Enigma Tales (Deep Space Nine)

Enigma Tales DS9Enigma Tales (Deep Space Nine) by Una McCormack (TWITTER)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: mass market paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 350 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (27 June 2017)

Fan favorite Elim Garak is now castellan of the Cardassian Union. Part of his plan is to open enquiries into Cardassia’s war crimes against the Bajoran people, which may well turn the military against him and is making for some very awkward and tense situations. Enter Katherine Pulaski, who can, and does, make already tense matters into an interstellar incident. She is on Cardassia to accept an award on behalf of her and the team of doctors who solved the crisis of the Andorians’ fertility. The team had included Julian Bashir, who now lives on Cardassia under Garak’s supervision, trapped in his own mind from his previous encounters with Section 31. At the same time, a new head of academics at the University of the Union is to be appointed and the frontrunner is Natima Lang, a darling of the public eye and one of the rare genuinely innocent Cardassians. However, a document uncovered by a researcher may expose that Lang is hiding some of the worst crimes of all.

So, Una McCormak now ranks right up there for me with authors like Peter David for favorite Trek authors. I’m not always a fan of DS9 but McCormack’s books are always really fun and the writing is at an actual adult level. I loved seeing more of the inner life of Garak. He was my favorite recurring character in DS9, as I think he was for many people, so it was great to see lots of him and get inside his head a bit. Really, I think I am not out of line to suggest that ONLY Una McCormack be allowed to write Garak. 

I never liked Pulaski – I was too much a P/C shipper to welcome her onto the show – but in this book, she was a lot of fun. Salty and utterly unrepentant, Pulaski had plenty of moments to shine here, both in diplomatic situations (oh hai, let’s make a diplomatic incident!) to quick thinking and bravery when kidnapped (if she hadn’t been a fraction of a second too slow, she would have totally kicked that guy’s ass), to helping rescue someone else (she WILL hunt you down and find you). She was really a fun element to the story, and for me, it was a very pleasant surprise.

I loved the somewhat more minor but vital plot with Natima Lang. I loved seeing how she stuck to her guns and fought for what she wanted, even going toe to toe with Garak, even though it made her shake to do so. I think his plans for her are putting her talents to much better use than her previous ideas. I hope to see more of Lang and Garak in future books. 

Beyond just the delight of getting to know Garak and Pulaski better, the overarching theme was how societies can recover from the ills of their past and set to rights the wrongs they had done previously. The message rang through strong and clear that no one is above the law, not castellans, not presidents, no one. All the quotes scattered throughout about how literature reflects a society and can lead the way to the cure is really spot on. They reflected the Cardassian Union here, but of course reflect the problems plaguing modern society as well. I thought all those quotes were perfectly timed.

Highly recommended!

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

    • There is nothing quite to compare with arriving on a new world. … Questions form in the mind: What will I see that is new? Will I learn something? Will I be surprised? Will my visit here change me in some small but significant way? 
    • “Popular culture,” said Garak portentously, “can tell us a great deal about a society.”
    • Monstrous behavior speaks for itself.
    • “They’re [genre fiction stories] more interesting than that,” Lang said. “They offer a microcosm for society and, I think, the means to diagnose its ills – and, perhaps, the method to bring about its cure.” “I think you see more deeply than the average reader,” said Parmak. “But I have come to believe that this is what literature always does – reflects back some part of the reader. You see a means to reform society.”
    • “A free and open society,” he said. “It’s the ideal toward which we aim, isn’t it? Even if we don’t always manage it.” “Hey, mister,” said Pulaski. “I think we do pretty damn well.” She looked around the room. “And you know what? I think these folks are doing pretty damn well too.” Parmak raised his glass and clinked it against Pulaski’s. “I’ll drink to that,” he said. Land and Alden raised their glasses. “To the ideal,” said Lang. “Elusive, and perhaps ultimately unattainable. But always worth the effort.”
    • T’Rena tasted the tea. “Not unpleasant.” “Mostly harmless,” said Garak. She looked up at him calmly. “I beg your pardon?” “It’s a quotation from a human classic,” said Garak. Rather a flippant one. He tried to get a grip on himself. 
    • Don’t assume cleverness when a cock-up is the more likely explanation.
    • Newscasts, broadsheets, channel upon channel – there is too much. It keeps a lot of people very busy. Still, I foresee some difficulties ahead. The proliferation of material means that people might start to become selective about what they consume and, if my instincts are correct, they are likely to read only that which confirms what they already know. This means they will never have their ideas tested. I worry that as a result, people will form tight groups around those who confirm their biases, mistrusting those whom they encounter who think differently. 
    • She found that she completely admired [the Cardassians]. They had guts, grit, and determination. To come through this hell, to keep on digging deeper into themselves to find the place where hope lived and to keep drawing from that well, to keep on trying and building and healing. That, she thought, was worthy of her respect.
    • [H]e thinks that “on balance you add greatly to the gaiety of life.”

