Sunday, February 06, 2011

Typhon Pact (spoilers)

Zero Sum Game The Typhon Pact was born of an age of chaos and loss, of confusion, but also eventually of hope that stability might might be found despite the new order of things. And that's just the editorial kerfuffle at Pocket Books. The editor who first laid the plans for this miniseries, Marco Palmieri, was laid off because of the financial problems in the financial industry; the editor who took over, Margaret Clark, was herself laid off a few months later; the editor who apparently oversaw the conclusion of the project, Jaime Costas, is gone now too.

Meanwhile, in the Star Trek universe of the 24th century, the devastation wrought by the Borg incursion in the Destiny trilogy continues to affect the Federation and other civilizations. The four standalone volumes of the Typhon Pact miniseries focus on the major political development of the time, the founding of a new but very different kind of federation, one composed of races at best unlikely to join the United Federation of Planets and at worst openly hostile to it. Each volume involves familiar Star Trek characters in some kind of conflict with a Typhon Pact member society.

So how well does the miniseries work? I've been surprised by the amount of negativity expressed at TrekBBS's TrekLit forum. There are two issues: the quality of the books as novels, and what they say about the state of the Star Trek universe.

Looking at the books as novels, they're an interesting mix of storytelling styles. David Mack's Zero Sum Game focuses mainly on one Trek regular, Julian Bashir, bringing him into a dangerous adventure of interstellar espionage. Michael A. Martin's Seize the Fire is a relatively conventional Trek novel, with William Riker and the crew of the Titan in a Prime Dircetive crisis precipitated by the Gorn. David R. George III's Rough Beasts of Empire follows two threads, Spock's quest for unification between Romulus and Vulcan complicated by the Romulan split and the Typhon Pact, and Benjamin Sisko's quest for a new life several years after the events of the last Deep Space Nine novel. Dayton Ward's Paths of Disharmony builds on elements from the Deep Space Nine saga, the Typhon Pact, and (spoiler alert) the Vanguard series in a suspenseful story of interstellar politics centered on the Andorians and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

As individual books, I liked them all, to varying degrees, though I thought Seize the Fire was the weakest. The basic story felt too familiar, the Gorn situation too reminiscent of the Andorian situation, certain plot elements not given as much attention as perhaps they should have been. Zero Sum Game and Paths of Disharmony were pretty much unputdownable. In the middle, Rough Beasts of Empire had a lot of great stuff happening but the Spock and Sisko threads were unbalanced and never really connected. (Oh, and the mention of Mr. Roby's bookstore next door to Joseph Sisko's restaurant was a nice touch, even if it turns out to be inspired by one of the real world residents of New Orleans named Roby -- and there are quite a few, interestingly enough -- instead of anyone closer to home. Only the second book I've encountered with the name Roby in it.)

As for the other issue, the state of the Star Trek universe, there's been a lot of talk about how dark and unpleasant things are in the Trekverse now, and yeah, things are pretty bleak here. Bashir is unknowingly in Section 31's hands; the Romulan split -- which had half the former Empire being more friendly with the Federation -- has ended and the reunited Empire is solidly aligned with the Pact, making Spock's reunification crusade seem more pointless than ever; Sisko has left home and family because of his understanding of the Prophets' message that he would know only sorrow if he married Kasidy; the Andorians have seceded from the Federation.

Well, yeah, that's bleak. But none of it is conclusive. We don't know where things are going next. In the meantime, we've had stories with suspense and surprises, exploration of alien cultures (especially in Zero Sum Game, which really developed the Breen), and a lot of character development.

After the first three books I was still on the edge about how well this miniseries worked. It wasn't as tightly focused as we've come to expect from recent Trek in some respects; the standalone nature of the stories made it hard to get a sense of the current status quo. But after the fourth book, I'd call it a success, overall. Not the best run of Trek novels ever, but often both gripping and enjoyable. Readers who don't know or care about the issues with the editorial revolving door and other issues, like the cancelled (or, I hope, postponed) Abramsverse novels, would probably have a better experience than those of us who worry too much about what happens behind the scenes and what it all means.

Now if only we had some sense of how long we wait to find out what happens next. I miss the days of Trek editors who posted in TrekLit hangouts.

6 Comments:

At 2:47 AM, Blogger Tatterdemallion said...

All those editors gone... It's like every executive producer pulling out of my favorite show. Very sad.

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger D. Browning Gibson said...

Steve,

(Part 1)

It is always great to read your blog, particularly your thoughtful reviews of Trek fiction. I had been looking forward to the Typhon Pact mini-series as the next step in the evolution of the Lit cosmos since the first murmurings back in, I think, 2009.

