TTN: Synthesis by James Swallow Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Julio Angel Ortiz, Oct 18, 2009.

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Grade "Synthesis"

  1. Excellent

    32 vote(s)
    35.2%
  2. Above Average

    39 vote(s)
    42.9%
  3. Average

    13 vote(s)
    14.3%
  4. Below Average

    2 vote(s)
    2.2%
  5. Poor

    5 vote(s)
    5.5%
  1. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    That may have been how the series was initially meant, but the ramifications of Destiny are such that to expect even them to be unaffected by it wouldn't have made any sense to me. Exploring is all well and good--IF you have that luxury as a society, and you'd better be watching your back as you go along. If anything, the way the crew acted in OaTS suggested they had not truly faced the inevitable pain the Borg War caused--a denial of sorts that they finally had to confront in the open in this book. Just pretending they could go back to everything being all hunky-dory...THAT was what didn't ring true, with me. (Along with a LOT of other things I hated about that book, but I won't spam this thread with it.)
     
  2. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Sometimes the best way to deal with darkness is with light. I think what happens in this book, with them all hunching over in planning-for-the-worst paranoia, is actually a less psychologically healthy way to react to the tragedy. And just to be clear, what I'm objecting to is not any of the characters' actions necessarily, just their attitudes. Obviously, when meeting any society that's powerful and sort of xenophobic, you want some backup plans. But I think there's a world of difference between "these robots are probably going to screw us like the last ones did, so let's screw them first" and "I'm fascinated to learn more about this deeply exciting culture; but being realistic, we should probably have some defense against them."

    And the thing is, I'd be willing to believe Swallow intended the latter. It just came across as more of the former to me, especially in how Riker talked to Titan. I kept wondering why he was being such a dick, shutting her down and dropping challenges to her loyalty left and right, not to mention not even talking to her for like 3 chapters after she first emerges. This is Riker, who, as recently as last book, was like the most open-minded Starfleet officer we've seen, and he's being a complete twerp just because she's not organic? I do not think so.
     
  3. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    I don't think it was just because she wasn't organic...I think it's the very understandable concern that she has all of their lives in her hands. If she wanted them dead or as hostages, all she had to do was think it and it would be as good as done.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    ^Yeah, and not just that she had all their lives in their hands, but was a newborn sentience, essentially a child. It was valid to question whether she'd have the judgment to handle the power she possessed.
     
  5. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    All the more reason not to act like an asshole at her.
     
  6. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    If you ask me, having an artificial intelligence running a ship is something WAY too risky--you could end up with a HAL scenario just like that. In the end, I think that what actually happened was the almost the best outcome...it would've been best, of course, if she hadn't had to die, but I think that for her to find another way of existing (which I presume to be as some sort of energy being?) without being inside the Titan was far better than having her continue to be inside systems that the crew needs to answer to them without question at all times.

    This is important from two perspectives--she WAS immature, and there's no telling what would've happened as she matured, if they would've had something as arrogant as a Charlie X or a Gary Mitchell on their hands, given the sheer power she was in control of. And even if she were to stay wholly loyal in the long term, what kind of life is that for her, to stay trapped by the ship's complement, none of which could truly understand or relate to her, and whom she would always, ALWAYS have to put ahead of herself, by no choice of her own?

    She HAD to be removed from the ship in some fashion, if you ask me. And I also think the crew had every right to be worried about what might happen if this wasn't accomplished.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    So you don't think Data should've been allowed to command a starship? What about the Doctor in Emergency Command Hologram mode? Isn't it discriminatory to say that a particular category of beings should be prohibited from command?

    (Besides, HAL wasn't to blame. He was deliberately given orders that went against his intrinsic nature, creating an irresolvable conflict that drove him mad. It wasn't HAL that killed the crew, it was human error on the part of the people giving HAL his instructions.)
     
  8. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Data's not the SHIP...he's within a discrete body, and while powerful, he doesn't have the same degree of power over everyone that an intelligence within a ship would have. Huge difference there.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    I don't think so. Not where the ethics of how sapient beings are treated is concerned. Yes, this is a different kind of sapient being, but difference shouldn't be grounds for discrimination.

    Power is intrinsically neutral. It can be used positively as well as negatively. What matters is responsibility, maturity, judgment, wisdom. An intelligent being shouldn't be pre-emptively presumed incapable of those traits simply because of the category it belongs to.
     
  10. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    If anything, I though SecondGen White-Blue's presence made for a nice contrast with the crew. He / it's curiosity and desire for exploration mirrors Titan's mission and the goals Riker had when taking command. After the Borg War and the devastation / aftermath, it's understandable how the crew would be on edge in this book. But SecondGen's presence is a good reminder of why they're out there.
     
  11. Sxottlan

    Sxottlan Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Synthesis is easily the best Trek book I've read since The Sorrows of Empire and Gods of Night.
     