 

  • Do no harm was a good rule to live by, but Do good with everything you have? That was a great deal better…

 

  • “I admire them [humans] for how far they’ve come. But in one respect they fail. They continue to be convinced of their superiority. But not us.” Garak shook his head. “We will never – I hope – tell ourselves such lies again. And perhaps that is what we have to offer.” 
  • Sometimes, Garak thought, one did not need a confessor. One simply needed to sit and examine one’s conscience alone.

 

 

Star Trek Prometheus: Fire with Fire

Star Trek Prometheus 1 coverStar Trek Prometheus: Fire with Fire by Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg 

Her Grace’s rating:  1.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Alec Newman

Source: my own collection

Length: 11:02:00

Published by: Titan Books (28 Nov 2018)

After several terrorist attacks claim the lives of thousands, Starfleet sends the ship Prometheus to the Lembatta Cluster, from where the attackers hail. The region is already unstable and the crew of Prometheus are tasked with stopping further attacks and potential galactic warfare. 

I really wanted to like this book. I thought it was rad that an original Trek novel was written in a language other than English at last. But damn, it read like fanfiction. I mean, I suppose all of the novels are fanfiction, but they don’t act like it. Other Trek novels are better written and more engaging. The crew of Prometheus are, frankly, kind of boring. There really aren’t any stand-out characters for me. I kind of wonder if the authors recognized that, weren’t sure quite how to fix it, and so brought in a shitload of cameos by other characters to make up for it. The Klingons were more interesting, which is saying something coming from me since I’ve never been that interested in the Klingons. 

Parts of this also came across as almost…racist? I’m not sure it is that blatant, but the way in which some of the characters were described or spoken to just put me off. If someone said things like that to me or in front of me, I would have told them off. I can’t even think of an example of it anymore – I listened to the audiobook rather than reading it where I could make notes on the pages – but some phrases just set me on edge and not in a good way. Maybe it was a translation issue, I don’t know.

The audiobook thing is another issue. Normally, I love audiobooks. I have never listened to a Trek audiobook, though, since if it’s a book about, say, Lorca, I want Jason Isaacs to narrate it. Or Patrick Stewart for a Picard-centric book, Michelle Yeoh for Georgiou, etc, etc. Since this book isn’t set in one of the actual series with the characters I know and love, I figured it wouldn’t make me mental to have someone who isn’t Jason Isaacs/ Patrick Stewart/ Michelle Yeoh narrating. And in that regard, I was correct. It didn’t bother me that the narrator didn’t sound anything like them. He has a pleasant voice, in fact, and I would probably listen to more of the things he’s narrated. However, it drove me nuts at how many words he mispronounced. It wasn’t a dialect thing, either, or a Britishism. It was just wrong. Like ‘hegemony.’ Got it wrong every time. A few other actual words I can’t think of now. And even words specific to the Trek-verse were wrong. I know, I know, they are made up and not real but even so, can you at least pronounce them like they are in the various series? It’s TAL shee-AR’ not ‘tal SHY-er,’ ‘KIT-o-mer’ not ‘kit-OH-mer.’ … It’s levi-OH-sa, not levio-SAR. I mean, it’s the little things, you know? 

