Monday, January 3, 2011

Rough Beasts of Empire

Rough Beasts of Empire
© 2010 David R. George III
304 pages
On the cover: Leonard Nimoy as Spock; Avery Brooks as Captain Sisko

Ever since the mass assassination of the Romulan senate in Nemesis, the Romulan Empire has existed in a state of disunity. Praetor Tal'Aura seized control of the government shortly after the events of Nemesis, but the Romulan fleet regards her as suspect -- and for good reason, for she carried out the assassination. In an apparent attempt to prevent the Empire from falling completely into the hands of a traitor,  Commander Donatra of the Valdore established her own rival state to arrest Tal'Aura's ambitions. Controlling most of the Empire's agricultural worlds and allied to the Federation, Donatra needed only sit and wait for Tal'Aura's power base to erode -- but the woman who conspired with Shinzon to destroy her entire government in the pursuit of power is not one to wait for her own death. Instead, Tal'Aura partially arranged the Typhon Pact, a six-member alliance of nations composed of some of the Federation's oldest enemies.  In Rough Beasts of Empire, two Federation citizens -- Ambassador Spock and Captain Bejanmin Sisko -- attempt to work out their fates in this dangerous new political environment.

Previous novels in the Typhon Pact series have focused on one story, but David R. George follows the lives of two men. On Romulus, Spock continues to lead the Reunification movement despite a narrow escape from an assassin, preaching peace and working toward the day when Vulcans and Romulans can look on one another as kindred spirits. Though Spock is the viewpoint character here,  he's used by George to observe the power struggle between Donatra and Tal'Aura: his story is more one of Romulan politics than his own philosophical labors. Meanwhile, Captain Sisko -- who rejoined Starfleet during the last great Borg War --  commands the USS Robinson, a Galaxy-class starship patrolling the Romulan borders, tormented by what he had to leave behind on Bajor and haunted by memories of the Tzenkethi war.  As difficult as it was for me to see Sisko put through an emotional meatgrinder here, it's rather refreshing.  In the early Relaunch books, Sisko was more a Legend than man: he vanished inside the Bajoran wormhole at the end of Deep Space Nine,  though no one on the station in the months that followed could escape his memory. His reappearance at a pivotal moment only boosted the legendary aura, and  shortly thereafter he read like a saint, above the cares of the world. George brings him back down to Earth again -- where he's back to being human, back to struggling with issues and making hard, wrenching decisions.  Thus Rough Beasts offers heaps of political and character drama, though I think Sisko's thread has the stronger ending.

Aside from this, Rough Beasts also reintroduces some characters who have not been seen recently --  Kira Nerys, and the master villain of TNG's 'Unification'  episode.  George also elaborates on the Tzenkethi, whose appearances was the source of great speculation when Pocket and CBS announced the Typhon Pact series.  They're interesting sorts, though I wouldn't care to see them again. Like Tal'Aura, I wished them defeat and disappearance every time they showed up in the book.

I've read George before, in Provenance of Shadows, and this was even more a page-turner. I probably would have finished it in one sitting had I not resisted reading it. I try not to read more than one Trek book per reading week (starting on Wednesdays) , but as you can see I failed. It's all George's fault -- the book was too interesting to stop reading for too long, and the pages flew by so quickly that I was done before I knew it.  Of the three Typhon Pact books I read, I've enjoyed this the most -- owing, in part, to my being a Sisko fan .

The next Typhon Pact read, Paths of Disharmony, is scheduled to be released anywhere from mid-January to early February. It is a TNG novel that is expected to focus on the Tholians ("The Tholian Web", "In a Mirror Darkly") and Andor.


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