Monday, November 29, 2010

Orion's Hounds

Star Trek Titan: Orion's Hounds
© 2005 Christopher L. Bennett
400 pages
On the cover: Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi; Daphne Ashbrook as Melora Pazlar; CGI as Dr. Ree.

When Captain William Riker accepted command of the USS Titan, he looked forward to continuing the mission that drew him to Starfleet in the first place -- the peaceful exploration of the galaxy and promotion of Federation ideals. In its few few months of operations, however, the Titan and her crew have been bogged down by political wrangling and high-stakes rescue missions. Now, at long last, the Titan is heading into deep space to see what the future holds.

Scotty might say of the future that “there be whales here!” Soon after entering uncharted territory,  powerful waves of panic, confusion, and grief overwhelm the telepathically sensitive crewmembers of the Titan, especially Commander Tuvok at tactical.  Tuvok, Troi, and others identify the source of their agitation as a nearby school of vast creatures (cosmozoans) who live in the vacuum of space -- a school being hunted by humanoids who use the corpses of the sentient cosmozoans (“space jellies”) as ships.  Horrified at the prospect of ritualized murder and exploitation, Riker and the Titan seek to meditate a peace. Naturally, the situation is not as simple as it seems.

Though David Mack’s crossover Destiny trilogy gave my proper introduction to the Titan crew, I began planning to visit the Titan series as soon as I finished The Buried Age and decided I wanted to read more of this Christopher L. Bennett.  He doesn’t disappoint: while his character drama is just as strong as Mack’s or Kirsten Beyer’s, he adds to it a fascinating science story with ethical dilemmas a-plenty. Cosmozoans are an interesting subject in themselves. They are life forms quite different from us, existing in space as comfortably as we stride on land or as fish in the ocean, finding a home in turbulent stellar nurseries and fighting on a scale beyond ship-to-ship combat. The villains are nuanced, appearing both cruel and civilized at times: while subscribing to a hunter culture, they’re not universally obsessed by it. There’s no obvious disconnect between Martin and Mangel’s Titan and Bennett’s:  the ship's crew is evolving realistically, the many varied characters invented to staff the Titan still adjusting to their many differences.  I appreciated Bennett’s way of conveying telepathic communication, which made it clear that telepathy isn’t necessarily the direct beaming of sentences into someone’s head, but actual feelings that are difficult to articulate.  His attention on two of Titan’s more exotic crewmembers (an aquatic and a  hilarious grandmotherly insectoid) was another high point.

Orion’s Hounds is an especially satisfying Titan novel, full of interest and humor, and I am glad that Mack and Bennett kindled my interest in the Titan series . I picked the novel up at Sunday lunch and spent the day with it, distracted only by my finding a Trek production  on YouTube that merited my attention (Of Gods and Men, a 40th anniversary ‘gift to the fans’ from many of the Trek actors) As much as I’d like to read Over a Torrent Sea next (Bennett’s other Titan novel), I’ll probably read the chronologically next book in the series.



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