Overall, this is a solid ‘meh’ for me. I like a new Trek book, but this one fell short for me. 

The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery)

The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery)The Way to the Stars (Star Trek Discovery) by Una McCormack (Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 276 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (8 Jan 2019)

Sylvia Tilly is the youngest Starfleet cadet to be accepted into the Command Track program. As she prepares to start her first day in the training program aboard the USS Discovery, she has hidden reservations about her qualifications and ability to do well. This leads to a night of her telling her history to Michael Burnham, starting from her teen years being bullied by a domineering mother and missing her father while he is on a deep space mission. 

McCormack nailed Tilly’s voice in this novel. We see how Tilly has grown into her role on the show, although she still has a long way to go. But this novel shows readers a glimpse into her life before Starfleet, some of the reasons why she is so unsure of herself despite being one of the most promising officers in the fleet. 

Lorca is still my favorite character, but Tilly comes in a close second. I love getting to see her history. Her mother is awful. I think we all know someone like her in some way, and they’re just as awful in person as Tilly’s mom is on the page. Her dad is a good guy but he’s absent when she needs him the most, which is irritating to see just because I know how sensitive Tilly is and it made me feel bad for her. 

Personal growth and evolution from a child to a young adult is always painful, and Tilly really fucked up a few times but she learned from her mistakes and used them to become a better person. She’s a diamond in the rough with the best possible future ahead of her. As Stamets said, Tilly is incandescent. I can’t wait to read more books focusing on her.

Drastic Measures (Star Trek Discovery)

Star Trek Discovery Drastic MeasuresDrastic Measures (Star Trek: Discovery) by Dayton Ward (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 400 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (6 Feb 2018)

***I’m not even going to pretend this post doesn’t have spoilers. It has all the spoilers.***

Drastic Measures takes place about 10 years prior to the Battle of the Binary Stars in Discovery, and focuses mainly on Gabriel Lorca with Philippa Georgiou playing a large key role. Set on Tarsus IV, Lieutenant Commander Lorca is in command of a small outpost on the colony planet. When a large group of colonists from another world are relocated to Tarsus after a natural disaster on their own planet, Tarsus finds itself suddenly infected with a spore which destroys nearly all the colony’s food supplies. Help is weeks away, by which time the colonists will mostly have starved to death. Lorca and his small team at the outpost give all their uncontaminated food to the colonists, hoping to buy some time. But a lack of strong leadership in the colony’s government results in the ouster of the governor Gisela Ribiero, who is replaced by Adrian Kodos, known to the Trekverse as Kodos the Executioner. 

Kodos’ plan is really a final solution. Gathering up those colonists he has deemed to have less value, he and his supporters slaughter 4,000 unarmed citizens in an attempt to save the rest of the colony from starvation. The colony, reeling in shock and grief, is relieved only days later by the arrival of the starship USS Narbonne, bearing Commander Philippa Georgiou and a team of doctors and scientists ready to help the colonists. With medical and food aid now available, Lorca is free to head up the hunt for Kodos, which he takes up with a vengeance because he also suffered a personal loss during Kodos’s “Sacrifice.” 

This entire novel was a nice homage to TOS with the inclusion of a teenage Jim Kirk. The TOS episode “The Conscience of the King” referred to a tragic event in the past life of Kirk. This is that story, but it is solidly anchored in the Discovery cast with Kirk only making a very small cameo in this nice. I thought that was very deftly written. It also fills in a couple continuity gaps from a hazy past event in Federation history deserving of more notice.

