Spoilers TOS: Living Memory by Christopher L. Bennett - Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Klingolaus, Jun 11, 2021.

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Rate Living Memory

  1. Outstanding

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  2. Above Average

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  1. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I suspect I'm bringing my own history there as there have been a lot of history in my family of where family members have suffered great tragedies or struggles (sometimes substance abuse, sometimes accidents) then essentially other family members gave lengthy spiels that blamed THEM for not being more outgoing or reaching out. It made it about THEIR feelings not the victim's. Essentially, privacy and dealing with problems is something I consider to be very important to respect and waiting for people to do things on their own time. For me, I was taught that space is an all important thing to give people when they need it.

    Shastri reminded me essentially of a very strong family proverb that my parents reassured me of, "Love is about other people not yourself."

    The Arcturus plot is fantastic, though. I always love Starfleet issues where everyone is trying to do their best but there's deep disagreements about what that may be. The Arcturus people invoked a lot of real life controversies where well-meaning people try to lecture people about their own culture and often talk over them like they're children. Starfleet and the Protestors very often seem to have difficulty just asking what the students themseves want. It also gets handled from a variety of perspectives too and isn't limited to "reality" but incorporates the scifi elements well. I'm surprised Starfleet isn't working on more options to expand their lifespan among other corrections but I suppose that would fall under genetic engineering.
     
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Vulcans and Denobulans live more than 200 years, but they don't try to extend human lifespans to match.
     
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  3. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I always thought longevity was a thing that did get addressed in subtle ways in Star Trek. Picard being in his sixties but looking like he was in his forties for example. McCoy living to the age he did, even if they did overdo his makeup a bit in my opinion.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Sure, but not to the level of Federation species that live 200-400 years. The point is that there's no one "right" lifespan, and other species don't have to be "fixed" if they don't align with human norms.
     
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  5. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    True, I suppose it would be something to debate themselves because they were bred to be short lived as part of their racial caste.
     
  6. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    MY REVIEW OF LIVING MEMORY:

    4.5/5

    LIVING MEMORY is an excellent installment in Christopher Bennett's series of novels set in the somewhat underdeveloped movie period of the Star Trek franchise. From the period of Star Trek: The Motion Picture until the Wrath of Khan when James T. Kirk was flying a desk, there's a very interesting set of ideas that were underdeveloped. Most of which came from Phase II and never-developed concepts that were mostly found in art books or side materials. Christopher Bennett weaves these two along with mostly-ignored bits of canon into a fascinating tale of morality and ethics.

    The premise is based around two simultaneous story arcs. In TOS episode "The Changeling", about a renegade probe made godlike by aliens (more or less taken up to the 11 in TMP), Uhura had her memory erased by the probe and never got it back. Because we never knew what her backstory was in the first place, this was mostly ignored. This story examines it from the perspective of her recovering mentally but never socially and I found that to be a fascinating story. It also talks about projects in communication she was working on that she never got to develop. Ones presently tied with unusual alien phenomenon as is want to happen in Star Trek. I enjoyed this plot but I admit not as much as the second.

    The second plot is my favorite kind of ST plot: science fiction ethics. A group of genetically bred super-soldiers that have been kept in stasis since the Klingon War are being let out but there's no general idea of what to do with them. While I disagreed with some of her ideas, I really enjoyed Karen Traviss' REPUBLIC TROOPER books for tackling the fact that using the clones was tantamount to slavery even if they were willing. After all, with reduced lifespans and a lifetime of training in nothing but war, what WOULD they do?

    Here, the Federation is taking on a pilot program of these children that reminds me of DS9 episode "The Abandoned" which was about a Jem'Hadar they try to integrate into Starfleet. That episode had the very cynical and somewhat nasty view that he was what he was and could never be anything else. Here, the Arcturians and Federation are all interested in doing what is best for the "clones" but from a somewhat condescending view that they need to have their lives dictated for them. Even from a place of concern, many activists have often infantalized the people they're attempting to help.

    Overall, I felt this was a very fun and impressive book. I really was more interested in the Arcturian plot more than the Uhura one but I can hardly have a problem with more devotion to someone who has always been underdeveloped and undervalued by Star Trek as a whole (even if writers have done their best to correct that). This is a solid piece of Movie-Era fiction and those who enjoyed things like EX MACHINA will undoubtedly also like this analysis of our heroes' middle years.
     
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  7. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I just completed this book and rated it above average. I really enjoyed Christopher's previous entries in this 'continuity,' Ex Machina and The Higher Frontier, which I found to be outstanding. I really couldn't find any weaknesses or anything I didn't like in those. This novel was still very good for the most part, but I didn't find it as excellent as those two. I'll focus more on my likes/dislikes. The plot has largely been covered in previous posts I think.

