Spoilers TP: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Sep 16, 2012.


Rate Brinkmanship.

  1. Outstanding

    25 vote(s)
  2. Above Average

    47 vote(s)
  3. Average

    17 vote(s)
  4. Below Average

    4 vote(s)
  5. Poor

    2 vote(s)
  1. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 20, 2001
    West Haven, UT, USA
    ^ To each their own (re: Picard); I actually think that his tongue-in-cheek comments about the Cardassians work precisely because they're made during a period of incredible disappointment, confusion, and general gloom. :)
  2. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 21, 2011
    The Black Country, England
    Try Never Ending Sacrifice. I really didn't fancy it from the blurb and subject matter and put it to the bottom of my pile. Big mistake !

    Hollow Men is pretty damned good too !
  3. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 9, 2003
    I second that. You can read my pretty spoiler free review from three years ago here.
  4. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jul 13, 2008
    The EIB Network
    Great to know! I'll look forward to your next one. :)
  5. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 28, 2011
    Una, so sorry I was a numbskull and didn't thank you for your response before now! Thank you! I know it's not such a big deal anymore these days, but I still think it's very cool how creators can interact with their fans so easily nowadays, especially compared to 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. I really appreciate your taking the time.

    You make an excellent point about the abundance of Ab-Tzenketh and the resulting global comfort level. It's funny; if you had asked me about how comfortable most Tzenkethi are on Ab-Tzenketh before I read your post, I probably would've strongly understated the level, since the trope is oppressed people = indigent people. The dangers of thinking heuristically. Certainly adds another layer of nuance to an already complex world!

    I hadn't heard of the term, "Planet of Hats," before but I love it now. As Digific pointed out, my issues with Picard clearly were not universally held, and I certainly grant that it may be a "it's not you, it's me" situation. And, of course, Star Trek has always had problems with "Planet of Hats" (Vulcans, Klingons, Tellarites, Andorians, Bajorans [for the most part...]).

    In case I haven't made it clear, I definitely and absolutely hope there is a next time! Your books are fantastic reads and I hope your skills are appreciated for what they are by those around you.
  6. Patrick O'Brien

    Patrick O'Brien Captain Captain

    Feb 9, 2012
    Brooklyn NY
    Started reading the book yesterday. I am a fan of any book that includes the Aventine:bolian:
  7. datalogan

    datalogan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 17, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    I was particularly fascinated by the conversation between the two enforcers where they discuss the possibility that random genetic imperfections (“cracks”) may be purposely injected into Tzenkethi society by the Tzenkethi leadership.
    There is an issue of a society that is too perfect/balanced being unable to adjust to unexpected changes. Like in TNG episode “The Masterpiece Society”.
    Aliens can certainly inject unexpected changes, and most Tzenkethi are not ready for that.

    Perhaps Tzenkethi leardership realize the need to keep some little bit of instability in the society. If nothing else, just to keep up the skillset of the enforcers, so at least somebody is use to dealing with things happening outside the normal formal rigid structure of the society.

    Also, what is the Royal Moon?

  8. Markonian

    Markonian Commodore Commodore

    Jun 2, 2012
    Yorkshire, UK
    The Royal Moon is the natural satellite of Ab-Tzenketh. It is the site of the Autarch's palace. The symbolic meaning is that he looks down on his every subject and they up to him as a demigod in the sky/heaven.
  9. datalogan

    datalogan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Feb 17, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Oh, I remember the moon in the novel, I just didn't connect that with the term "The Royal Moon". Thanks.
  10. Enterpriserules

    Enterpriserules Commodore Commodore

    Aug 11, 2005
    On an Andorian Atlire-class escort cruisers, the
    Our conversation with Una about Brinkmanship is now up here!
  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Finished this book yesterday. I thought it was a pretty good story. The best rendering of the Tzenkethi that I've read thus far. It was hard for me to get my head around them in previous works, but with Brinkmanship I think McCormack did a great job fleshing out the Tzenkethi and making them understandable.

    I also like how McCormack made Dr. Crusher a big part of the book. It's rare that she gets any face time so it was neat how McCormack made use of her here.

    I liked the twist with the Cardassian agent on Ab-Tzenketh and how she actually chose to remain a Tzenkethi, even a reconditioned one, instead of returning to her own kind. I also like that McCormack left it murky over who set the bomb on the Venetan station.

    I thought Dygan was interesting and I hope we see more of him in future works.

    Overall the book had a nice flow, good pacing, and is one of the better offerings from the Typhon Pact series. It's second to David Mack's work for me. Maybe it's just something about that Aventine.
  12. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Jul 22, 2004
    Arizona, USA
    I finished this earlier today. Here's my review from Shelfari:
    I voted Outstanding.
  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Sep 17, 2011
    Just read the novel and posted my review of it: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2016/01/star-trek-brinkmanship-review.html

    The Typhon Pact novels are an interesting experiment in Star Trek literature. They are, in simple terms, an attempt to create a power to rival the Federation which is simultaneously hostile to the Alpha Quadrant's "good guys" but not something which can be just ignored as long as no one crosses the Neutral Zone. This isn't really all that original of an idea since the Klingons used to occupy this role in the Original Series and the Cardassians/Dominion had it for the period they weren't at war with both.

    But it's a good idea.

    I've reviewed some of the other novels in the series such as Zero Sum Game, Rough Beasts of Empire, and The Struggle Within. In general, they are highly political books which deal with issues of how the Federation is going to deal with someone who has every bit the same level of power as them but only some of the values.

