Spoilers TP: Zero Sum Game by David Mack Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by JD, Oct 21, 2010.

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How would you rate Zero Sum Game?

  1. Outstanding

    41 vote(s)
    22.8%
  2. Above Average

    83 vote(s)
    46.1%
  3. Average

    46 vote(s)
    25.6%
  4. Below Average

    8 vote(s)
    4.4%
  5. Poor

    2 vote(s)
    1.1%
  1. Flashover

    Flashover Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Next time you should use the spoiler tag to shroud stuff like that... just to torque everyone real good. :D
     
  2. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Honestly, Mr. Mack? You're far too awesome a writer to pull something that trite on us. ;)

    "Oh, by the way, she's not betraying anything, she's not using Julian (even though she had every opportunity to recruit him into a fight which he would JUMP at the chance to join), she's perfectly good and sweet--and everything is hunky-dory fine, and we the readers don't have to do any soul-searching after all!"

    The whole concept is all wrong. Like I said...why didn't she just tell him?

    Now THAT would be even MORE cause for a great big groan. How many times has that been overused?

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...now THAT is a story! :techman:

    Although...isn't the Order kinda dead?

    (Shady Cardassian Voice): "That's what...we want you to believe...." :evil:

    Mr. Mack--did I mention how so danged awesome you are?





    Nah. He's doing what he SHOULD be doing...hiding his plans in plain sight!
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^You do realize he was joking right?
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Well, one, I don't think he's willingly discarded it all. He killed unarmed Breen civilians whom he did not know were unarmed, but he did this in the context of an intellectual justification that the Federation and the Typhon Pact were at war (even if it wasn't an openly-declared one), and he also did it out of recognition that they posed an imminent danger to him because he was in constant danger of being shot on sight.

    Which doesn't mean that he didn't violate his own principles -- but that's how it starts with most people. They violate parts of their belief systems, but not all of them, and then justify their actions somehow. That's how corruption starts -- slowly and incompletely. No one just throws out all their morals. They do it bit by bit and pretend to themselves that they aren't doing it at all.

    And I don't think it's inconsistent with Julian's character. He's always had a selfish streak to him; this is the guy who lied to all of his friends and superiors in Starfleet for twenty years about his genetic engineering, after all. And, like I said, most people do have a weakness, a psychological blind spot -- something where they'd throw out their morality to serve their needs. Most people do, at some point, have something they'd made a deal with the Devil for. Maybe it's the safety and well-being of their children. Maybe it's the survival of their country. Maybe it's power or money. Or maybe it's love.

    I think it's pretty clear that Julian is not in the most psychologically healthy states of mind when Zero Sum Game begins. He's not willing to admit it to himself, but he's already desperate, I think. And people will jump into relationships way too quickly and with way too much trust and intensity sometimes when they're in that state.

    Which would be fine if this were a court of law, but it's not. It's a novel. Vaughn is a Section 31 expert and long-time member of Captain Kirk's anti-31 cabal from Cloak. We as an audience can accept that he knows what he's talking about. And you can rant against it all you want, but the fact remains that the novels have established the Ba'ku operation as a Section 31 operation.

    Aw, c'mon. I mean, if there's one thing you can't fault David Mack for, it's an overly-idealistic depiction of the Federation. Three of his most famous Star Trek novels -- A Time to Kill, A Time to Heal, and Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind -- were all about how the Federation proper -- not Section 31 -- has at times allowed itself to descend into some fundamentally corrupt policies and behavior. The novels have hardly been depicting all darkness within the UFP as being the fault of Section 31.

    The impression I got was that, yeah, Section 31 was probably behind the order to steal the cloak, but that that was not what was truly objectionable -- it was the other aspects of their operation, the decision to operate outside the law, the decision to try to create the You-Know-What, that marked them as objectionable. The novel was very thoughtful in its treatment of the virtues and vices of espionage, I thought. It wasn't an unequivocal condemnation.

    That's certainly one scenario.

    But here's a thought: What if they just want to control him, without letting him know he's obeying Section 31? What if they plan to just use Section 31 agents posing as Starfleet Intelligence superiors? Their goal may be to control Bashir and use him, not to get him to decide to join them.

    (BTW: L'Haan's title is not "Director." "Deputy Director" was a fake title Sloan used in "Inquisition," but there's no evidence it's a title or rank used within Section 31. So far as we know, she's just L'Haan.)
     
  5. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Does that justify it?

    I agree, here.

    An expert? In what way?

    Again...the novels have not established anything of the kind. They have simply established what Vaughn believes the truth is.

