Thursday, February 17, 2011

Over a Torrent Sea

Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea
© 2009 Christopher L. Bennett
356 pages

Cover art and design by Cliff Nielson and Alan Dingman, featuring Aili Lavena, an aquatic member of the Titan crew who has a primary role in the exploration of the world and the book.

Only weeks after the calamitous events of Destiny, the good ship Titan is resuming its mission to explore the further reaches of the galaxy. The discovery of a waterworld mysteriously abounding in life attracts the ship's attention, but (surprise!) their peaceful exploration quickly becomes fraught with peril when an asteroid threatens to impact and a sentient ,whale-like species turn on the Titan crew in confusion, fear, and pain. A plot deep in scientific wonder and mysteries unfolds, and Bennett surprises with some astounding character drama late in the book. The Troi-Tuvok-Dr.Ree story is especially impressive from the emotional angle, though its primacy is threatened by a last-ditch effort on the part of another character to save the day  by facing some of her worst inner demons.

Torrent Sea is fifth in the Titan series, and my only major grumble with it is that most of the Titan books up to this point and even beyond it seem to have the same basic plot: Titan cannot enter a star system without crashing into a Prime Directive conflict. I don't know about Red King, but from Orion's Hounds on through to Seize the Fire,  the Prime Directive plays a central role.  They've been good stories, too, for the most part, it's just odd that the editors don't seem to have caught on. Torrent Sea is an especially strong version of this, because the problems show that the Prime Directive is in place to stop the good guys from making matters worse by trying to help. As in all Bennett novels, this one is inundated by science (which makes me happy) and humor, the author being especially fond of sarcasm and understatement. The amount of character drama and emotional turmoil toward the end of the book rocked me: I wasn't expecting it, and it played out well. Especially impressive is Bennett's handling of the development of sentience and technology in a waterborne race: I used to think that if whales were intelligent, we couldn't tell because they don't have hands to make tools with, but a race in this book succeeds through a kind of bioengineering. Fascinating stuff. He's usually an exceptional author, and it is no accident that his Orion's Hounds and this rank now as my favorite Titan novels.

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