    The books are quite clever in that the very act of the Typhon Pact forming from various "bad guy" Star Trek races results in political change as the powers find themselves altering in regards to the new political reality. Isolationism is the tool of the tyrant and those who depended on it among the Tzenkethi, Breen, and other species no longer have that luxury. The books are good, for the most part, but not necessarily to everyone's tastes. For me, I consider them to be the tool of those who really like deep looks into the politics of fiction.

    Brinkmanship is, however, my favorite of the novels so far. It's not a difficult plot, being, essentially, "The Cuban Missile Crisis IN SPACE" but that's actually one of its strongest points. Once you get an idea of what they're going for, the plotline and its potential pitfalls become much more interesting. The short version is the Tzenkethi have made alliance with a close-to-the-Federation race called the Venetans.

    The Venetans are harmless enough but have leased three of their bases to the Tzenkethi that puts them in striking distance of the Federation. Worse, there's indications that the bases are being stocked with biogenic weapons. Captain Picard, Doctor Crusher, and some newcomers must work on the diplomatic ends while Ezri Dax works with an old academy buddy on the espionage. There's also a subplot with a Cardassian spy on the Tzenkethi homeworld who is enamored of their totalitarian way of life.

    There's a lot of very good bits as the central theme of the Typhon Pact is explored: what does one do with someone who is threatening and antagonistic but not an enemy yet? The Tzenkethi might be intending to make a first strike against the Federation or they might just be preparing for the day they need to (or they might not at all). Also, how much of a war is won by persuading the outsiders the other side is the bad guy? What about those who think the grass is greener on the other side or are paranoid to the point of insanity? All good questions in this Thirteen Days-esque adventure.

    The book suffers, in my opinion, by making the Venetans too naive for their own good. For example, the concept of spying is considered to be a taboo thing for them to do and the equivalent of a war crime. Finding out the Federation inserted them into the Tzenkethi homeworld is almost enough to derail talks. The fact the Venetans can be worried about this and not about the fact the Tzenkethi are eugenics-obsessed Machiavellian schemers (and Starfleet doesn't bother pointing this out) strains credibility. The Federation could easily destroy the Tzenkethi in any argument where they just pointed out what a complete bunch of bastards they are. But they don't do that because, I dunno, negative campaigning is bad? Maybe the Venetans like totalitarian eugenicist societies.

    I also had a bit of an issue with the fact the issues were allowed to reach their boiling point by a faction which had their own agenda. Their agenda is a valid one but given how close things got to intergalactic war, I can't help but think the parties involved deserved to be drug out of their offices and tossed on the street. You'd think the parties involved would have learned their lesson about screwed up backdoor dealings. It's the equivalent of the CIA setting up the Cuban Missile Crisis to catch a ring of KGB agents bribing members of Congress. Yes, it's a big deal but if the result is nuclear annihilation then there better be some arrest warrants issued thereafter.

    I will say this novel has a lot going for it with the intricate dealings, world-building, and the stories about people trying to deal with bad faith actors in politics. Doctor Crusher really shines in this and I think the writing for her is top-notch. I also loved the scenes on Tzenkethi and how the two kinds of spies deal with their situation in drastically different manners. I also liked the depiction of Tzenkethi culture and how they've managed to create a society which is thoroughly toxic but its members seem to largely think is a good deal for themselves. The fact they're not 100% successful in this, however, is hope for the future.

    I wasn't quite sold on the depiction of Ezri Dax, however, now a starship captain and a character far removed from the bumbling counselor she was on Deep Space Nine. Much of the book is devoted to her being suspicious of a Starfleet Intelligence agent and his conclusions, believing them to be paranoid delusions that might lead to an act of terrorism. The book more or less makes it clear the Tzenkethi are perfectly capable of everything he fears and there's even a moment where Ezri is left gobsmacked when she finds out one of his insane-sounding theories was perfectly sound. Ezri never changes her attitude, though, and I found that to be rather annoying. It's as if she's never heard of the phrase, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

    Overall, I really recommend this for those who love their Trek-politics. Others may find it a bit dry since it's not an adventure novel.

    Idran likes this.
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Well, it's more than that. The original intent that Marco Palmieri and Keith R.A. DeCandido had was to do the equivalent of Worlds of Deep Space Nine for a number of the more underdeveloped alien civilizations, a format that would allow them to be explored and fleshed out more -- with the Romulans thrown in as a more famous "ringer" to give them more weight, I guess. And it wasn't so much about "new bad guys" as simply a rival civilization -- not a black-hat enemy, but just an alternative power that kept the Federation from being a sole superpower in a changing quadrant, that had its own distinct philosophies and values and offered an alternative to the Federation's worldview. It was an option for independent states that wanted to join a powerful union but didn't like the taste of the Federation's root beer, so to speak.

    And it was never meant to be just "bad guy races." That's why the Gorn were included. The Gorn have routinely been portrayed in the literature as being on guardedly friendly or at least neutral terms toward the UFP since "Arena," and the Wildstorm graphic novel The Gorn Crisis, which is in the novel continuity, established that the current Gorn ruling clan owes its very survival to the actions of Picard and Data. So the Gorn were actually quite friendly toward the UFP for the most part. Their inclusion in the Pact was meant to show that it's not just the Legion of Doom, but an astropolitical alternative that even powers friendly to the Federation might find inviting. And let's not forget that the Romulans were allies with the UFP during the Dominion War and were on good terms with the UFP at the end of Nemesis -- again, their post-Shinzon leadership owed its very existence to Picard's actions. So they didn't actually qualify as an enemy at the time they joined the Pact.

    Err... issued by whom? :shrug: (Maybe these guys?)
    Jedi Ben and Charles Phipps like this.