    Sci, I am aware of this. I am simply stating that a climate has been created by the "explanations" I have mentioned, to the effect that the conspiracy in The Undiscovered Country is assumed to be a Section 31 operation--or that the phasing-cloak conspiracy ("The Pegasus") was devoped by Section 31, etc.

    The point is that it is a convenient scapegoat for those who are either unwilling or unable to deal with the idea of Starfleet engaging in shadowy acts on its own.

    Except that Kirk and company automatically rejected the alternative POV, without question or soul-searching.

    For me, the entire novel painted the entire concept in a very negative light--not simply through actions, but by the characters' reflections on the whole thing. Those who support the alternative are painted as either idiots (supposedly brilliant scientists who somehow don't seem to know of the dangers that Spock sees right away), or else just twisted and "overly patriotic".

    Perhaps. But frankly, that is underestimating his intelligence. Recall how he was eventually able to discover his true predicament in "Inquisition".

    L'Hann's plan may work at first...but it is only a matter of time before he notices something is not right--it may be through something Sarina says, it may be through something "convenient" in a situation, or what have you.

    Frankly...if Julian will continue to be duped for so long...the readers will lose all respect for him, as he will appear to be something of an idiot.

    The VOY novel has the female agent address Sloan at the very beginning as..."Director".
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2010
  6. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    :rolleyes:...No comment.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2010
  7. Flashover

    Flashover Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Yes of course, and so am I. :mallory:
     
  8. the_wildcard

    the_wildcard Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Wow, anybody else notice how Dax's command abilities are pretty, well, spectacular, haha.
     
  9. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^In more ways then one. :mallory:
     
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Are you speaking meta-textually or morally?

    Meta-textually, yes, I think that the psychological insights offered into Bashir's emotional drives justify -- that is, make creatively plausible -- the author's decision to have him begin to violate his own moral code.

    In-universe, though? Of course not.

    But if you take the vast majority of people? If you take a normal person? He's just not as good of a man as he would like himself to be. Most people have an area where they don't live up to their own ideals, where they let selfishness or some other weakness get in the way of their own beliefs. In a way, that sort of moral weakness is part of what makes us human.

    I think it's safe to say that the novels have not used Section 31 as any such crutch and that they've been more than willing to take Starfleet/the UFP proper to task for their own actions.

    It's been a long time since I read Cloak, and I'm afraid my copy is still in Ohio. But I seem to remember reading a novel where Kirk and Spock both struggled mightily hard with the moral quandaries posed both by espionage itself and by Section 31 as an organization. I don't remember there being an dearth of soul searching in that book.

    Which concept? The concept of espionage or the concept of Section 31?

    Hm. I never read the VOY Section 31 novel. That's disappointing if that's the case -- it's rather obviously a case of the author confusing Sloan's fictitious position with his position in Section 31. I hope future novels don't keep consistent with that little piece of minutia.
     
  11. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    I see. And I agree--in-universe, it makes little to no sense that Julian would be such a hypocrite...without, of course, a proper in-univererse explanation.


    When the actions take place in the novels, perhaps. But I fear that the sorry showing in Cloak and the end of Abyss is simply the ghost of The Bird haunting us all with "Starfleet Officers are explorers and scientists, who don't sneak around."

    I'd recommend a re-read ASAP, then. Kirk's conflict is just that he was so easily duped by Cartwright and Jain. Spock...well, I doubt he had any real conflict aside from his personal one over decieving the "Romulan Commander".

    Never once did either of them reflect on the justifications of 31's actions, simply dismissing them out of hand.

    The book fails to make any real distinction.

    Oh? And why should The Bureau not have such a ranking system?

    I hardly think it's an "obvious" case of confusion. After all...the head of the CIA is called "Director", is he not?
     
  12. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Except the CIA is an official organization and Section 31 isn't.
     
  13. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    From my point of view, I have to say I don't think it was handled coherently. Basically a bored and lonely Bashir decides to go on a mission of upmost importance to Federation security that he knows, from the beginning, may require him to use deadly force.

    He objects to Sarina using deadly force in a case where it did not seem absolutely necessary, then goes on to use deadly force in situations where it is not absolutely necessary (his weapon has a stun setting and there are escape pods). But there is no motivation for this, except that the narrative seems to forget that Bashir can stun rather than kill. It isn't plausible that Bashir himself would forget this, and even if he did, it wouldn't be a question of Bashir being corrupted, just uncharacteristicly stupid.