  12. JWolf

    JWolf Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Riker worked with Data. So this is just all wrong.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    ^Indeed. As we saw in "Brothers," Data was easily capable of taking over the ship in a matter of moments, with no one else able to stop him. So arguably their lives were constantly "in his hands," and the distinction being suggested there is somewhat spurious. (Not to mention all the times when Data was the only one immune to something that incapacitated the rest, so that their lives were explicitly in his hands.)
     
  14. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Exactly.

    So what's going to color Riker's impression of this AI more, the other intelligent AI he's worked with, or the Borg, which aren't intelligent as individuals and aren't even completely artificial?

    I still think he was just totally out of character.
     
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Again, Data was self-contained, within ONE body. He was NOT the entire SHIP; he did not have the same kind of immediate power of life and death over the entire crew (and who knows how many others) that the avatar could've had if she'd turned against them.

    The best scenario would've been for her to gain her freedom as whatever sort of energy being she became, not tied to the Titan, but to not have to die. But she couldn't stay as part of the Titan; in order to be there she would've had to be perfectly obedient. And that, I think we would all agree, would be a form of servitude and unacceptable in the end both for the crew and for her.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    That argument only makes sense if you presuppose she'd be capable of turning against them. It's easy to single out differences as excuses for discrimination. It's like when some people say that a woman couldn't be president because she could blow up the world "if" her hormones were too erratic in the middle of a global crisis. It's just making up spurious hypotheticals as excuses to justify a preconceived notion that a class of beings is inferior.

    The only meaningful grounds for concern about the situation presented was that Titan was a newborn consciousness, lacking experience and wisdom. That's a valid basis for doubt. Anything else, anything that's about what she is rather than her individual qualifications, is just prejudice.
     
  17. o'brien's scotch

    o'brien's scotch Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    If Titan was an individual as well as the ship. The problem arises when an individual is emotionally or morally compelled to not follow orders. How many times has this happened in the Star Trek Universe? A loyal Starfleet officer disobeys orders due to emotional or moral reasons? Plenty. The fear of Titan, a being in total control of every function surrounding a hundred or so crew members is warranted and not prejudice. This fear is not due to her being an artificial lifeform, rather someone that literally holds the lives of everyone in her "hands". I think the same kind of fear would occur if a fully-powered Q (not necessarily "the" Q) wanted to be member of a starfleet ship. The fear is not of the individual, but in the power they hold.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    ^Like I said, Data had just as much power. If he'd wanted to, he could've plugged his brain into the ship's computer and taken direct mental control. And what about the EMH? He was literally part of the ship's computer. It would've been even easier for him. For that matter, any engineer could fire a phaser at the warp core and blow up the ship. A transporter operator could choose to assassinate the command crew by scattering their signals in transit. A captain could go mad and order his crew to their deaths (and indeed that did happen a couple of times in TOS).

    So it's an arbitrary and meaningless distinction being drawn. There are many kinds of power. There are many ways in which a given officer could abuse their power and cost the lives of their crew. So it's a spurious argument to say that an AI that's part of a ship could never be trusted. What about Gomtuu and Tam Elbrun? What about Andromeda in the show of that name? What about the TARDIS, which is sentient and psychic and has godlike power in its core? What about Farscape's Moya? What about the Minds in Iain Banks' Culture books, AIs that control not just ships but entire worlds? What about Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang, a living brain installed in a starship? There are plenty of sentient fictional starships that are trusted by their crews and that are worthy of that trust. Frankly, given how pervasive a trope that is in SF, I'm startled to see such xenophobia toward the idea.
     
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Exactly.

    This is why I think the best outcome was for Titan's avatar to become free of the ship, able to make decisions on her own terms without having to be a slave, in effect, to her crew. I just wish she hadn't died--I mean, as the energy being it seemed she became, she could've been a guide to the crew for all their research on cosmozoans, unusual energy beings, and so on...just imagine if (IF she was willing) if they had her going ahead of them, scouting out things firsthand that they could never experience in the same way?
     
  20. o'brien's scotch

    o'brien's scotch Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: Titan - Synthesis: Discuss / Grade <SPOILERS>

    Yet Data was not plugged into the ship 24/7 and there is some chance of physical containment of him. Yes, he was able to get all badass in "Brothers", but was compromised and his progamming was overridden. The "real" Data would never had done this and had was trusted by his crewmates and had established personal relationships with them. Also, I don't think anyone truly fathomed his capabilities to this extent.

    Titan was a newly born individual, a child if you will, in control of the entire ship. Initial caution would be justified. This is not to say that a relationship and trust akin to that between Riker and Data wouldn't or could develop.

    This sounds silly, but go with me: Imagine if your car suddenly came to life. Everything may be fine until you had to take a loved one bleeding to death to the hospital during a massive hail storm or tornado. Now the car doesn't want to risk physical harm to itself. Depending on the closeness of your relationship with said car, how do you think it would respond when you asked it to risk damage or even death to get to the hospital?