Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship
The Venette Convention has always remained independent, but it is about to become the flashpoint for a tense military standoff between the two power blocs now dominating interstellar space—the United Federation of Planets and the recently formed Typhon Pact. The Venetan government turns to the Typhon Pact’s Tzenkethi Coalition for protection in the new order, and has agreed to allow three of their supply bases for Tzenkethi use. But these bases—if militarized—would put Tzenkethi weapons unacceptably close to Federation, Cardassian, and Ferengi space. While Captain Ezri Dax and the crew of theU.S.S. Aventine are sent to investigate exactly what is happening at one of the Venette bases, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the U.S.S. Enterprise are assigned to a diplomatic mission sent to the Venette homeworld in order to broker a mutually acceptable resolution. But the Cardassian delegates don’t seem particularly keen on using diplomacy to resolve the situation, which soon spirals out of control toward all-out war. . . .
The entire Typhon Pact saga, which has gone on for several books now, has been a series of ups and downs for me. It’s a time of tension and unease in the Star Trek universe — old ties are broken, new ones are formed, and everyone is perpetually on the brink of war — all the while recovering from the massive Borg onslaught. I found the first few books so-so, the next few were pretty good, and that was followed by a superb duology (Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn). And then there was this one… which I found to be pretty good, but a bit disappointing.
I found McCormack’s dialogue to be out of character, not ringing quite true to the characters we know and love… and the characterization was a bit off. I felt the characters, hardened Starfleet personnel, were super-over-reactive to everything… like everyone was shouting at each other and speaking without thinking. Characters who have served in crisis situations for years came across as, well, a bunch of first year cadets.
Awkward characterization aside, I did find the story quite interesting — a cold war type of plot — is the enemy actually preparing to attack? Are they just trying to intimidate the Federation? The answer is never really known, but creates a nice tension throughout.
McCormack’s greatest strength, and the true saving grace of this novel, is her world building of alien civilizations. She did it previously with the Cardassians in The Never-Ending Sacrifice — she took an alien civilization I’ve never cared to know too deeply, and she immersed the reader so deeply into it that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
She did it again in this book with the Tzenkethi — an alien civilization I really know nothing about and have had immense difficulty even getting into. Half of the narrative of this story followed a Cardassian intelligence agent under cover as a Tzenkethi, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the Tzenkethi civilization. McCormack pulled together a very alien society and made it tangible, something I’ve found many authors can’t quite pull off. This is truly one of McCormack’s gifts as a storyteller.
As well, in this novel, with her worldbuilding of the Tzenkethi and, to a lesser extent, the Venette, McCormack has managed to create very alien civilizations. Too often in Star Trek — and, really, all science fiction — the alien civilization is the same as human civilization, just with funky clothes or body modifications. The Tzenkethi and the Venette are both very alien to us, but at the same time it really isn’t gimmicky — McCormack carries it off with the seriousness and faithfulness of an author who loves the world she writes in.
So, I found this book to be a bit of a mixed bag — it was a quick read, which was a nice break given the very long books I’ve been reading lately — the characterization was a bit off, though, but the worldbuilding was superb.