Sunday, February 06, 2011


I don't have to rely on the iPad any more. PCs are fixed, and there's been a lot of updating at the Complete Starfleet Library website. Still need to work on the upcoming books schedule and the 2011 page, though.

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.