Some of the writing seems a little out of character. For example, the massacre on Tarsus IV didn’t really appear to affect Lorca all that much. This is not Mirror Lorca, he’s Prime Lorca. He should have been horrified, maybe even in tears, over the thousands of deaths, especially since his girlfriend was among them. He could probably still do his duty as an officer but it didn’t seem believable that he could just shake it off like that, or compartmentalize things so thoroughly. He is still human, and not from the Mirror universe, which would make more sense with his reactions. There was a lot of telling rather than showing that Lorca was upset, and because of that, it didn’t seem genuine. It was only near the end that we saw him act in a manner that might be consistent with the behavior of a grieving man. Throughout the novel, a lot of the things Lorca said or did were inconsistent with a Prime universe Starfleet officer, which is disappointing because it may not be at all the way Prime Lorca would act if he were to appear in the show. Ahem. I think this is an excellent argument in favor of bringing back Lorca in the series; we only ever saw Mirror Lorca in the show, so we really don’t know who the “real” Lorca is. I would very much like to. I mean, I’d be cool with it in real life, too. Hello, Jason Isaacs…*drool*

B&W Jason Isaacs
Oh, hai there! Image credit: Brian Higbee, Interview Magazine, https://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/jason-isaacs

I thought Ward did pretty well with his portrayal of a younger Georgiou. She was not a captain yet, was clearly not as seasoned or wise as she is in the show, which makes sense. She only made a couple witty jokes, which is sort of a trademark for her in the show. But we could see in this story that she had the potential for that woman we get to know later, and it is always fun to see characters grow into their roles over time. 

I don’t mind that this is a Discovery book only in that there are two characters in this book who are also in the series. It’s called a backstory for a reason. All the characters in any series have a history, if it is a well written and complex world; none of them spring fully formed into the people they are in whatever TV show. So I think some of the lower ratings this book received are unfair and unrealistic. Was it a perfect book? By no means. It had plenty of flaws, perhaps even more than the average Trek novel. Yes, it dragged a bit in parts. Yes, the characters seem off. But I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt because it was likely in the process of being written as season 1 of the show was unfolding. Ward’s portrayal of Lorca as kind of a dick in places seems justified, since that is what we knew for most of season 1. We still didn’t know the characters well yet, and I think Ward did a good job incorporating what we did know with what he wrote. 

But! PRIME LORCA!! PRIME LORCA IN THE MIRROR UNIVERSE!! Who else could it be at the very end there if not Prime Lorca?? OMG please let there be a forthcoming book (or, preferably, books) about Prime Lorca and his stories in the Mirror Universe! Where can I preorder it? Shut up and take my money!

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

  • “It won’t be easy,” said Georgiou. 

“Nothing worth doing ever is.”

  • Lorca said, “Utopia’s easy when everything works and all your basic needs are met. We tend to think we’ve traveled this long path toward peace and prosperity, but take away the necessities of living and it’s a short walk back to our baser instincts.”
  • “Upholding a set of ideals can be difficult, and sometimes it’s damned cruel. Being able to do that, especially during times of adversity and crisis and even great personal tragedy, is the true test of anyone privileged to wear this.” Reaching up, she tapped her chest to indicate her Starfleet uniform. “We’re bound to uphold and defend those ideals, but the harder job is living up to them.” 
  • “…Shannon, don’t you have something for Commander Georgiou?”

Instead of replying, Shannon held up the doll in her right hand. The stuffed Andorian companion now sported two antennae thanks to Georgiou’s repair efforts, and she noted that it had been cleaned since she last saw it. 

“I want you to take him. Maybe he can bring you luck now.”

The simple gesture was enough to elicit tears, and Georgiou reached up to wipe her eyes. “Thank you, sweetheart. I promise to take good care of him.”

  • The paper resting in the palm of his hand, Lorca studied the words it contained. 

Hate is never conquered by hate. Hate is conquered by love. 

 

Fear Itself (Star Trek: Discovery)

37542594Fear Itself (Star Trek: Discovery) by James Swallow (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 290 pp

Published by: Gallery Books (5 June 2018)

Lieutenant Saru is a Kelpien, a species that is the prey of an apex predator species on his homeworld of Kaminar, and the only one of his kind in Starfleet. It is his nature to be fearful of everything, because he knows that the universe is a harsh place and fear can keep you alive. But on a rescue mission to assist an unaligned vessel in distress, Saru decides to try to overcome his fearful nature and steps out of protocol. As a result, he finds himself in command of an away team on a hostile ship that is then overtaken by a separate species. Saru’s next steps could either resolve an escalating situation between two belligerent races or be the first salvo in a war. 

