Spoilers TNG: Greater Than The Sum Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Mike Winters, Jul 16, 2008.


Rate Greater Than The Sum

  1. Outstanding

    7 vote(s)
  2. Above Average

    1 vote(s)
  3. Average

    0 vote(s)
  4. Below Average

    1 vote(s)
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
  1. Elemental

    Elemental Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 9, 2003
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    Just finished GTTS! Overall, some very interesting developments, both character-wise and plot-wise.

    One of the biggest positives I felt were the overall interlinking theme of family (including Crusher becoming pregnant which is sure to add some drama down the road). I also felt there were some nice surprises, such as the return and sacrifice of Hugh and formerly unknown Enterprise crew member - Rebekkah (pardon any spelling errors). I thought Geordi was also characterized very well and continues to be sympathetic as a guy who just can't seem to get it right with the girls. I just hope that in future novels, more can be done with individual character development than helping them find/realize their true love (i.e. Picard & Crusher). I was quite caught off guard at first at the huge significance given to Picard's experience in "The Inner Light" and how it had affected his feelings of having his own children. I think I was surprised because although TNG did show us that Picard's experience did remain a part of him (i.e. the flute), it was never really given much further emphasis past that episode. However, it does make total sense that his experience with Kamen's children would affect him as much as had they been his own. So, kudos to a good idea there. Finally, the continuation of the story with the Einstein (now Frankenstein) was a nifty little nugget. I also liked the use of Leybenzon at the end of the story but felt it a little disappointing that his character wasn't able to be redeemed as much as he was portrayed as making a folly of the worst judgement (however, on the other hand, it's good to see when characters aren't always presented in such a predictable/architypical fashion).

    Just from speaking with Christopher online and hearing about some elements of some of his other novels I have not gotten around to reading yet, I gained the impression that two big interests/focuses of his are the heavy detail of science (physics in particular) in some elements of the story, and also, experiences with non-humanoid aliens of very different perspectives/natures from our own. Both of these were very noticable in this story. I enjoyed the attention to detail in this regard but did feel that at times very dramatic situations were filled with very meticulous (and possibly unnecessary) explanations of the physics of certain situations. Two examples that spring to mind are the firing of the torpedos into the rift created betwen the Enterprise and Borg Cube (and how they would react) and the nature in which the Enterprise and Liberator attacked the Borg Cube in the pincer-like fashion (I believe it was refered to as) in order to fool the Borg into exposing its injured side. I think that dramatic situations involving physical battles must be difficult enough for an author to write in a nature that keeps it compelling and suspenseful and I found that going into this level of scientific detail on the page detracted from the drama a bit.

    My only other negative points (and I only mention them because I always try to weigh in on both the attractors and detractors) would be that I felt the story was quite slow moving at times. I found myself getting a bit bored with the continued encounters with the aliens and attempting to make them understand why we needed to fight the Borg. I suppose it's just a matter of preference that I prefer the alien entities with a bit more similarity to ourselves and whose motivations are more down to earth (e.g. Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, Organians, Borg, 8472, Vulcans, etc), and I don't quite enjoy as much the ones that have no real connection to real people. The one plus that I felt these aliens really did add to the story though was in allowing for the comments on the nature of children and how they are a part of, and yet separate from their parents.

    And as others have mentioned, I'm also beginning to suffer from a bit of Borg fatigue. Three massive Borg threats in the last four novels (as well as one supposedly coming in Destiny) strikes me as a bit much and I find that many of their developments (e.g. killing rather than assimilating, proceeding to attack the Federation out of revenge rather than pure utility) are only serving to make them lose the characteristics that made them unique and are becoming more like the majority of other alien enemies we've encountered. However, this doesn't mean that I'm still not extremely pumped to see what Destiny brings and will probably have to begin reading book 1 tonight.

