Thursday, December 30, 2010

Seize the Fire

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire
© 2010 Michael A. Martin
499 pages

In the wake of the last great Borg War, most of Starfleet is tasked with helping to pick up the pieces. Only a few ships, the USS Titan among them, are allowed to continue Starfleet's mandate of exploration.  Despite being lucky in this regard, Captain William Riker doesn't want to go on his merry way into the unexplored expanses of the galaxy and with no thought to his comrades back home -- thus, he opts to investigate the possibility of a powerful terraforming technology not unlike that of the Genesis Device. When he confirms his suspicions, though, he finds the technology in the hands of the Gorn Hegemony. The Gorn have their own reasons for wanting the device, as one of their most precious breeding worlds has been ruined by excess solar activity.  While their possessing this device -- which, like Genesis, could be used to destroy civilizations "in favor of its new matrix" -- is problematic enough, the leading Gorn general seems intent on using it on a planet already inhabited. Though the Prime Directive forbids Riker from interfering, he must find a way to do so and perhaps gain access to the "eco-sculptor" at the same time. 

Star Trek's reptilian species fascinate me: the Gorn were first mentioned in "Arena", which contains one of the most outstandingly campy fights in televised history,  and spotted once in Enterprise, but have since not garnered much attention. Michael A. Martin does for them what David Mack did for the Breen, turning standard villains into large, complex political entities.  Just as Mack did, he tells part of the story from the viewpoint of Gorn characters, some of them sympathetic. This nation- and world-building was the strongest portion of the novel for me, though I also appreciated Martin's use of Gnalish crewmembers board the Titan: Michael Jan Friedman introduced them in Reunion, and his Stargazer novel Progenitor spotlighted them.  The plot's possible resolutions seemed obvious from the start, though the road there took some unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed the novel, and even read most of it in one sitting. Some characterization seemed strange, particularly in the case of Riker's XO (Christine Vale), but I've not read enough Titan novels to say for sure.  The novel's greatest weakness was Martin/Riker's interpretation of the Prime Directive. The directive forbids Starfleet personnel from interfering in the natural evolution of a pre-warp society:  they can't be so much as contacted without first displaying the ability to use warp drive.  This "natural evolution" clause has been extended to prohibiting Starfleet personnel from stopping asteroid collisions with planets, and in Voyager Tom Paris was demoted and tossed into the brig for interfering in a similar case. As outrageous as that is, in Seize the Fire the planet in question is being targeted by an outside power, a warp power, and Riker's belief that he can't interfere makes him look like a legalistic chump. 

I'd say Seize the Fire is fairly enjoyable: not outstanding, but not mediocre, either. 


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