On the show, Saru is basically everything Starfleet stands for. He is smart and honorable and can, when necessary, step past his fears and rise to the occasion. That said, he is still not one of my favorite characters. However, this book went a long way to remedying my thoughts on him. We get a back story that helps to explain the officer he is today and why he might act in certain ways. I would have liked to get more of Saru’s history in general – why did he get asylum in the Federation, what was his life like immediately after coming to Federation space, etc., and maybe we will get that in a future novel – but overall, the author captured the Saru from the show really well, aged him down a few years, and gave an entirely credible portrayal of a less-experienced officer. 

I really love the way Georgiou is such a mentor to all her officers. She could have busted Saru down to ensign. She could have tossed him in the brig and shipped him off for court martial. She could have yelled and screamed and dressed him down like anything. But she didn’t. She let him squirm a while, then she asked him what he learned from the experience. She asked him if he would make the same mistakes again in the future. She let him know that, while his actions were not acceptable, they aren’t insurmountable and taught him that even when everything goes sideways, there is learning to be had from it. 

I also like the way we see Saru and Burnham’s relationship and learn it was always a bit antagonistic. She had a fairly minor role in this novel, which makes sense since it’s Saru’s story, but I really like that, actually. Star Trek is often such a collaboration that there really isn’t just one main character. It is nice to get novels focusing on just one person or another, at least on occasion. I really hope future novels will be able Stamets and Georgiou or even the less central characters like Detmer or Owosekun. I am delighted that the next book is about Lorca, my new massive crush, though I inadvertently read these out of order and that should have been the second Discovery novel. 

Overall, a fun new addition to an awesome new Trek fandom. 

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

 

  • You always expect the worst, Saru. Yes, he had replied, but I always hope for the best.

 

  • That’s the thing that separates a good officer from a great one, knowing when to bend and when to be firm. … If you want to command a starship one day, you need to learn when to make those calls. When to show boldness and when to use restraint.
  • Saru’s certainty that danger and death awaited him did not shade his life in morose tones. It made him all the more determined to live it, down to the very last second.
  • Violence will not change the facts. You cannot coerce reality into re-forming itself to your needs with a destructive act. 
  • “We are the sum of our natures. We’re all on the path that our birthright set out for us.” “I’m not sure if I agree,” [Saru] replied, taking another sip of tisane. “I took a different path from the one I was born into.” “Did you? Ejah smiled again. “Or did you just follow the way to the path that had been right for you all along?”
  • Compassion is not weakness. Enduring is not living. And belligerence is not strength. 
  • Now, as he had then, he pushed back with all the strength he could muster, struggling to free himself from the inexorable gravity of the terror. If he could just stop himself from giving in to the burning fear for a second more, for ten seconds more, a minute, then he could hold it back. I am afraid, he told himself. But it shall not rule me

 

Desperate Hours (Star Trek Discovery)

32841842._sy475_Desperate Hours (Star Trek Discovery) by David Mack (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 384 pp

Published by: Gallery Book (26 Sept 2017)

I’m super, super, remarkably behind on reading the newest Star Trek novels. Like, I think I have 15 or so I haven’t got around to yet, so I’m a good 2 ½ to 3 years behind. This is a project I am looking forward to correcting.

Anyway. Desperate Hours is the first Star Trek Discovery novel, and it was terrific. This is set about a year before the Shenzhou’s mission to the binary stars and the star of the actual show. Michael Burnham is promoted to acting first officer when Captain Philippa Gregory’s previous exec officer left for his own command. But if Michael wants to keep the job, she has to prove that she deserves it. The opportunity for her to do just that presents itself in the form of a colony under attack. Burnham learns to think outside the box while still adhering to Starfleet protocols, and in the process, attempts to avert a disaster created by Starfleet’s own rules. 

This read just like an action-packed episode. I like the self-contained story line; I get very tired of multi-book story arcs or series that go on forever and you have to read each book in order or you don’t have a clue what’s going on. I actually really miss that about the old numbered Trek books. One book = one story. 

