10 December 2019

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Silent Weapons

Mass market paperback, 340 pages
Published 2012

Acquired June 2017
Read July 2019
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons
by David Mack

March 2384
There's something to be said for defying expectations. Fiction can't always go the way you predict, otherwise you might as well not bother to read the actual stories. After The Persistence of Memory, I predicted the next book would dive into Data's new quest indicated at the end of book I, to resurrect Lal, and that some of the backstory from Immortal Coil would come into play.

Instead, we get a political thriller that feels only very tenuously linked to the first book. Sure, the villains are using Soong-type android, but it verges on maguffin; this book doesn't really explore any ideas of artificial life. Sure, Data is back... but he spends half the book locked up in jail, and we get, I think, just two scenes written from his perspective. Why bring him back and then do almost nothing with him?

If you're going to defy expectations, the defiance has to be worth it. It has to in some way be better than what your reader expected. Unfortunately, Silent Weapons is pretty boring. Yes, technically, the political future of the Typhon Pact and the Khitomer Accords is at stake... but that was true two books ago, and three books ago, and four books ago. The Enterprise crew spends a lot of time investigating, but the questions are so murky, it's hard to care about the answers. It just feels like they go around in circles getting nowhere for a long time before things even vaguely begin to clear. Add to that that Mack's Breen characters feel like they run straight into Russell Davies's planet Zog problem, where you have a bunch of people with weird names and no personalities. (The contrast to how Brinkmanship gave personalities to a bunch of Tzenkethi with equally weird names is sharp.)

The big event, such as it is, is the death of Esperanza Piñiero, President Bacco's chief of staff introduced back in A Time for War, A Time for Peace. I always liked her, especially when written by Keith DeCandido, and was bummed to see her turned into cannon fodder to prove the situation was serious. So far this trilogy is two for two on bumping off significant women characters. Who will buy it in book III?

I guess it's just weird, because in the Acknowledgments, Mack thanks Jeffrey Lang for writing Immortal Coil because "[m]any of this trilogy's coolest ideas either originated in that book, or else would not have been possible without it to build upon," but there aren't really any cool ideas here, Mack's or Lang's. Maybe this book is setting up some interesting stuff to come in The Body Electric, but as it is, it feels like a pointless political sidestep away from the core idea of the trilogy.

Continuity Notes:
  • I assume that the thing the whole big plot turns out to be about at the end is a reference back to Rise Like Lions? I barely remember Rise Like Lions at this point.
  • There are references back to the Typhon Pact's dastardly plots from Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn... but not Brinkmanship. Brinkmanship came out a month before Persistence of Memory, but given David Mack had to write a whole trilogy and Una McCormack a single novel, I assume books I and II, at least, were finished significantly before Brinkmanship was. This would also account for why Glinn Dygan feels out of character, not as serious as the earnest young man we saw in Brinkmanship.
  • The short account of La Forge's recent career, including new position as second officer, makes it clear that no such book as Indistinguishable from Magic ever took place, as does La Forge's continued relationship with totally non-entity Tamala Harstad. (No one's ever even bothered to write her a Memory Beta entry in over eight years.)
  • Starfleet officers have photo IDs they can flash. Who knew? Memory Alpha tells me they were seen on screen just twice, in "Mudd's Passion" and The Voyage Home.
Other Notes:
  • It's neat that Chen gets to command the Enterprise and face down the Gorn... but odd that this scene doesn't draw at all on Chen's expertise with alien cultures. These books always say she's a contact specialist, but does she ever do it?
  • Whenever this book moves to discussing Rene, it feels as though as it is written by someone whose entire understanding of children comes only from reading a developmental psychology textbook.
  • There's a weird three-scene subplot about Crusher thinking of leaving the Enterprise that is so underdeveloped I'm not sure why it's even there.

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