Friday, February 6, 2009

A Singular Destiny by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Following up on the events of Destiny, Keith R.A. DeCandido does an excellent job in A Singular Destiny describing and contextualizing the events of that trilogy on the broader populace of the Federation and surrounding powers. That said, I was a bit disappointed by one aspect of the novel while simultaneously being cautiously optimistic about the future direction of the fiction line. In discussing these two points, I will be spoiling the book to some degree, so readers beware.

The novel is told primarily through the perspective of Sonek Pran, a history professor from Mars whose four grandparents are from different species, something that is brought up constantly. Pran previously worked for a Federation president and is called back into service by President Bacco’s chief of staff. Ferried around by Captain Ezri Dax in the Aventine, Pran is surprisingly successful in not only completing his assignments but also in just about everything else he attempts, whether it be cheering up the crew by starting a jam session on his banjo to talking a Romulan into laying down his disruptor against orders.

In all, I felt Pran was presented as a man who is good at anything and never screws up. His only real mistake, violating orders from Dax, ends up providing a crucial clue to solving the great mystery of the novel. Without that action, the characters never would have been led to the climax. As a result, his presentation failed to really resonate with me because he didn’t seem like a real person, only a collection of interesting habits and traits. His character was a refreshing change, and the focus on galactic politics somewhat separate from Starfleet was much appreciated, but it just wasn’t enough to take a good novel, which this certainly is, to the next level.

However, I was surprised and a bit excited for the future of the fiction line with the introduction of the Typhon Pact at this novel’s conclusion. With the Federation and Klingon Empire both decimated in the aftermath of Destiny, a Pact of several space-faring nations assemble into a government that seems to be akin to the European Union to some extent. Made up of the Gorn, Kinshaya, Romulan Empire, Tholians, and others, the Pact at the end of this novel is said to be bigger and more powerful that either the Federation or Klingons, and perhaps bigger than the two combined.

This is the sort of galactic shakeup that to be honest something like Destiny would probably create. In the face of dominating control form one or several groups, why would it take so long for a group of somewhat like-minded nations to join together to increase their power and influence. In fact, as the Federation loses the ability to protect some of its outlying worlds, it would make sense that they might align with such a power. The development of the Typhon Pact very well could provide the changed atmosphere and ability to tell broader more consequential stories that were promised before Destiny debuted.

That said, with the entities making up the Pact coming from so-called ‘evil’ worlds that really only have their distaste for the Federation in common, I am afraid that what we will end up seeing is the sort of corny ‘evil for evil’s sake’ group that one would expect from a 1970s comic book. I’m not all that interested in reading about a group that is the antithesis of the Federation, but about a group that has its own agendas that may be contrary often to what our heroes believe, but for good reasons.

A Singular Destiny is an entertaining if slightly flawed novel that goes a long way to making something worthwhile after the mess that was David Mack’s Destiny trilogy. Keith DeCandido did what I thought was near impossible: get me interested in the future of the Star Trek novel line.

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