The characters were really well done in this. Mack has a terrific handle on them and they seemed like themselves as they are in the series. I did notice a couple minor things that made it obvious that this was written before certain episodes, like calling Saru’s homeworld Kelpia. Just a couple things that were explained later or in different detail in the show, but nothing that detracted from the overall quality of the novel. 

Michael’s character was the best; she is very much like she’s portrayed in the show, but it is obvious that she’s younger, less experienced, and not just because the book says she’s younger. It’s a testament to Mack’s writing skills that he could craft a thoroughly credible version of a character many of us already know and love well. 

Very much looking forward to reading the rest of them, and all future Discovery novels as well. I hope we get a lot more with Lorca. Ye gods, that man is fine. 

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

  • This was everything she had feared Starfleet would be when she had first been courted to its service by Sarek and Captain Georgiou: reactionary, shortsighted, blinded by a knee-jerk impulse to seek security at the expense of knowledge. Then the advice of Sarek echoed in her memory: If that is what you find, it is up to you to change it for the better
  • “Nondisclosure contracts?” Pike wondered for a cynical moment what century he was living in.
  • …the essential nature of life and the universe is impermanence: everything changes, and everything ends. Trying to resist that truth is the root of all suffering. 
  • “Most of them will never know how close they came to nearly losing everything.” “That’s probably true for all of us, at one time or another,” Georgiou said. 
  • “Don’t give up hope,” he said. “Selfishness will go away once the universe runs out of sentient beings.”

 

“…The Common Ties of Humanity…:” 20th Century Lessons from More’s Utopia and Roddenberry’s Star Trek

Throwback Thursday meets fandom and academia. I was cleaning out a bunch of old files on my computer and found a paper I wrote when I was a little baby undergrad many moons ago. I am amused. LOL. And yes, it was still the 20th century when I wrote it. I am an old.

9534340011_717843d04b_o-590x711
Image copyright watschi, posted on https://www.designcrowd.com/community/contest.aspx?id=1673030

Is it possible for two men who lived 400 years apart to have similar premonitions of the possibilities human society could achieve? Although there is no way to tell for sure, seems that Thomas More, author of Utopia, and Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, both had such visions. The society of the 24th century that Roddenberry so vividly brought to life and the society of the Utopians are both ideal cultures and are similar to each other in many ways. They also have some contrasts as well. Despite the few differences between the two works, Star Trek and Utopia both paint very realistic descriptions of an idyllic society that humanity may one day attain.Read More »

Star Trek: TNG: Hearts and Minds

33025284Hearts and Minds by Dayton Ward (website, Twitter, FB)

Her Grace’s rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 386 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (30 May 2017)

A dual timeline Trek novel, the earlier timeline taking place mostly in the mid-21st century and the later timeline in Picard’s 24th century. On Earth, Vulcans have recently made first contact. However, other species have also had their eye on Earth and their intentions do not seem to be as honorable as the Vulcans’. Members of secret government agencies have decided that they have to take preemptive measures to secure the safety of Earth. On the Enterprise, Picard learns that one of his officers has been given orders by an admiral which may directly impact Picard’s own authority on the ship. The information the officer has may solve a centuries-old mystery that is playing out its final acts during the Enterprise’s current mission. With relations between a new species on the line, Picard and crew are hard at work figuring out how events of the past are continuing to influence their present, and how to resolve a volatile situation. 

Sometimes dual timeline novels are not my cup of tea, but this one worked out all right for me. It was interesting to see how events from Earth’s past are influencing the players in the 24th century. The theme of history being written by the victors is woven throughout and provides a sharp counterpoint to the utopian vision so often seen in the Federation. This story shows that not all history, not even the Federation’s, is what it seems to be. It makes you think about what you thought you knew. I found myself wondering what history I’ve been taught that is completely wrong. Lots, probably. 

This wasn’t my favorite Trek novel, but it wasn’t bad. I generally enjoy Dayton Ward’s novels and this was still a fun read, if not utterly gripping. 