    As for a final summation of GTTS, I think it's an excellent addition to the TNG-R line for it's character developments that are sure to have some lasting impacts.
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001

    There we go again. ;) It surprises me that everyone sees the theme as family, since that wasn't what I had in mind.

    Rebekah Grabowski wasn't completely unknown. She was actually established by KRAD in Q&A, in a scene where Picard reflects on the 18 crewmembers taken by the Borg in "Q Who." When plotting GTTS, I decided it would provide a nice bit of continuity if I took one of those crewmembers mentioned in that book and featured them in my book.

    I'm not quite sure what scene you're referring to here.

    Well, to me, space battles are anything but compelling. Descriptions of ships shooting stuff at each other and explosions going off and whatnot just don't interest me at all. So the only way I can get interested in writing a battle scene is if there's something to think about, like a clever strategy or a scientific idea that comes into play.

    Well, there are practical reasons for those developments. As established in Resistance, their take-no-prisoners approach was a defense mechanism for a nascent Queen; it stands to reason that they'd be most aggressive when at their most vulnerable. Since the Borg seen in Before Dishonor and GTTS were products of that same cube, they apparently inherited that same defensive mode. And even the "revenge" attack on the Federation has a pragmatic purpose; since the UFP proved itself a serious threat to the Borg, that makes it in the Borg's best interests to eradicate that threat with extreme prejudice.

    Anyway, I wouldn't say the Borg threat in GTTS was massive. It was just one assimilated ship, an afterthought, really. The only massive thing was the potential for disaster if that one ship managed to get effective slipstream capability back to the rest of the Collective.

    And none of the Borg threats we've ever seen before comes anywhere near massive when compared to what's coming in Destiny.
  3. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

    Dec 24, 2007
    Redmond, Oregon, United States of America
    I just read GTTS a few days ago and loved it! I've been a fan of Christopher's writing since reading Ex Machina and was not disappointed. Before Dishoner left me very flat, especially coming after the, imo, very strong Q & A, but GTTM was a great follow up which picked up on the good developments from the previous book and used them to great advantage. While this book did use the Borg, it didn't seem like a "Borg story." Rather it seemed that the Borg were the McGuffin that allowed Christopher to tell a great story about these characters. The developments with Picard and Crusher were great, as it really felt like they were growing as people in ways that characters in TV shows are rarely allowed to do.

    And add me to the list of people who thought that "family" was one of the main themes of the book :)
  4. nx1701g

    nx1701g Admiral Admiral

    Jun 26, 2001
    2001 - 2016
    I finally got the chance to sit down and read this book after several months (my bookstore not carrying Trek novels anymore is really starting to get annoying). I have to say I went into this somewhat worried. Before Dishonor left a very bad taste in my mouth that made me consider giving up on the TNG Relaunch. I couldn't see how this book could possibly reconcile the differences in the characters. I finally broke down and read it because I wanted to hear the story between Before Dishonor and Gods of Night.

    I was happily surprised.

    First I didn't expect to like T'Ryssa Chen when I first read about her and now she's probably my favorite of the new arrivals to Captain Picard's chain of command. She's uncertain about herself and is a very complex character, which is welcome. I haven't gotten very far in Gods of Night but I'm hoping that she doesn't change much. She was a welcome change from T'Lana.

    I wasn't too pleased when I read that Leybenzon was being reassigned - in Q&A I liked the character but Before Dishonor did him in for me - so I was hoping he could somehow be redeemed. His reassignment I didn't like when I first read it, but I like Choudhry and I'd say she's my second favorite of the new crew.

    The story itself was spot on and intriguing. I don't usually read books in one sitting because I have so much going on, but when I started on Sunday I cleared my schedule and read it straight through. The characters were engaging, the return of old favorites (Guinan and Hugh) was welcome, and the Noh Angels were an interesting new race. It reminded me in many ways of the old TOS stories rather than a TNG one. It was refreshing.

