© 2011 Dayton Ward
Andoria hangs over the edge of a precipice, only generations away from extinction. Founding members of the Federation, Andorians are unique in possessing four sexes, all of which are required to produce offspring -- a single offspring, for twins are rare to the point of nonexistence. Such an arrangement makes it difficult for the population to maintain its own numbers, and they have been in steep decline for decades. If trends continue, the population will vanish.The crisis has been a long time coming, appearing first in the Deep Space Nine relaunch "Mission: Gamma" series, but attacks on Andoria by the Borg have made the problem more acute, and Federation attempts to help -- which involve complementing the Andorian genome with alien strains that will allow two-sex pairs to produce young, and which will increase the instance of twins -- have produced only mixed results and are regarded by many Andorians, particularly religious "Visionists", as repugnant. In the wake of increasing hostility toward the Federation, the USS Enterprise has arrived in orbit carrying scientists from across the galaxy to attend a genetics conference in hopes of finding some answer to this troublesome dilemma.
As eager as I was to finish the Typhon Pact miniseries off, its setting of Andoria gave me pause. Relaunch Andorians are a whiny bunch, so much to the point that while reading the Mission: Gamma series, I hurried through the chapters featuring Shar, who appears on the front cover of this book. I like Ward's style, though, so I read Paths -- and found it a political thriller which beats even Rough Beasts of Empire in giving the Trek universe a shake-up. Though the reader is treated to character development a plenty (Picard is now a father to little René), most of the action takes place on-planet, as Picard and the Andorian government attempt to carry out the conference amid much moodiness, terrorist attacks, and outright conspiracies while inthe shadows, the Typhon Pact lurks and schemes. This is an excellent conclusion to the miniseries which focuses on the Federation's new rival: they're obviously growing in strength, and accomplish a masterstroke here: the book's conclusion is stunning -- and a bit of downer.
Paths of Disharmony makes it clear how subtle and potent a foe the Federation now faces and sets the stage for the books to come. Interestingly, Paths' impetus is more the Vanguard series than the other Typhon Pact books, and it's worth nothing that Ward is one of the two authors (along with David Mack) who has contributed the most to that series. Though it doesn't end on a happy note, Paths should please most Trek readers with the growth of the Enterprise-E staff and fast-paced plot of political intrigue.