VAN: Open Secrets by Dayton Ward Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Oct 14, 2012.

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Rate Open Secrets.

  1. Outstanding

    4 vote(s)
    18.2%
  2. Above Average

    16 vote(s)
    72.7%
  3. Average

    2 vote(s)
    9.1%
  4. Below Average

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Berlin, Germany
    [​IMG]

    Nearly two years after the highly-acclaimed Reap the Whirlwind, Dayton Ward's Open Secrets made it to bookshelves in spring 2009. It's one of those "the morning after" stories in many ways, thus executing on one of the saga's core ambitions: Highlighting the consequences and showing the aftermath of the tumultuous events depicted in Reap, both personal and political.

    Here's how the official blurb put it:

    Sadly there is no excerpt available on the Simon & Schuster page for the book.

    Finally, a note about spoiler policy: This review thread is for a book that, at the time of posting, is several years old and which has several sequels. While discussing the book's events and merits in hindsight of those sequels is expected to be part of the appeal of the thread, please be mindful of readers who are reading the series for the first time (such as myself :)). Refer to facts from later installments obliquely if you can, and consider to surround critical information with spoiler tags. But don't strain yourself too much all the same - beware ye who enter here, of possible spoilers!
     
  2. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2006
    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    I'll be really brief on this one, mostly because it's actually been a while since I read it and I feel somewhat out of tune with the story by now. I just never got around to opening this next installment in the retro review thread project of sorts, but we need to move on already :).

    On the whole, I just don't know what it is with the Ward-Dilmore books in the saga. Once again I technically enjoyed the plot points included therein: Courtroom drama, a mature relationship between grownups (Reyes and Desai), the trip to Vulcan, Jetanien in action, ... on the face of it it all hits my literary taste buds pretty well. And yet I could feel myself trudging along at times. Metrics confirm it: My reading application keeps track of my reading speed (page switches per minute + keeping up the habit of switching off the display when I stop reading so real breaks don't factor in), and I am consistently about 40% faster on Mack's books than on the Ward-Dilmore stories. Something just doesn't flow as well, even though I like their content choices possibly more.

    There's a couple of instances of curiously sloppy editing here as well, though. The most noticable one: There's a chapter in which Pennington starts out in the Vulcan healer's living space and then is taken outside and shown around the Vulcan village, and then from one dialog beat to the next he's picking up an object from a shelf in the former location again, skipping the return trip - almost felt surreal.

    Bottom line: I can't quite put my finger on why I feel so down on this one, because I do thing it advanced the saga's overall storyline in a satisfying way, and a lot of the ingredients felt right for me. Still, it just didn't manage to really take me along for the ride, and so I'm voting Average.
     
  3. RonG

    RonG Captain Captain

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    I found the novel to be not as strong as the other entries in the VAN series, but still a great Trek novel - voted Outstanding.
     
  4. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Germany
    Voted Above Average.

    I read it when it first came out, so my memory is pretty hazy about it, but luckily my review of it is online.
     
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  5. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I went with Above Average. I don't have any real clear memories since I haven't read it since it was released. I do remember that I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the earlier and later entries in the series.
     
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  6. Sto-Vo-Kory

    Sto-Vo-Kory Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Location:
    Battle Creek
    Average. I agree with Sho's assessment: Mack's books in the Vanguard series zoom by for me while the Dilmore/Ward books feel like a slow plough. I always felt it was due to the writing styles of the individual authors but maybe the culpability lies in the (lack of) editing. Huge swaths of prose in this book were unnessasary to the point of distraction -- glaringly so in the T'prinn versus phantom husband katra business.

    The story of Vanguard does advance in this novel considerably -- I just wish we were treated to more sections like the Sagitarius adventure from the previous book -- Reap the Whirlwind -- or the Rise of the Shedai from the same. These were stand-out portions in the greater saga and Mack at his best: gripping, fast-paced and a pure joy to read. I couldn't put that book down.