    And this was the progression for the characters that we should have seen in Nemesis. When Nemesis was announced Logan said he wanted to show the characters progress on to the next stage of their lives. He did an average job compared to what Christopher has introduced. Picard's storyline and marriage to Doctor Crusher was something that I thought was needed, and everything he was thinking and feeling seemed real. While "The Inner Light" is not one of my favorite episodes (yeah I know amazing), I enjoyed seeing that it stuck with him on an unconscious level and even influenced him in how he treated Beverly's desire and that of Hugh.

    I'll admit that I'll miss Guinan in the TNG novels but I have no doubt she'll turn up at a later date. As the narrative said Picard didn't need her around as much as he did before and it showed. The characters have all grown up and the crew of the Enterprise (both old and new) couldn't be any better in my opinion. Even though I'm typically critical I have to say that Christopher has removed the bad taste of Before Dishonor and I can't wait to see the continuing adventures of this crew.
  5. Ferd Burfel

    Ferd Burfel Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 14, 2008
    Augusta, GA.
    Overall I score the book very, very high. I loved the fact that most of the characters we know and love were presented EXACTLY like I was watching the show. I loved Geordi being forced to think about and deal with the Data/B-4 issue. I hope more comes of that, because I think that just ignoring it book after book will start to upset a lot of the book reading faithful. I also hope we get more of Geordi. Him and Worf are now the two biggest rocks Picard has, and I'd love to see Geordi start playing that up. We've seen an alternate future where he is a Captain, and Riker asked him about being an XO. Maybe now that everything is changed and he is closely examining his personal life we'll see him make that move more towards leadership and possibly the command track. I'm not calling for him to get a ship next book, but Geordi is often under utilized in TNG storytelling. He's a strong character and I'm glad Chris showed us those moments, but I do want to see several more.

    Chen doesn't bother me too much. I agree with what Chris said about her being intended to be annoying and abrasive. Star Trek is all about redemption and second chances. Starfleet and the Federation's mission is that of peace, exploration and development. I'm hoping she doesn't become a HUGE character, but to give her redeeming qualities and come through in the end doesn't make it silly or predictable. And if it does, well then all of Star Trek is. Either way, I'm a fan.

    I can't say I liked what happened to Hugh at the end, but I guess I can understand it. I would have liked to see him some more, especially now that the Borg are truly adapting and evolving. Even so much as having a few more ex-Borg around for Starfleet now that this threat is going ot explode.

    The only part I groaned at was the Enterprise going by itself. It seems to me Starfleet would want a few ships going, not just one. A small fleet to deal with a Borg threat makes a little more sense to me. Sometimes Voyager bothered me because it seemed like Voyager became a hero ship, or that the Borg weren't all that bad. The do damage like Wolf 359, but all we're gonna send is the Enterprise? But that's VERY nitpicky on my part.

    Kadohata falls into that same category. All the talk and discussion makes you wonder why she's out there. It seems silly to me to talk so much about missing the family, but it's out of choice. It almost seems overplayed she's unhappy, when the solution is within her grasp. It makes the character seem a little weak to me. I can't think of a great replacement, but Data left big shoes to fill and it doesn't seem like she's doing a very good job.

    And then Worf. I love Worf. And I like how on DS9 he became less "blow it up" and more "lets see if we can do something before we blow it up". On TNG, especially early seasons he's the guy who always calls out the dumb idea you know will be shot down. On DS9 that changed. The character grew and became much deeper. In some of the relaunch stuff it seems like he's reverted. I understand he has high expectations, but I don't think that means he should immediately underestimate people or find a flaw. I like to think of him as more...tactical now.

    So I know it seems like I nitpicked a lot (and I did), but I really did like this novel a lot. It was the first Bennett novel that I've read, but now I'm on his fourth. All are great works IMO. Keep it up.
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Glad to hear it!


    To give credit where it's due, it was my editor Margaret Clark (and perhaps Dave Mack) who'd decided to have Picard and Beverly start a family, though it was left up to me whether to have them actually get married.