    So what did I like? I always like movie era novels. I've noted before Christopher is filling in a lot of that missing history between TMP and TWOK. While TWOK doesn't acknowledge TMP for the most part, it doesn't contradict it either, leaving open opportunities to show how one might lead to the other. It helps that in universe the movies take place about a decade apart. We get to see Admiral Kirk due his job as an admiral in charge of Starfleet Academy, and we get to see Captain Spock command the Enterprise without Kirk in tow. Christopher also explains some of the changes the Enterprise underwent to become a cadet training vessel as well. We also get to see more of the Reliant under the command of Captain Terrell and his officers. And I noted before Christopher does a lot of continuity building in that era, while at the same time not being a hog about it. There's plenty of room for other stories to take place in that era.

    Christopher is also always been very good at continuity building, even among other books. He's one of the few original series authors that tries to link his works with others. There are some references to his earlier Enterprise: Rise of the Federation novels, and the Romulan War novels that preceded his. Demora does make an appearance and her backstory is consistent with Peter David's The Captain's Daughter, Captain Terrell's appearances was consistent with his appearances in the Vanguard/Seekers series, a brief reference to some characters Christopher created for his DTI stories, and a nod to Greg Cox's Khan novel, To Reign in Hell, which also covers the same era, but mostly from Khan's perspective on Ceti Alpha V. And there are other nods to other works throughout. As a continuity junkie I always enjoy that kind of world building in universe. I also noted a subtle critique of the TWOK-created uniforms, which appear here ;) . I don't think Christopher was a huge fan of the 'maroons.'

    I also really enjoyed getting to read more about Uhura's backstory. We really know very little about her history and nothing about her family. Even the Abrams movies didn't dive into that. So it was nice to see some love thrown her way. I also noted before I had not considered the scope of the damage Nomad had done to her. Now I wonder how I never considered that, but I just assumed that after she relearned what she needed to know that her memory just came back eventually. I had not considered that maybe it hadn't. He also provided an explanation on how she was able to return to duty so quickly. Given the episodic nature of the original series, it's probably not surprising her memory wipe was never acknowledged again in the series, I always wondered how she was able to relearn everything so quickly (that part had me curious at least ;) ). Speaking of Nomad, he also threw in a nod to what people have said for years about the similarities between Nomad and V'Ger (and some differences too).

    I was also fascinated by the idea of primordial civilizations existing in the mass of energy before the Big Bang occurred. I've always been fascinated by stories that take place in the distant past and future. It's one reason I really enjoyed Greg's Q-Continuum books that took us to the distant past such as during the Tkon Empire's demise, or DRGIII's Crucible book on Kirk that at one point took us several billion years in the past on the Guardian's planet. Or one of Christopher's DTI stories that took us millions of years in the future.

    I also have to admit that I liked that we see the crew split up. I know some, including Christopher, has complained that it seems unlikely the entire command crew of the Enterprise was kept together for so long. His story tells us maybe they really weren't. Uhura, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu all have different assignments and only occasionally rejoin Captain Spock on the Enterprise, and not all at once.

    The only weakness I found is there was the storyline about the Warborn. I found my interest in that part of the story waxing and waning. At points I was very interested in that storyline, then other times I was sort of meh about them. I have to admit I wasn't expecting the conclusion to that to be what it was. It was almost Hitchcockian in it's twist. The only complaint I have about that is
    I can't think back to any clues that were given about Horatio that would have led me to believe he was the guilty party.
    Perhaps it went over my head, but usually mysteries like that have a clue, however subtle, that you look back on and realize, AHA, the clue was always there now that I think about it. That's a minor nitpick. But it was the whole Warborn angle that was just a bit uneven for me. That's really the only thing that cost the novel a few points for me from being excellent.

    Now, I am admittedly stingy with outstanding rankings. But I'm just of the feeling that outstanding should be reserved for novels that I have a hard time putting down and that I find almost nothing to complain about (other than maybe a nitpick or two). But it's still a very good novel and I'd highly recommend it. I've seen other reviews that were very complementary of the Warborn story so that probably just varies depending on individual tastes.

    I sincerely hope Christopher gets to write further books in his 'Ex Machina' continuity. There's still several years until we get to TWOK so plenty of time for more stories. And, well, there is that era between TFF and TUC if he wanted to keep moving forward. You know, I wouldn't mind seeing a post-TFF novel or two ;) .
     
