Spoiler Level: High, both for this book and for Star Trek: Destiny.
Dayton Ward's Paths of Disharmony is the fourth and (currently) final novel in The Typhon Pact miniseries, this time focusing on the crew of the Enterprise-E. In fact, it's so much like a post-Nemesis Next Gen book that if it didn't say Typhon Pact on the cover, you might not realize that it's a fundamental part of the Typhon Pact series. This book takes place a year after the Typhon Pact has been formed.
Andor is the center focus of the story. Anyone who's read any of the post-series DS9 or Destiny books knows that Andor has been having a very rough time of it lately. TrekLit has expanded on a throwaway line of Data's saying that Andorians marry in groups of four, and has expanded that to establish that Andorians have four genders, all of which are necessary in order to have a child, and a very limited window in which they can conceive. As a result Andor's population has peaked, and is now dwindling to the point where they're actually facing a population crisis. Add to that the events of Star Trek: Destiny, where Andor was one of the last planets to be attacked by the Borg, and you have one messed up world.
Despite his being on the cover, Shar is not a main character in this story. He is featured a decent amount, but this is by no means a Shar-centric story; he's just one of many Andorians who have returned home to help their planet in its time of need. I always liked Shar in the post-finale DS9 books, so I'm glad to see him again here, even if it is in only a supporting role.
The main adversary from the Typhon Pact in this book is the Tholians, but they don't show up until the last third of the book, and even then they pretty much only stop in, drop an information bombshell to get the Andorians really riled up, and then take off again. It's nowhere near as intricate as any of the previous Typhon Pact books, but it is just as crucial, because...
...Andor is really disenchanted with the Federation at this point. They feel that Starfleet failed to protect them during the Borg Invasion, and are failing to help them with their reproduction crisis. And even that's a cause for Andorians to fight among themselves, as some factions feel that the Federation is holding back too much because of its ban on genetic engineering, and while others feel the Federation is helping too much, and that allowing any genetic engineering at all pollutes the Andorian gene pool and makes them less Andorian.
It's the kind of story best done in current TrekLit, because Andor's fate is unclear. If this were to take place during Season 5 of Next Gen, you'd know that the troublemakers would be caught and, while relations may be rocky, Andor would still be a part of the Federation by the end of the book. But Paramount no longer insists that all the toys be neatly put back in place by the end of the story. Now we no longer have that safety net, so we have genuine dramatic tension. Will Andor stay a part of the Federation? Will they erupt in civil war? Will they secede and join the Typhon Pact? At this point, anything can happen, and it makes the book a suspenseful read.
This also raises another question about the future of Trek novels. The books are obviously moving towards the events of Star Trek (the 2009 movie), but the only canon events from that film for the Prime Universe are the destruction of Romulus and the (apparent) death of Spock. The non-canon elements are included in both the Star Trek Online game and the Star Trek: Countdown comic book miniseries. In those, the Next Gen cast are in completely different places, and almost everyone has retired from Starfleet. Picard, for example, is an ambassador, which seemed pretty odd at the time. The authors in the TrekLit forums have all asserted that they are in no way beholden to the comic book and/or game continuity, which had me breathing a sigh of relief.
That is, until Picard was offered an ambassadorship in this book. He's turned it down, but now that he's a parent (and yes, he and Beverly did name their son Rene Jacques Robert Francois Picard, ::sigh::) both he and Beverly are starting to feel that the universe has become to dangerous a place to raise a child on a starship. So he's considering his options.
To be honest, I just can't see how they could continue the Next Gen book line with "current" stories if they go that route. We've finally settled in with a solid cast of Picard, Crusher, Worf, Geordi, Choudhury and T'Ryssa Chen. Chen, by the way, is really maturing into a great character, and her development opposite Taurik here is fantastic. Taurik's a full Vulcan, and T'Ryssa's a half-Vulcan who took the opposite path of Spock, embracing her human heritage instead of her Vulcan side. Watching the two of them interact, with Taurik having to cope with an emotional Vulcan and T'Ryssa learning that maybe there are some good things to Vulcan ideals after all is great stuff. I'd love a book that focuses just on the two of them. But would it be Next Gen? Is TNG the story of Picard, or the story of the 24th century Enterprise? How far can you splinter this cast and still have it be The Next Generation?
Perhaps they're even moving towards an actual ending for these post-film era books, and will start focusing more on stories set during the various series again. I'd be surprised if they went that route, since (as I stated earlier) they can have real drama now, and that's something they'd lose if they took that route.
We'll see. If there's one thing I can count on, it's that there will be more Star Trek books coming.