    Open Secrets, on the other hand, lacks any such moments. I read this book a month ago and I'm at a loss to cite any memorable scenes or amazingly well-written sections. No cool detours or surprising "holy shit!" twists in the story -- just a plot that connects the dots and not a whole lot added to the characterization of the main cast.
     
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  7. Psi'a Meese

    Psi'a Meese Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  8. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2006
    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Hm, yeah, I think you might have nailed it there. There was just almost no element of surprise in this one, things unfolded largely just the way that not only I as a reader expected, but also even the way the characters expect things to go.

    For example: T'Prynn requires extraordiary measures to be woken from her coma. M'Benga discovers a Vulcan healer with a plan to subject her to an ancient ritual that might cure her. And, well, yeah, that's exactly how things go down, no twists and turns along the way.

    Same with Reyes' court martial: Things just unfold in a very Occam's Razor sort of straight path. You might argue that it's undercutting "the hero always gets away with it in the end" by convicting Reyes, but come on, it's Vanguard - from the context and tone of the saga you know he's going to have to pay the price. And that Desai ends up being his defense attourney - well, obviously, otherwise you'd just waste the character opportunity.

    The novel certainly took things to an interesting place for Precipice to follow-on from, and I was genuinely intrigued by the Shedai artefact, the nature of which I couldn't quite peg by the end of the novel. But for the most part, there was just very little excitement.
     
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  9. Judith Sisko

    Judith Sisko Commander Red Shirt

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    OK
    ^Agreeing with everything. I think I understand why the story was bookended with the Organian bit so we could read both Nogura's and Reyes' reactions, but even having that bit at the beginning took tension away from the Klingon marauding.

    I remember not enjoying this book very much when it came out. I attributed most of that to following Reap the Whirlwind, I think mostly because of the pacing. When I went to re-read it for this poll, I realized that it was the only VAN book not in my NOOK library and I had given the MMPB to my public library. I think that is pretty indicative of my original thoughts about the book.

    After downloading it and reading it again, I found it a little more enjoyable this time around, though I'm not sure why. Maybe because I read it isolated from the rest of the series? Dunno.
     
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  10. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    4/5

    VANGUARD: OPEN SECRETS is a decent enough follow up to the blockbuster events of REAP THE WHIRLWIND. My favorite protagonists Commodore Reyes and T'Prynn have both suffered tremendous personal setbacks due to the harsh nature of their pasts intersecting with their both their mission and moral duty. Reyes is now on trial for crimes against the Federation and T'Prynn has entered a coma that exists as nothing more than an extended battle against the ghost of her dead lover.

    I enjoyed the book but I do feel there are some missed opportunities here. Sten never rises above a abusive controlling boyfriend that has been trying to dominate T'Prynn for decades. I would have been interested in getting a bit more of his perspective and why he was obsessed with T'Prynn for so long and what made him unable to cope with her rejection. Is he actually Sten or just T'Prynn's ideal of Sten?

    I also felt that Commodore Reyes' trial was a bit impersonal for a trial about an intensely personal matter. The fact Commodore Reyes' ex-wife (whom he still loved) died directly because of his actions and that he promptly orbitally bombed a planet to nonthingness seemed as an irrelevancy to both sides of the case. I also feel like the Tellarite lawyer giving a false plea deal has to be break some laws in the Federation and he should have been disbarred.

    The best part of the book for me was Reyes' relationship with Rana Desai. I found myself surprisingly invested in their relationship. I would have loved to have more talk about how they were probably going to break up (Rana can't wait 10 years for him even if Reyes would like it). I still wish that T'Prynn hadn't lost Anna and would have loved to have her talked about more but the shadow of that did hang over her condition.

    There's a lot of good moments in this book like kicking the Orion Syndicate out of the area and dealing with Pennington's complicated relationship to T'Prynn. It's not my favorite of the Vanguard books, that's still REAP THE WHIRLWIND, but it's still pretty solid fiction all round. I can't wait to dive into the next book.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
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