Friday, June 1, 2012

June 2012: "Plagues of Night"

Troubled waters (uh, space-lanes?) divide the Federation and its partners from the Typhon Pact. Can David R. George III bridge them in his new novel “Plagues of Night”?

by David R. George III
Mass Market paperback – 400  pages
Pocket Books – June 2012 – $7.99

In the wake of the events chronicled in the five previous Typhon Pact books, things seem to be at an understandably deep impasse on the interstellar scene. But when the Romulan Praetor begins suggesting some significant changes to the Pact’s relationship with its Khitomer Accord neighbors, all kinds of events begin to unfold, ultimately leading to a climactic encounter at the Bajoran Wormhole that may well decide the future of relations between the two powers.
As the new Typhon Pact novel, “Plagues of Night” opens, author David R. George III takes us on a bit of a retrospective tour of the events from the preceding Typhon Pact books. While this has the effect of bringing new readers up to speed (and refreshing the minds of those who have read the preceding works), it gives a very slow starting pace to the story. While many of the revisits include interesting tidbits that one might consider to be a ‘behind the scenes’ look at both the immediate past (as well as a precursor to events forthcoming later in the book), they feel easily dismissed and, unfortunately, utterly pedestrian.
The first portion of the book, in essence, feels soulless… but, fortunately, this situation doesn’t continue indefinitely. After the rehash of things past, the pace skips any kind of transition and blisters right into overdrive. The change of pace is rather jarring, and doesn’t feel quite right – though, fortunately, the soul returns to the writing in a highly charismatic way. While the pace feels off, and the end feels rushed, this is somewhat mitigated by knowing that, within a month, the second part of the story will be in my hands.
In our exploration of DS9 and the state of affairs as the Typhon Pact continues its rise, we are given a good deal of backstory on what has happened on the station over the years. George engages DS9 almost as a living entity, and the book is the better for it. Its television and literary (relaunch) history are well mined for emotional power and personal connectivity, all of which is very good… but which leads to something that simply must happen. Some story lines need to finally be taken care of.
There is nothing spectacular about the story lines which George sets to resolving. Elias Vaughn’s ongoing arc has been at a standstill for the past several years, serving to further Prynn’s development in the relaunch. “Plagues of Night” sets into motion the resolution of his case, as well as that of Ben Sisko who, for the past year, has been away from his wife and daughter, refusing to be near them for fear that something truly terrible might happen to them.
In the case of Vaughn’s storyline, a simple death seems anticlimactic, and I can’t help but feel that something odd needs to take place… should take place… before his character is finally retired from the pages of Trek lit. On the flip side, Sisko’s story is crying out for a very human resolution. Oddity wouldn’t serve his familial relationship well – though, given his years of experiences with the Prophets, one would have to wonder if an ‘orb experience’ would be ‘mundane’ enough to close out this chapter of his life.
The overall star of the story, however, is the Typhon Pact’s ongoing efforts to obtain a quantum slipstream drive; and the mission of the Romulan warbird Eletrix becomes, arguably, the focal point of the book. The ship, which is dispatched to the Gamma Quadrant, has a definite agenda – one that is in no way friendly to either the Federation or, apparently, the Romulan Praetor.
“Plagues of Night” has a lot going on in it, much of it good – serving the ongoing development of the post-TNG era book continuity. Unfortunately, the somewhat scattershot feel of the book leaves the reader with a lack of clear focus (well, at least until the final two or three chapters). There is very little significant personal development on the part of any of the major players in the narrative – Prynn Tenmei being the lone exception; George is interested in the underlying narrative, and in getting the story to its next significant turning point… one he reaches with a bang.
“Plagues of Night” is a bridge piece. It doesn’t really stand on its own, but then again, it doesn’t need to. While it was a mildly disappointing read in some regards, I am hesitant to take it on its own, given the fact that what amounts to part two, “Raise the Dawn” is less than a month away from bookshelves.

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