Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gods of Night by David Mack

As I am still trying to figure out what I want this site is evolving into, I realized that I don’t really want to write reviews of everything I read. But what I do want is to respond with a post on most of what I read, whether that is a review or just a starting point for a discussion about something else. For my own clarity as much as everyone else’s, I wanted to say that the books, television, occasional movie, and other readings that headline these entries are merely the beginning of my thinking.

David Mack’s Gods of Night is the first novel in the supposedly earth-shattering Destiny trilogy, an event so large it could change the face of ST literature forever. Sounds corny, but that’s what has been promised. Intended to be a crossover event, we get no crossover at all here: Picard is on the Enterprise, Riker is across the quadrant on
Titan, and new captain Ezri Dax is in the Gamma Quadrant. And we also see what happens to Columbia after the events of Kobayashi Maru, though the same battle in the two novels couldn’t have been presented any more differently. You’d think the novels had two different editors. But they didn’t.

The Titan thread carries on the character development from that series quite well. The Enterprise one carries on from it's series too, but not so well. Due to the very good work in the former and the atrocious character assassination in the latter, one might just chalk this up to Mack doing the best with what he had. The previous ‘Enterprise after Nemesis’ books have been pretty fucking bad.

The Dax thread doesn’t work. Stuff happens that needs to happen for the plot, but Ezri is the only prominent of the DS9 Relaunch to appear and what’s happened to her since Fearful Symmetry is played so close to the vest that her inclusion seems to be a token one.

What really bugs me is how Ezri Dax became a captain: both her captain on the Aventine and her first officer were killed, so she got the promotion. Why didn’t they bring in someone else? The explanation given is that the advanced officer ranks were thinned out mightily during the Dominion War five years before. Plausible, until one looks at the number of Starfleet officers in this very series who are at the commander rank or higher and are
n’t in a command:

• Worf
• Dr. Crusher
• Christine Vale

• Tuvok
• Deanna Troi
• Geordi LaForge
• Miranda Kadhota (maybe, sources differ)
• Two additional commanders who are watch officers on Enterprise

Assuming that Starfleet is at fifty percent of its ideal troop level four years after the Dominion War, which I think is granting more than has been demonstrated, the fact that nine commanders are currently st
ationed to only two ships, some with over a decade of service at the highest levels of day-to-day ship operations, makes me unable to believe that there aren't dozens, if not hundreds of people more qualified. And not only that, but then Dax got to replace her whole command crew with more inexperienced officers. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’ve written before about my issues with the Enterprise crew between the end of the Dominion War and Nemesis before, so I won’t rehash those arguments here. But such decisions make it incredibly hard to suspend my disbelief.

But a recent online discussion with some friends made me realize that this isn’t such a clear-cut issue. Gods of Night would be a difficult novel for someone only familiar with the television shows and movies to pick up and really get. Picard and Crusher are married and having a kid? Wasn’t Ezri Dax an ensign counselor in DS9? Didn’t Janeway kill the Borg forever in Endgame? There’s not a lot that someone would find familiar, or even probable. I’m not saying this is a fault of Mack per se, but the inability of an outside reader to be able to penetrate the complex continuity of the novels is somewhat alarming for someone who is a fan and sees the broadening of the fanbase as good for the fiction line.

That said, having familiar characters from the shows remain together does reinforce to some degree a sense of continuity for an outsider to lean on until he figured things out. Maybe it would make more in-universe sense to have Worf, Tuvok, and others captaining their on ships, but such a move would likely alienate readers.

Perhaps I am being too hard on the creators at Pocket Books, especially as much of their work has been constrained by the canon issues of Nemesis. It’s sort of a lose-lose situation.

As for Gods of Night, it was a better written novel than I had expected from Mack, but it all seemed to be set-up for the next (or possibly final) book. Basically the first third of a 1200 page book rather than the first book of a three-book trilogy. He did well with what he had, but I kind of think that I figured out the whole Borg aspect already. More to come when I get around to the rest of Destiny.


shanejayell said...

Not a bad review, tho I guess you haven't followed the DS9 books following avatar. Or at least weren't paying attention, since they've been setting her up for command for a while now.

*rereads review*

My read on Dax getting command of the Aventine was that she was the person on the spot, and she was most familiar with the ship & crew. Command COULD have imported a new commander, certainly, but their ynfamiliarity with the ship would be a handicap, one avoided by promoting Dax.

Besides, they can fire her if she can't hack it. *lol*

Jon Polk said...

I have indeed 'paid attention' when reading the post DS9 books, so I am familiar with Dax's shift to command. You are right in saying that an imported commander wouldn't be as familiar in general with the ship and crew as she was, however I believe that someone with more command experience would bring enough to the table in order to compensate for this and actually be better over all. Different strokes.