    Thank you!

    I hope so too...

    Then again, we've also seen an alternate future in which he left Starfleet, became a successful novelist, and married Leah Brahms...

    Well, that's overstating it a little. She's meant to be endearingly irritating.

    Well, one, Starfleet had lost a fair number of ships to the Borg supercube three months before, and two, the Frankenstein was a fairly small vessel and the E-E had transphasic torpedoes and the multivector agent.

    But that's just it -- she'd be just as unhappy if she gave up her career for the sake of family. Either way, she'd be cut off from half of who she is. This is a choice a lot of people in real life have to make. Lots of people do choose to pursue careers that keep them away from their families for long stretches, but that doesn't mean they love their families any less.

    Data was doing three jobs at once -- second officer, ops manager, science officer. That's an insane workload for any human being to carry, and Kadohata succeeded at doing so for several months, although it put her under excessive stress. Now, with Elfiki becoming science officer, Kadohata's down to doing two jobs, which is still quite a burden for one human being, but she seems to be doing just fine to me.

  7. Ferd Burfel

    Ferd Burfel Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 14, 2008
    Augusta, GA.
    Good point on Geordi, things could always go the non-Starfleet way. But I'd also counter that some of the things that have happened since we saw that possible future could just have easily pushed him further INTO Starfleet. (And I know we could argue that since it was the future, these things happening how could be included, but then we'd be opening a HUGE can of worms and debate.)

    I can see Starfleet judging the crisis and sending one ship, but I also sometimes see stuff like this as embracing the "hero ship" a little too much. I know the Enterprise is the flagship, but even so a little help can never hurt. I totally get the transphasic torpedos, but they were also ordered to avoid using them if possible. For it to be a last resort. It seems they would have a better shot at destroying a vessel by sending strength in numbers. That if they send three ships the level of engagement would reduce the need of having to use the torpedos. But again, when I read further on that small groan floated away.

    And I truly get that about Kadohata. I'm merely saying that in earlier books it seemed less like she was having to make that choice. I thought you (Chris Bennett) did a good job showing that it was two distinct pieces of who she is (especially when her and Chen interacted), but other books made it seem less complicated. It seemed in earlier tomes that she was making the wrong decision. That she even partly felt that way. I know it must be insanely tough to write a character that is completely fiction, especially from author to author. I'm merely pointing out what I think of her as her whole story progresses. Some authors seem to exhibit that duality better than others. I'm not saying she loves her family less than Starfleet, I'm saying not all the authors have done a good job explaining that through internal monologue. And I agree she is doing just fine now, and I also thought you (Chris Bennett) did a good job humanising that she couldn't do them all and that she almost took it personally when they took things off her plate. That is pure Star Trek and humanity. But again, I don't get that from other authors telling her story. When I said she wasn't doing a very good job it was a comment on her being overworked and a little incapable of being Data, it wasn't a knock on character development (from you at least).

    And Chen is endearing. I merely meant that if people were a little annoyed by her or thought she was abrasive then they were getting the point. She isn't a bad character, far from it. It's good storytelling to see someone who isn't the perfect Starfleet officer. It happens. That is why I loved DS9. The whole "frontier" thing played out very well for me. I liked seeing people making the decision a different way than I was used to seeing on TNG.

    As I said before, I'm nitpicky. But it's served me well in various aspects. And Star Trek is something that I hold very dear, so I'll always be incredibly critical of its treatment at times. But I'll also be incredibly happy to read and point out things I think are great (like GTTS as a whole).
  8. ZaqHydN

    ZaqHydN Cadet Newbie

    Can I just say, I love the whole concept of inventing our own technology by simply imagining it, writing it, then someone creating it.. Star Trek has always been what I imagine our future becoming.

    yes, this reply has nothing to do with the thread, sorry, but it has been over a decade since Mike and I wasted time together.. what's doin Mike?!
  9. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

    Aug 17, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    For thems what's interested...