My experience didn't exactly live up to my expectations. However, I don't think the books were poorly written. The authors are talented, and each has turned out stellar performances in the past.

Contrary to you, I found Zero Sum Game the weakest. My interest was quite high in the first couple of chapters but fell throughout the novel. Although the reveal about the society constructed by the Breen was unique vis a vis other Trek societies and what I had considered, in the end my response was to be underwhelmed. I'm not sure why. I recall not really caring much about the specific Breen characters and surprisingly less about the Breen collectively once I knew more about them. But the item that most disappointed me was Bashir's romance with Sarina. It didn't work for me. (Just recently, and long after reading the novel, I saw "Chrysalis" again. And I cannot lay all the responsibility for the romance not working at David Mack's pen. Though I "bought" Bashir's feelings, or at least the reason for his feelings, their relationship didn't work as well as others have.)

As for Seize the Fire, I liked it the most--I think because I enjoyed seeing more of the Gorn civilization and society, and I liked the individual Gorn characters. I also think that the way in which the "main" characters in Titan have been utilized in the last several novels has been a boon to those novels. I really have come to like the "leads" of this series.

Donnie

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger D. Browning Gibson said...

(Part 2)

Rough Beasts of Empire was the most interesting--as long as you discount the half dealing with Sisko and the Tzenkethi. I found the Tzenkethi more interesting than the Breen, but Sisko's arc did not work for me. I appreciated the nod toward the Prophets' warning to Sisko about his future if he marries Kassidy, and I even think he could have made the decision he made based on the warning coming true. Perhaps, because it is such a divergence from where the reader last engaged Sisko, this direction in his character needed to be slowed down and shown in more detail. I've read a lot of negative reactions about Sisko in the book. I'm only now beginning to explore what might underlie my response.

And there is the ending. Yuck. I read elsewhere David R. George III's reasoning: that Donatra is motivated by what is best for the Romulan people. And I agree with his reasoning about what she would do, but I still would have liked to see an ending where she lived because I liked her and because of the opportunity the split in the Empire afforded the future. Myself, I was hoping to see the Imperial Romulan State sign the Khitomer Accords. I think this act and the fallout would have provided fodder for a long time to come. Including when Romulus is destroyed in 2387. Not to mention adding opportunities and/or problems for Spock's Reunification movement.

As for Paths of Disharmony, I loved seeing Shar again. And I like the crew of the E. And Picard's having a child and being married to Beverly didn't negatively affected Picard or Beverly. Those were great things about the book. At first, I really didn't like the withdrawal of Andor from the UFP. By the very last page, I accepted this for very much the reason you propose:

But none of it is conclusive. We don't know where things are going next.

My biggest complaint about the novel is I felt it could have been cut down by 1/3. The feeling I had was that it was rushed to publish and not much time was put into editing it. Dayton is a great writer. I just felt there were scenes that could have been cut without affecting the overall story. For example, I think it was chapter two where Jasminder and Worf are training in the hollow deck. I was bored. I got the point of the scene, and I believe the novel would have been better without it.

Donnie

 
At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only read the first three books so far, and while I will say that "Zero Sum Game" was the worst so far (it certainly didn't live up to all the hype that was being put out for the series; personally I would've issued it as the second or third book)with each successive one just getting better. Of course "Rough Beasts of Empire" got me wanting to read Keith R.A. DeCandido's 2001 book "Diplomatic Implausibility" after I read the scene where President Bacco basically told Martok that she'd strangle him with the Khitomer Accords by backing out from them if he didn't stop his plans to attack the Romulans.

Anyway, I can't wait to see what happens in the post-Typhon Pact novels, and I really want to find out what Voyager's upto in "Children Of The Storm" (in fact the situation with Sisko returning to Starfleet and getting the Robinson reminded me of the last chapter of "Unworthy" where Chakotay was asked whether he ever heard back from Starfleet after sending in his resignation).

Trevor

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger Steve said...

After Andor withdrew from the UFP so quickly, I wondered why a debate in their government was more prudent since they were one of the founding members of the Federation and should know the new threats being posed by the Typhon Pact and the leftover "baddies" from the other quadrants are out there! For their survival using Federation and other resources combined would be in their best interests. "The Paths of Disharmony" left us hanging, drooling for more! What are those devious Romulans up to? Are the Remans extinct or in hiding? Now that we have the technology to make those Andorian antennae do their thing, we axe them? What"s next?

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Steve said...

What's next after "Paths of Disharmony"?

 

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