expanded Khitomer Accords.


    Honestly, I would've been happy to focus exclusively on Chen, Choudhury, and the Kinshaya, but a novella centered only on book-original characters (who had no recognizable faces to put on the cover) would never have been marketable.


    Not surprising, since I was basing that on the chilling Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in Amritsar, India in 1919, where a British colonel had his troops fire into a crowd of peaceful civilian protestors. (Hence "Janalwa.")
     
  19. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, I hadn't quite clocked it was the first of them. It's the first I've read; as far behind as I am on Destiny-era fiction, I'm even further behind on most other Star Trek tie-ins!

    I can see that. Not part of the original four, and outside of those, I feel like it's the big events of George's DS9 duology that get the attention.

    Hm, far too late now, of course, but one wonders if you could have sent Picard along with them (he has previous experience infiltrating the Romulan unification movement, after all), but then spun him off into his own subplot to let Choudhury and Chen do their thing. Then slap Picard on the cover! Given what you just said, though, it's interesting to note that the next two Typhon Pact books eschew faces on the cover altogether!
     
  20. thribs

    thribs Commodore Commodore

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    One thing I thought they missed during that saga was having Spock and Chen together in a scene. That would been interesting to explore.