Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mere Mortals by David Mack

Ever since The Empire Strikes Back, the middle story in a trilogy almost always seems to end with our heroes facing seemingly unconquerable odds that we know they will find a way to overcome. Actually, it’s probably been around a lot longer, but I am a man of my generation. Anyway, it comes as no surprise at the end of Mere Mortals when the shit has hit the fan and the whole future of the known ST universe seems in doubt.

While this general principle doesn’t spell disaster for a storyline on its own, I can’t imagine how David M
ack’s Destiny trilogy is going to have a satisfying conclusion. Incorporating elements from every television series as well as a handful of the novels, he has constructed a plot that actually is able to sustain it all. Unfortunately, there are visible seams where he’s sewn it together.

Nothing much happens in this book. Of the three basic storylines, only Captain Hernandez’s long history with the Caeliar has any real movement, and essentially that’s just to catch the reader up to the present day, so the final book can wrap everything up. The Enterprise and Aventine are at the explosion site of Erigol, which has spawned a cluster of hyperdimensional portals, one of which the Borg is using to launch their attacks
on the Federation. Their mission: find out which pathway and collapse it. Of course, it’s not that simple; there has to be a third book. Titan is trapped at New Erigol in the same manner that Columbia was in the last book.

At the conclusion, as anyone with half a brain cold have predicted, the Borg haven’t been stopped but are in the process of launching a massive attack on known Federation and Allied space. Yawn.

The worst part of the whole scenario is that with Hernandez’s powers via the Caeliar, it seems probable that she will be instrumental in defeating the Borg. Our heroes are going to essentially sit back and watch helplessly. To anyone reading the first two books, it is obvious that the Caeliar and Borg share an origin, and with the stated power of the Caeliar to displace entire civilizations, it is all but certain that the Borg will be displaced to another galaxy.

Mack’s juvenile sensibilities are on display again, too. Hernandez has a mishap with a musical instrument, playing a note so low it causes her to shit her pants. Ha ha. It amazes me that he was able to resist prison-style lesbianism as the four women are trapped together without men for decades. But even in a meaningless fight between the crews of Enterprise and Aventine with the Hirogen, Mack is able to write compelling hand-to-hand fight scenes. This is his real strength, but unfortunately something better suited to a visual medium.

The astropolitical ramifications of events are a refreshing change as well. Too often it seems that events happen in a vacuum, but here we see manipulation and bartering that make up the best of politics in any realm. Though I am not a huge fan of aping The West Wing, Mack stayed away from that with President Bacco, and she seems like her own character for the first time here.

There are a bunch of little things to nitpick. One, even the grunts on Enterprise are officers. Why Starfleet never has infantry makes no sense, especially in wartime. Hernandez doesn’t sound like the actress who portrayed her at all, though that may be the one-dimensional writing of the television show than a fault of Mack.

But what really stands out, as in the last book, is why Ezri Dax is captain of a cutting edge ship. There is technology on Aventine so secret that not even Geordi has clearance to know about it. Surely Starfleet didn’t just build one of these. If these new ships are so powerful, where are the rest of them? It’s blindingly obvious that for plot purposes Mack needed a ship that could do all sorts of things an average ship couldn’t. So he invents this new ship to fill that need, even though ramifications of the new class’s construction aren’t considered.

So we have a largely plot based story that is massive, yet it would be easy to sit down and graph the outline that was probably used. And since one is able to do this before the third book has even been released, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be any surprises when Lost Souls comes out. Perhaps Destiny is going to change the ST universe forever, but it seems to me that mot of the changes won’t really affect our characters all that much.

Damn shame.

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