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Thanks! The continuity also includes Mere Anarchy Book 4: The Darkness Drops Again and Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History.


    Definitely not. I could buy them as dress uniforms, but as everyday duty uniforms, they're preposterous. Maybe ditch the heavy jacket and just go with the turtleneck underneath, like the pilot uniforms. Unfortunately they did the reverse in TNG's early 24th-century variant, which was just weird.


    Which I borrowed from the two previous works to cover the issue, Jill Sherwin's "See No Evil" in Constellations and Christine Boylan's "Communications Breakdown" in Star Trek: The Manga: Kakan Ni Shinkou.


    And I made a point of also noting the similarities to TAS: "One of Our Planets is Missing," which I've always thought were even stronger than the "Changeling" parallels.


    I do like the idea of mixing up their assignments so they aren't constantly on the Enterprise, but it makes it harder to write when there are so many separate threads I have to develop. I fell way behind schedule because I kept having to make new starts and lost momentum.


    It was more a matter of motivation than anything else.
    Horatio was all about absolute dedication to the good of Arcturus and submission to the cause, which made it look on the surface that he was totally committed to peace and nonviolence and all those ideals they were striving for, but in retrospect it's a sign that he was fanatical enough to sacrifice himself and all the others. He saw the Warborn themselves as a threat to Arcturus, which was why he felt they had to leave and find another path; and when finding that path in Starfleet failed, he chose a more final way to get rid of the Warborn problem.

    The whole idea was to be subtle about it, to hide the answer in plain sight by making it look innocuous. There were parts where I felt I was making Horatio too overtly fanatical in his reaction to Portia's independence, so I tried to dial it back so the illusion of his benevolence wouldn't be broken. It sounds like I succeeded.
     
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  9. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I felt the Warborn's ending was one of those tragic, "The Federation does not live up to its ideals" endings. These are people who need to have a purpose and lives but will be treated at arms length for the rest of their lives.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I didn't intend it that way. Starfleet did its best to try to find a solution to a very challenging and complicated problem, and their best efforts were sabotaged by a fanatical murderer, someone who got that way because of the conflicting messages and demands placed on these Warborn by the Arcturian society that created them and then wished it hadn't.

    Maybe Starfleet turned out to be the wrong option for helping the Warborn, but that's not an indictment of all Federation society, just an acknowledgment that the military, even a peacefully inclined one, can't do everything. They were just the wrong fit for this particular, very difficult problem. There could well be other institutions in the Federation, civilian ones, that will prove better at helping the Warborn find a peaceful path. The Federation still strives for its ideals, but Starfleet is not the entire Federation and not automatically the best institution for serving those ideals.
     
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  11. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    True, I suppose I just thought that very few of the people involved decided to ask the Warborn what they wanted was noticeable.

    There had to be some who thought Arcturis would be protected by protecting their allies just as a matter of simple math.
     
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  12. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    And don't forget Scott Pearson's The More Things Change novella ;) . I think I recall another little nod to that in Living Memory. But yeah, those are all part of the same 'Ex-Machina' continuity and I'd recommend reading them all in chronological order (in universe--though I think that matches the release order).

    Yeah, there's a thread about the uniforms I think in the movies forum. TWOK uniforms aren't as popular as I once thought, though they certainly have their legions of fans. They certainly had more of that naval feel to them that I know Meyer was going for. I have mixed feelings about them. I always thought they looked more professional, and they do look nice. But they do look a bit overdone as an every day uniform. A heavy turtleneck AND a jacket. The A/C on the ship would have to be set at 60 degrees for me to avoid sweating profusely (though I guess in some books they have noted the uniforms are naturally cooling or something). They did do some variations later, like Kirk wearing a vest over the turtleneck instead of the jacket. And it seems non-officer crew wear a different type of uniforms (IIRC those are TMP uniforms that were dyed to save money), and the engineering staff still wears TMP engineering uniforms while working. So there are some variations. But I agree, TWOK uniforms just seem a bit much for every day use. Ironic in that it seems those uniforms were used the longest, though at some point they ditched the turtleneck.

    I liked some of TMP uniforms. The only ones I didn't like were the ones where the pants and shirt were the same color (like the pale blue uniforms). They did have the unfortunate effect of appearing like pajamas. I think if they had contrasted those with black pants they would have looked better. Kirk and Sulu's short sleeve white shirt with black pants was fine, as was the admiral uniform Kirk was wearing at the start.

    I meant to mention that one too and forgot. As usual I got off on something else and forgot to add that one in. Some have noted "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Immunity Syndrome" as having similarities to TMP as well, though the similarities aren't as overt in those cases as with "The Changeling." And I don't see those episodes as having many similarities worth mentioning that would have pertained to your book.