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

  • There was a time when my people were gripped by a number of irrational fears, Presider, and it was because of such fear that we nearly destroyed ourselves.
  • …humans had not always comported themselves in the best manner, and for all the amazing leaps in science and technology, there remained significant work to be done in this area of learning how to live in peace and harmony with one another. While there had been some advancement, there seemed to be very little progress. Despite their apparently unlimited potential, were humans ultimately a lost cause?
  • It was no different when it came to those horrific occasions when he ordered subordinates on missions that led to their deaths. He never undertook such action lightly, and the repercussions of those decisions would always haunt him. Picard was grateful for that burden; it reminded him of the sacrifices made by those who answered the call to service and the tremendous costs that duty sometimes exacted. 
  • I do not fear the truth, Presider.
  • The path to the truth is a long one, but we can travel it together, if you’ll allow us to walk with you. 
  • ‘And where do we go from here?’ ‘Forward, Presider Hilonu,’ said Picard. ‘Always forward.’

Star Trek: Section 31: Control

30753665._sy475_Star Trek: Section 31: Control* by David Mack (website, Twitter, Facebook)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 352 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (30 May 2017)

Section 31, the unethical and ungoverned shadow branch of the Federation, has a longer history than previously known. Dr Julian Bashir and Agent Sarina Douglas uncover a deeply held secret that has followed 31 for its entire existence, some 200 years. They realize it is their best chance to bring down the organization and hold it accountable for the multitude of sins it has committed over the years. With the help of Ozla Graniv, a brave investigative reporter, and a few select old friends, Bashir and Douglas embark on their most dangerous mission to date, determined to bring to an end the unseen agency and its mastermind, a being known only as Control.

This was everything a good Trek novel should be – action, fighting against the odds, a little romance, and plenty of fun technobabble. It’s been really nice seeing the development of Bashir and Douglas over their last few missions and this was a grand culmination of everything they’ve sought to do. I loved seeing Garak again – he’s always a favorite – as well as Data and Lal. I confess I don’t actually like Lal all that much, but she was integral to Bashir’s mission this time and she did a good job with it. I shall have to reread the Cold Equations books again now. 

The exploration of artificial intelligence, though it has been done before, was still interesting in this novel. What was really the best about it is that it digs deep into the utopia of the Federation and destroys it. This was definitely not a terribly feel-good book; it was dark and gritty and felt very real. But, it IS a Star Trek story, so it also had a kernel of hope in the end. I also love that the ending is left open to more exploration of this story line without being a cliffhanger. I don’t think this is it for Bashir. Or I certainly hope it isn’t! 

Overall, this was a fun and fast-paced read that got me through a very long flight with minimal discomfort because it sucked me right into the story. 

Favorite lines (There ARE spoilers!):

  • To excise this cancer from your body politic, all you need to do is kill the body, burn it down to ash, and then resurrect and rebuild it with wiser eyes and a sadder heart.
  • Beliefs are dangerous things, Julian. Once we invest in them, it can be hard to challenge them without invoking cognitive dissonance. 
  • ‘Are you still with me, my dear doctor? … Are you blind to the sight of me? Deaf to the music of my voice?’ … There was naught left for Garak to do now but keep his friend safe, in a clean and well-lit place, and give him whatever time he needed to heal himself – or at least to die in peace, with his last measure of privacy intact and jealously guarded by someone who loved him. [*wibble*]

The Long Mirage

30753726The Long Mirage (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)* by David R. George III (Facebook, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 386 pp

Published by: Pocket Books (pub date)

***Spoilers for this book and previous ones below***

In The Long Mirage, Quark has hired a private investigator to track down Morn, who has been missing for 2 years, since just after the original station Deep Space 9 blew up. Quark would have everyone believe that he misses having his best customer around, and Morn is certainly the 24th century equivalent to Cheers‘s Norm, wordplay on names and everything, but the truth is that Quark just missed his friend and is concerned about him. When the investigator he hired takes off with his latinum, Quark scrambles to track down the investigator as well as Morn. He’s joined by Captain Ro Laren, who is doing some soul searching, deciding whether it is time for her to move on or stay at DS9. 

