Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Frontier: Treason


Another New Frontier novel, another mix of comic book and soap opera. There are a few big developments here, but between PAD's writing style and events in other recent Trek novels, I don't think they had the resonance they should have.

Let's see... we get a character obsessed with a child's health and safety running off in a spaceship while under the influence of a mindstate that occasionally happens to their species, though we've never heard of it before. Okay, so Selar's obsessed with Xy's wellbeing and runs off with Robin Lefler's baby instead, but still, there's an echo of Doctor Ree's actions in Over a Torrent Sea.

There's a death of a regular character. Unfortunately, Selar's death is barely registering online, with all the craziness following Janeway's. She's one of relatively few NF regulars who actually appeared onscreen, and she was played by Suzie Plakson, so I for one am disappointed that she was killed off, and in a generic manner: screws up and puts someone at risk, sacrifices self to remove other person(s) from risk. That, at least, doesn't echo the Ree storyline.

Speaking of death, the late Si Cwan is back. His sister Kalinda was seeing visions of him but now he's taken over her body. There's no explanation, just a lot of "some people understand that there's more to all this than other people understand" stuff. His purpose in the plot is to psychically sense where his newborn son's been abducted to, and to put his widow through a lot of emotional hell. There must have been ways to structure the plot so that the NF regulars figure out where to go without a lot of mystical woowoo. (No, I didn't like the katra stuff in the movies either.)

And the book ends with hints of another big conspiracy involving at least one Starfleet admiral -- and, considering it involves aliens who can appear to be other people, there's an echo of the Founders. With everything that's been going on in the Trekverse, I'd have thought it would make more sense for PAD to focus on his Thallonian sandbox. Not that he's ever really developed Thallonian society and culture to any great extent.

Speaking of the conspiracy, once the story reaches the planet where the mysterious aliens who want Cwan and Lefler's baby are, we're solidly in comic book territory. One of the things that's always bugged me up about comic book writers is their tendency to take an ordinary word that means something related to something that needs a name -- a person, a planet, whatever -- and spell it funny. So here we have the D'myurj (i.e., Demiurge). The aliens who claim to uplift species, to guide them from corporeal to incorporeal existence, have the same name as the evil creator of the physical universe in gnosticism. Their foot soldiers, the Brethren, are described in a way that led me to think of Doctor Who's Sontarans, complete with probic vents, though there were a few key differences as well. But the action scenes felt more like comic book action than Star Trek action.

PAD is known for his dialogue, and it's obvious that he works on it -- not so much to give characters unique voices as to have characters provide setups for punchlines. There were a few times I thought, that's not what a real person would say in that situation, but if they'd said something else, no punchline. It's the sort of thing that can work when it's seamless and not overused. Not the case here. The fact that the characters don't have unique voices is highlighted by one paragraph in which PAD seemed to forget who's speaking. I wish I'd made a note of the page number, but there's a paragraph of dialogue that's obviously by Character A, but it ends something like "'... blah blah blah?' Character B asked." I vaguely recall another conversation between two characters where several lines aren't attributed, but when a character is finally named, if you read back to the last time a character was named, it should have been the other one.

All that said, there is some suspense, some humour that works, plenty of action, and the numerous regular characters, divided between New Thallon, the Excalibur, Trident, the Spectre, the Lyla, and Bravo Station, all have parts to play, which should make fans happy. If you usually like the New Frontier books, chances are you'll like this just fine.


At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Allyn said...

I haven't seen Treason in bookstores yet, but there's one thing I'm curious about.

When the New Frontier comic launched, PAD said in interviews that a major character was going to die in the comic. The only character who possibly could have died in the comic was Morgan. (Okay, the Mirror McHenry is the other possibility, but that's killing the guest villain of the piece, really.)

Does Morgan appear in Treason, so she "got better," in the comics vernacular? Or is there a real possibility that her (presumed) demise in "Turnaround" actually happened?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Should have mentioned something about that storyline. Morgan's back, but she's not her normal self, and the fact that she may be a threat to the ship and its crew -- and the Federation itself -- is one of the cliffhangery bits.


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