    I do like the twist. As a huge Hitchcock movie fan, I love the unexpected. I remember one of his films, Stage Fright, where he gives a false flashback (which actually angered some movie-goers at the time because it was a bit deceptive). It's just in this case it went over my head and was so unexpected that I had a hard time thinking back to any clues on the Who Dunnit. It really was a total surprise. That was good and bad for me. But not so bad that I'd knock the book down at all for it because that's just a matter of preference. People's reaction to that will vary. It was more when it came to the Warborn my interest in that part of the story just wasn't always there. It wasn't as bad as being a chore to read those parts of the novel, it was just at times I felt myself just reading and losing some interest at times. But I have seen in other comments where some readers really liked that part of the story (and I think Charles was sort of the opposite, he was more interested in the Warborn and less interested in the Uhura storyline).

    That sometimes is the risk of having dual storylines in a novel. Sometimes it works really well and both stories are equally engaging. Sometimes one story dominates the other. And sometimes a reader just might find one more interesting than the other, which happened to me.

    But still highly recommended. Some may (and have) found the Warborn storyline very interesting throughout.
     
  13. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I think the intentions were mostly good, though Rakatheema's motivations were a bit complicated (though I still think he wanted to find a useful place for them).

    Sometimes you have to make mistakes to get to the right place. The original thought was Starfleet would be perfect because it might have provided some balance. But it turned out to be the wrong fit. But they wouldn't have known that if they didn't try it first. And even though Starfleet did not work, it did still point them in the right direction. Just by ruling that out provided some help on what might be best.
     
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  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think they would've had an answer for that question yet. They were raised to follow orders and weren't given much opportunity to begin exploring what they wanted or who they were until they came to the Academy. So I'd say you have it backward. It was the freedom that Portia was afforded at the Academy that led her to start questioning and thinking more for herself and eventually embracing her right to choose her own path -- even a more aggressive one than expected. Conversely, the tragedy of Horatio is that he just clung fanatically to the letter of his Warborn upbringing and never learned the lessons that the Academy offered. I wasn't indicting the Federation, I was indicting fundamentalism and inflexibility of thought.


    And there were characters arguing that the Warborn cadets should be given the freedom to choose that if it was what they wanted, even though some had an ulterior motive for making that case. There are Federation and Starfleet characters on every side of the ethical debate here, because that kind of freedom of thought and healthy disagreement over issues is one of the great benefits of the Federation's liberal and inclusive society. That is the Federation living up to its ideals, because living up to the ideal of a free society means that people will disagree and argue and pursue different goals and hold different values, and will not be oppressed or persecuted for it. It means they'll come into conflict, but will have mechanisms available for working out those conflicts peaceably and arriving at reasonable, informed solutions or compromises, or at least respecting each other's right to follow different paths. This was me showing the Federation working the way it's supposed to.
     
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  15. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    That reminds me, I was hoping for some mea culpa by Vekal and his friends. All that was noted when the hostages are released was a possible look on their faces.

    But I was hoping to see something more on that front.
     
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I feel I dropped the ball on giving Vekal sufficient closure. I was fighting a tight deadline by then and ended up just settling for what I had.
     
  17. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Nobody's perfect. :shrug:

    Maybe you can include Vekal in your next book in this continuity. You can have him have his mea culpa then ;) . Maybe have him as one of your guest 'stars' that has learned from his assumptions. It'd be nice to see a character have a bit of an ugly beginning who learns from his error and becomes a better person for it.

    In a way you planted the seeds for that possibility by the 'look' he had after the hostage crisis.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^No story ideas, please. Now that you've suggested it, I can never do it.
     
  19. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Oh dear. I'm sorry. I hadn't considered that might be a story idea. It actually didn't even cross my mind.

    I was just basing that on the 'look' Vekal gave I assumed that was the direction you were going in. So it really was your idea that I was extrapolating from.

    Damn. :scream:
     
  20. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    You know, is this even really a story idea? First of all, you already planted the seeds for that in Living Memory..that's what made me think of it to begin with. So it didn't even originate in my mind, but in your novel.

    And to be honest, while I think that would be nice, a character learning from their assumptions is hardly an original story idea. I can cite numerous stories, including Star Trek episodes and books, where that very thing has happened.

    I don't know if that helps. But as much as I would like that to happen, that very story idea has been used hundreds, maybe thousands of times in innumerable stories. It's just a generalization, and a 50/50 choice. Either he learns or he doesn't. The specifics of all that would still have to be your creation.