At the same time, Nog is trying to figure out what is wrong with Vic Fontaine’s holo program, which was saved from the wreckage of DS9 but has been unusable for the most part since. Nog is worried about Vic because the last time he was able to enter the program, he witnessed Vic being kidnapped. Knowing that Vic is self aware and that the program continues running even without anyone else in it, Nog worries that Vic will come to a bad end in the 1960s Las Vegas program. He also has to work against time because he fears not only will the program erode beyond repair, but also there are some who want to fix it by reinitializing the entire program, a move that would reset it back to original specs and wipe out all of Vic’s memories, effectively killing him. Nog’s friend and fellow officer, John Candlewood, helps him sort out the mystery of Vic Fontaine. 

Then there’s Kira Nerys who comes back from the wormhole after being lost and presumed dead for the last two years. She’s been living a whole other life in Bajor’s distant past, but now she’s back with information that could rock Bajor to its core.

I don’t usually care much for the books written by David R George III, and this one was essentially the same. But it was the next Trek book in the stack so I tried to approach it with more of an eye for overarching themes than plot points. That helped, though DRG3 is just not my favorite Trek authors. I don’t know why, it’s just something about his writing I don’t like. In any case, this novel was full of themes of friendship and love, in all their variations. Ro and Quark reflect on their relationship over the past decade and come to a decision a long time in the making. Nog and Candlewood also reflect friendship in the best way – Candlewood simply doesn’t think that Vic is sentient and sees no problem with resetting the program, but he knows Vic is important to Nog, so he does anything he can to help his friend. Quark hands over piles of latinum, something he never thought he would do, to find Morn and make sure his friend is safe. No theme of love would be complete without a triangle of some kind, and we get that as well with the Altek-Ro-Kira saga. No one end up super happy with that one, which is at least believable and realistic.

There is also lots of self reflection and self evaluation throughout. Characters seem unusually able and willing to view their own actions and come to a realization, whether it paints them in a good or bad light, with somewhat unbelievable frequency and ease. I like that some of them do this, but basically every point-of-view character does a lot of navel gazing and figures out things about their own actions which have been less than ideal. I think it was a little too much, though I applaud anyone taking the time to evaluate themselves and make changes to their behavior as needed. I think the debate on Vic’s sentience was rather unnecessary, as well. The sentience of “inanimate” objects, for lack of a better term, has been gone over and over and over with Data, Moriarty, and the Doctor. We get it; they’re sentient. Having that element didn’t add anything and kind of dragged it out more than necessary.

I enjoyed the debate / crisis of faith on Bajor, which resulted from the discovery years before of a new set of holy texts and a hidden temple. These things caused some Bajorans to have a crisis of faith, others to shrug it off, and others still to believe the newly discovered beliefs rather than traditional beliefs. In this, the book mirrored a lot of actual history, recalling elements of the Reformation as well as conflicts between major religious groups. It highlights a lot of politics and religion today, and I thought some of the best sections of the book were included in these discussions.

Overall, I enjoyed this DRG3 novel more than previous ones. Whether I would have anyway or if it’s because of my revised approach to reading it, I don’t know, but I’d say it was a decent addition to the DS9 novels. 

Favorite lines (potential spoilers!):

  • “Debates are loud, and sometimes shrill, with a great deal of talking and very little listening. People demonize each other for differing beliefs. It is both turbulent and disquieting. … I am sad because of what all of this turmoil reveals – namely that there are many believers whose faith is so weak that they fear the falsework because they perceive it as a threat to the foundations of their lives. There is no room in their worldview for growth. They cannot abide change, whether for better or worse.” (135-138)
  • “In my experience,” Altek said, “people are never so threatened as when facts disagree with their deepest held beliefs – religious or otherwise.” (211)
  • “Wanting to cling to my convictions in the face of evidence to the contrary is the product of ego, or arrogance, or possibly just fear.” (215)

*Amazon affiliate link.