    SF Site has a rare review of a Star Trek novel up at their site, praising GTTS as well as the TNG Relaunch to date.

  10. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jul 15, 2006
    Star Trekkin Across the universe.
    This was a great book it has exploration, epic confrontations, interesting new characters, and most important of all....

    Santa Worf.

    Just imagine would he would do to kids on the naughty list. :evil:
  11. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

    Sep 11, 2005
    hitching a ride to Erebor
    Poll has been added to this thread, if you'd like to vote :)
    Markonian likes this.
  12. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 9, 2003
    Voted below average.

    I guess I never posted or linked to my review here (although @Christopher discussed it earlier in this thread) so here's my review from 2008:

    "To say Greater than the Sum was an utter disappointment would be a huge understatement. I never thought I would say this about something written by Christopher L. Bennett, but I’m having an extremely hard time finding anything really positive to say about Greater than the Sum. I have a suspicion that this, at least partly, is because the book is basically a transitional novel to lead the TNG line into Destiny; but that can’t be all of it, since parts pretty unrelated to the type of novel aren’t even close to Bennett’s usual standards, i.e. the characterisations.

    Almost half of the novel is used to recap what has happened before, and shows Bennett’s attempts to explain perceived inconsistencies away. And the sad thing about it is that, although I found more than enough things here I didn’t like, this recapping and explaining part is actually the “best” part (and I use this term very loosely here). Bennett does an acceptable job in reminding the reader about what has happened until now, although it felt a bit too long to me, and his attempt to redeem T’Lana, for example, fell totally flat for me. Instead of trying to unite Keith R.A. DeCandido’s and Peter David’s “versions” of the character, the T’Lana here just felt like yet another character (and is the most uninteresting depiction of T’Lana yet, for that matter), and Bennett doesn’t have the excuse of writing simultaneously with the other authors. I won’t even go into much detail about Leybenzon here, but let me just say it’s pretty obvious that Bennett isn’t suited to write a character like him.

    One would think that the novel would improve once it hits the actual plot, but sadly this isn’t the case. The main reason for that is that the overall theme of family and children is totally oppressing any kind of flow that the story could have otherwise. You want to have an overall theme carried through the whole novel? Fine, no problem with that, but do it with subtlety and don’t slap it over everything in the novel. Here, it’s totally pushing the actual Borg plot into the background and is nothing but annoying in the end. And the scene where Picard and Crusher are discussing his Inner Light experience must be the most nonsensical, badly-written character-related scene in Trek Literature since Marshak and Culbreath – I’m still shuddering only thinking about it. The Borg/Qing Long part actually could have been interesting and it was kind of nice to learn about the different Borg “factions”, but it never really got the chance to blossom, since we had to see people talking about family and kids instead (cue eye-rolling).

    Most of the regulars’ characterisations are adequate, with the huge exception of Picard, who doesn’t work at all for me here. Yet again, one of the main reasons for that is the scene between Crusher and Picard I mentioned above, which came totally out of nowhere and doesn’t fit him at all in my opinion, but that is only the tip of a generally unfitting characterisation. The new characters aren’t bad and certainly have potential, but their portrayal here wasn’t especially inspired. One exception to that is a very nice scene between Worf and the new security chief Jasminder Choudhury – I actually think these two have a certain chemistry. Despite the fact that he created T’Ryssa, I think that Bennett isn’t the man to really fulfil the potential the character undoubtedly has, as her type of character isn’t really suited for his writing style in my opinion.

    Overall, the novel is the weakest of all the TNG Relaunch titles, and Bennett’s weakest piece of Star Trek fiction by far. One can only hope that it was a one-time slip-up by an otherwise very good author, and that he’ll be back to his usual quality with his next novels.

    Rating: 32%"
    Dimesdan likes this.
  13. Mizrach

    Mizrach Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Feb 1, 2017
    "Outstanding" for me. Much better than Orion's Hounds.