Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Persistence of Memory - Silent Weapons

Star Trek TNG Cold Equations, Books 1 & 2: The Persistence of Memory and Silent Weapons
© 2012 David Mack
400 and 352 pages

The last time David Mack penned a Trek trilogy, billions upon billions died (Destiny), the Borg were vanquished, and thousands of readers' minds were blown by the intensity of it all. Now he's at it again with Cold Equations, set in the era of the Typhon Pact. A half-score of the Federation's most chronic enemies have their own confederacy, and the two states have been engaged in a cold war of sorts for the last couple of years, vying for power through covert missions. The Persistence of Memory opens with an attack on one of the Federation's most important research laboratories, one housing the deactivated bodies of B4, Lore, Lal, and various other Soong-type androids...the deceased Commander Data's family, as it were.  A cloaked ship, later to be revealed Breen, raids the lab and nicks the bodies...and as the Enterprise-E is conducting its investigation, a man is spotted on the streets who looks very much like Data. The man is none other than Noonien Soong, Data's inventor-father -- a man who was supposed to have died years ago.  But there he is, and looking rather young to boot -- what gives? The Persistence of Memory is largely his story,  the tale of one slightly-mad scientist to achieve immortality while watching the drama of his offspring from afar, with some political drama tacked on at the end.

That drama takes on a life of its own in Cold Equations, where Breen intrigue threatens to disrupt a delicate negotiation between the Federation president, Naniette Bacco, and the Gorn Hegemony. Shenanigans from a Soong-type android lead to Data's arrest (did I mention? he's back), and then come explosions and assassinations.  The Enterprise is on the scene, attempting to solve the mystery to both get their friend exonerated and to prevent their president's untimely demise, but something is screwy.  Their mystery-solving works all too well, aided by a series of anonymous tips that raise Worf's hackles (and Klingons have very big hackles), and lead him to suspect that someone, somewhere, is pulling the strings, manipulating the Enterprise, the Federation, and even the Gorn into playing parts in a bigger scheme. Thus a murder mystery becomes a massive political drama in which the struggle for power between Typhon Pact members proves to be more interesting than the Cold War-like tension between the Federation and Space-Moscow.  Unlike the Federation, which is more or less united (forgetting for the moment the angsty Andorians), the Typhon Pact members all have separate agendas, and they view one another as temporary expedients to their eventual nationalistic supremacy than actual partners.

After the epic-beyond-words achievements of Destiny,  poor David Mack has a lot to live up to. Cold Equations doesn't feature thousands of Borg cubes running willy-nilly, eating planets and inspiring mesmerizing speeches from doomed civic leaders, it's still a fantastic trilogy so far. The Persistence of Memory not only brought Data back (sort of), but gave his, Lore's, and other androids' stories utter cohesion: what Christopher Bennett did for time travel threads, Mack does with robotics, linking not only the Soong family but episodes from the original series.  Soong's perspective on watching his sons grow up is captivating, and then right behind that comes an intelligent political thriller that doesn't simply throw two entities against one another, but has  at least five participating in a tangled web of self-interest and lies.  I already purchased the finale, The Body Electric, and look forward to reading that soon.

Cold Equations on TvTropes

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