    Beyond that, Bashir had killed before on multiple occasions during the Dominion War (he was at the Siege of AR-558, for example), so having to kill in the line of duty is not unheard of for him. His hands are already "dirty" in that sense. The only real issue is why did he kill those Breen when he could have stunned them and perhaps given them a chance to escape before the explosion? But the narrative doesn't provide a plausible reason for this. Basically ZSG is trying to make us believe that this experience has changed Bashir's character in some fundamental way, made him cross a line he had never crossed before, but it tells without showing.

    Similarly, it's not really enough to say multiple times that Bashir "had never felt anything like this before" for another woman or whatever. There has to be some evidence of the depth of his feeling other than the narrative asserting that he is deeply in love. Basically, they sleep together, Bashir thinks to himself, wow this is the perfect woman for me, and that's about it really, unless we are to assume that Bashir kills those Breen to impress Sarina who isn't even there at the time? Meh. Or that Bashir would have abandoned this all-important mission had he not been in love? Again, I don't see it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  14. shanejayell

    shanejayell Captain Captain

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    FINALLY got a copy this weekend in a Vancouver BC Chapters. Voted 'Above Average' I liked it, good read, but not outstanding. Really got me wondering where the other Pact books will go.
     
  15. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Which...is not really relevent to the question. 31 needs a structure for efficiency--despite the apparent cell-like structure. Each cell needs a leader, to set the agenda--and apparenly, the leader of the cell in question is Sloan.

    Exactly. Which is why I won't believe for a minute that Julian's feelings are anything more than self-delusion on his part, bred by desperation from being alone, a hole within gnawing at him since the events of Unjoined.

    Frankly, Julian and Ezri's upset, painful interaction was simply a natural indication that neither of them has gotten over those events--that the decision still continues to haunt them, grawing at their souls, causing massive pain inside. Why else would Ezri so vehemently denounce the idea of Julian being together with Sarina, being so quick to call it a "crush"? Who is she to condemn his love life, if she has accepted that her chance was not best for either of them?

    Give us proof. Show us that Julian/Sarina is True Love. Otherwise...it is an indication of something that, indeed, fills me with hope.
     
  16. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Reading this, it occurs to me that the TNG era books are under-going the same sort of drift that Doctor Who books went under in the 1990s (where you ended up with a asshole doctor and a desperately unpleasant version of Ace). Without a series on air, the books are allowed to expand on the characters in ways we haven't seen before. However the problem with that is that you start to get em.. drift, the characters move away from what we want to see. Now You could argue that this is a natural evolution and I wouldn't disagree and you could also argue that this is a more realistic take on intergalactic politics and the like, and again I wouldn't disagree.

    I'm just not particularly interested in where such a course would take us in a Star Trek universe (and I'm sure others feel entirely the opposite and that's also fine).
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Who's "we?"
     
  18. Rush Limborg

    Rush Limborg Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    ^I'd say he speaks for a lot of us, Sci.

    BTW...you're in DC, I see? Nice--out of curiosity an internship, or what?
     
  19. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Everyone, I'm speaking for everyone in the Universe - that or you have fixed on a minor grammatical point in a passive aggressive manner.

    Take "we" to mean "one group of fans" if that helps you get through the night.
     
  20. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Re: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game Review thread

    Bashir makes another near-accusation of genetic elitism on Sarina’s part, again without cause. I’m pleased that the novel’s reminding us it’s on his mind and that his enhanced genes are an important contributing factor to why he’s being pursued for this sort of work. Still, the issue’s being underplayed, which is somewhat disappointing. The potential comparisons between Bashir, having hidden his unique talents to conform to a Federation frightened of inequalities, and the Breen – whose culture and society require outward conformity for fear of bias – is potentially fascinating. Well, I suppose comments like the one he makes here are letting me draw the comparisons myself (the novel’s provoking me and letting me do the thinking, as it were), but I do feel there’s a potential here that’s being underplayed.

    Poor Nar. She was a bit of a Breen Bashir, really – romantic and a little too secure in her own righteousness, which despite her intelligence meant she viewed things through a prism of unrealistic expectation (Hopes for asylum in the UFP upon immediately encountering human “observers”). There’s a distinction between idealism and a romanticized detachment from reality, and sometimes Nar appeared to be on the wrong side of the line, sadly. Her suffering here is portrayed movingly enough. I’m interested in the degree to which the Confederacy political system promotes and defends the Breen culture, and the degree to which the culture is exploited by or serves to support the oppressive Breen political system. They’re obviously a repressive society, and I’m wondering how much is genuine moralizing on the dangers of bias and how much is simply an excuse or means to control the people. The climate of moral fear surrounding bias and nepotism would certainly give an excuse for oppressive government to thrive...(Breen have turned their entire lives over to the state, in everything down to selecting mates). So, the big question is the relationship the government has to the cultural ideology. How oppressive for the sake of their power are they and how genuinely committed to their ideals, as twisted as those might appear? Are Nar and her associates genuinely disgusting to the authorities (at least on some level) or are they simply threats to government power needing to be crushed, absolutely nothing more?

