Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wobbling in the marsh of bizarre energies

The Titan series continues with its fourth novel, written this time around by new novelist Geoffrey Thorne, author of several short Trek stories. And, um, hmm.

I really liked the first Titan novel, thought the second one was a little disappointing, really liked the third one, and I'm still processing what I think about this one. As with its predecessors, it's certainly ambitious, telling a complex story featuring several of Titan's famously diverse crew. And the author is developing a distinctive prose style. It's just not one that really works for me.

Not all novels -- not even all Star Trek novels -- have to be told in straighforward, unadorned prose. However, at times the prose here drew just a little too much attention to itself. Characters sometimes make unusual word choices in dialogues (Tuvok using "permutations" where "possibilities" might work just as well). Sometimes the descriptive writing works against itself (in my opinion, at least), as in the title of this entry. I am thankful that Geoffrey doesn't follow Diane Carey's lead and replace every use of "said" with an intransitive use of a transitive verb, but there were occasional moments when his style reminded me a little of hers (and, once or twice, Peter David's). Then there's the penultimate chapter, a series of vignettes featuring a lot of different characters from the story, all identified only as he or she, and maybe I was tired when I read it, but I didn't always know who the he or she in a given vignette was supposed to be.

Geoffrey also takes a bit of a risk in telling almost the whole story from the perspective of some of the new Titan characters. Or newish, in Vale's case. We get more of a lower decks perspective, which is interesting at times, but in a story with major high stakes events, sometimes it seemed we should be seeing more from Riker's viewpoint. There's also a surprising development -- one of the regulars is more or less killed off.

The book also ends with a religious character rhapsodizing about the importance of faith, which I could have done without. But that's purely a personal reaction that tells you at least as much about me as about the book.

So... something of a mixed bag for me. You've got a new twist on the ol' temporal anomaly story, good screen time for several of the supporting characters (Vale, Ra-Havreii, Jaza, Dakal, Modan), a bit of development in the Riker/Troi relationship... but there are also those stylistic quirks. Overall I'm not quite as happy with it as I'd hoped I would be, but it did pick up speed and build tension after what seemed a bit of a slow start and the prose got a bit smoother. I expect a lot of Trek book fans will enjoy it thoroughly.


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