Sunday, February 20, 2011

Star Trek: Typhon Pact - Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III

Spoiler Level: Medium

The Typhon Pact series continues, this time focusing on the Romulans and the Tzenkethi.   The Tzenkethi, while mentioned in Deep Space Nine several times, were never seen on screen, and the name is almost an anagram for "The Kzinti," the race created by Larry Niven in his own books and used in the Star Trek animated episode "The Slaver Weapon."  I gather it was meant more as a tribute than as a way to try and sneak the Kzinti back into the Star Trek universe, since the reason for them not being used isn't a matter of the animated series being decanonized so much as it's a matter of the Kzinti being owned by Larry Niven.

This means that the writers of the novels can do a bit of world building when it comes to the Tzenkethi, and they've come up with a fascinating species. (I'm not entirely sure how much of what's portrayed here was created by David R. George III, and how much was established by other authors before him, but his portrayal here is fantastic so I want to make sure he gets the credit he deserves.)  The Tzenkethi are somewhat humanoid on the outside, although with more exotic skintones such as red, orange, yellow and green, and with a flexible internal structure that allows them to bend in completely different ways.  They also put artificial gravity to its utmost use, treating walls and ceilings as workspaces, and find it incredibly wasteful that other cultures don't.  It's the kind of race that would have been ridiculously expensive to portray on TV, and as such makes for interesting reading.

The book itself follows a three-chapter structure; first we get a chapter on Spock and how his Reunification Movement is doing on Romulus.  The second chapter follows Ben Sisko, and what he's been up to since returning from The Celestial Temple.  The third chapter focuses on the many different aspects of the Typhon Pact, sometimes from the perspective of the Romulans, and sometimes from the perspective of the Tzenkethi.  Then the cycle repeats again. The book stays loyal to this format for the entire novel, and as you'd imagine the elements start to overlap as Spock's Reunification Movement affects Romulus's role in the Pact and vice versa.

Like most things in the TrekLit world, Spock's Reunification Movement can be taken to the next level now that TrekFilm world is focused on the new JJ Abrams timeline.  Of course, we know that Romulus is destined to be destroyed in five years or so, but Romulus is part of an entire Romulan Empire (one of two Romulan Empires at this point, actually), so this doesn't mean there won't be any Romulans after that happens.  In fact, much of Spock's story crosses over into dealing with the reunification of the currently split Romulan Empire, as Spock hopes such a move would then lead to a reunification between the Romulans and Vulcans.  The many different approaches reunification could take are discussed, and it's a concept that -- now that it can be done in the books-- I'd actually like to see happen some day.

Sisko's story catches us up on what's been happening to the the characters of Deep Space Nine.  The fates of Kira and Vaughn, which we were only teased with in Zero Sum Game, are shown in detail here. We also get some glimpses of what's happened to the Sisko family since we last saw them.  Ben Sisko himself is not a happy man here; he's haunted by something that I don't particularly want to give away, but it's his driving force throughout the entire book, and it's something I found horribly heartbreaking because it's causing him to distance himself from his family.  I'm a big fan of happy marriages in fiction, mostly because they're so few and far between, and it pains me to see Sisko's marriage which was so happy in the TV series falling apart here.  I also have to wonder how Avery Brooks would feel about it; Sisko's line in the final episode, "I will be back," was added at his insistence, because he felt the issue of parental abandonment in the African American community was too important to have Sisko not be there for his child.

As far as the Typhon Pact is concerned, this is probably the best book yet, as it starts with the Typhon Pact just starting to come together, and heavily details how the Romulan Empire joins (or more specifically, the Romulan Star Empire;  the splinter empire, the Imperial Romulan State, is not a member of the Typhon Pact.)  From there we start seeing the political manipulations, both between the two Romulan empires and the Tzenkethi, and we get a real feel for how the face of the galaxy is drastically changing.

Deep Space Nine itself is barely in the book, but it's definitely an important chapter in the lives of the series' characters, so if you're a DS9 fan it's a must read.  And if you're just curious about the Typhon Pact in general, this book is probably the best place to start.

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