    Sarina tells Bashir: “no-one said intelligence work was noble”. That’s the hardest obstacle, I’d suppose, when trying to integrate Bashir into this field of work. Bashir needs the comfort of an idealistic framework behind everything he does; he endows everything with a righteous significance (including his own objections to that he finds unrighteous). If he can’t find the glowing righteousness, he isn’t comfortable doing it. That’s dangerous, because in that case, when you are doing something anyway it leads to the urge to find something righteous where you shouldn’t. In this case, Sarina herself has become Bashir’s focus for the idealistic meaning. He is endowing her with a significance and nobility he probably shouldn’t, because he can’t find anything else about the mission that offers a basis for his needed romanticism.

    K’mtok’s in a good mood. I liked his portrayal here; he seems to have embraced an excessively jolly demeanour as a means of staying afloat in a rapidly changing galaxy. :lol: Certainly I’ve not seen him so exuberant before. After all that’s happened over the last year and a half, he’s apparently decided that overblown cheeriness is better than snarling gloom as a coping mechanism. I wouldn’t know which Bacco prefers, but his gleeful throw-open-your-arms-oh-well-what-can-we-do approach is pretty fun.

    So, apparently the Kinshaya, Gorn and Tzenkethi are all getting overexcited about their newly increased status and are causing trouble.

    Andorian secession debate! I’m very eager for Paths of Disharmony, as I always enjoyed the Andorian plot arc. I’m glad it hasn’t been forgotten or abandoned in the post-Destiny novels.

    “I regret to inform you your approval ratings are excellent”. :lol: Still, Bacco is evidently feeling the strain. She’s being simply irritable rather than irritable-amusing.

    Sarina kills a Breen soldier, leaving Bashir conflicted. Bashir himself has killed before, but again, he needs a sense of some sort of righteous framework to justify it. It’s hard to feel that when your partner simply breaks into someone’s office and murders them. Bashir’s need to find nobility, righteousness and external justification for everything, rather than be content with an internalized set of ethics or principles, is troublesome here; if he were content with a truly internalized ethical system, he’d know whether or not he was comfortable with the mission’s potential demands. Either he’d have refused to take the assignment or he’d accept the consequences as Sarina has. Instead, he’s not being committed to either his own ethical system or the mission. He’s in worrying limbo. He tries to justify the death of the Breen using the “combatant, warfare” concept. He tries to noble-it-up again, giving a meaning to it other than simple “we want his information so we broke into his office, he got in the way, Sarina killed him”. However, a doctor, it seems to me, should know better than to think there is any sort of necessary meaning in violence and death. Unless Bashir thinks that when he kills, it’s somehow more noble because he “only kills when he has good reason to”. The clash here isn’t, it seems to me, between the Hippocratic Oath and the license to kill at all; it’s between Bashir’s need to find external justification in a framework of righteousness rather than be content to chart an individual ethical path, and a mission that has no framework of moral righteousness at all but is simple power politics. It’s not doctor Vs spy but Bashir’s personal needs Vs bleak reality. And the danger is (I begin to realize) that because Bashir is so committed to a framework of external morality and "nobility" rather than internal ethics, he is potentially losing track of an ethical grounding entirely. When faced with a bleak reality of power politics in which he can’t find his moral pointers, he has no real personal ethical position to fall back on; instead, he has to find a new framework to support him. And there’s only one potential focus around, isn’t there? Sarina.

    So, Breen names are somewhat like those of Andorians, apparently, in that they have a short form for ease of use and official designation, while their full name can be much longer.

    Gren is the Breen delegate to the Governing Board; just as Kalavak was the Romulan representative. Hmmm, are all the member states doing this (giving the old ambassador-to-the-Federation the job)? I can see some sense in that, actually. So, are Zogozin and Emra there too? Tezrene is the Pact’s ambassador to the UFP; do the Tholians have another representative on the Board or is she pulling double duty?

    Domo Brex, the Breen head of state, makes his first appearance. This scene had some more interesting political insights into the Pact.

    The description of Utyrak was effective. An interesting concept for a city.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010