Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 2012: "The Persistence of Memory"

Whenever a Star Trek franchise celebrates a milestone, it’s time for something special, isn’t it? Well, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, veteran Trek scribe David Mack rolls out a trilogy for us, Cold Equations. Join us for our review Book I, “The Persistence of Memory”.
by David Mack
Mass Market Paperback – 385 pages
Pocket Books – November 2012 - $7.99

Maddox - keeper and protector of B-4.
All is not well when Geordi LaForge beams into Starfleet’s premier cybernetics laboratory in the wake of the theft of every Soong-type android the Federation possesses. The place is a disaster, the computer banks are empty, and Captain Bruce Maddox is left dumbfounded and deeply concerned. With the help of the crew of the starship Enterprise, it is hoped that the answers can be found… and quickly. More than technology is at stake – the memories of Data and the very existence of B-4 hang in the balance as a race against time begins to track down the stolen androids.

Soong's 'progeny' faces tough choices. 
What is now a sprint for the crew of the Enterprise is simply the final leg of a marathon began decades ago by Dr. Noonien Soong… whose 'progeny' has spent decades coming to grips with his predecessor’s lifetime of both achievement and stupidity. In the wake of the abduction of the androids, his own plans begin to unravel, and only a selfless revelation and a partnership with members of Picard’s crew will be able to prevent a galactic catastrophe at the hands of an unstoppable army.

One thing that is clear to anyone reading Star Trek these days is that you don’t call David Mack in to write a can story… he’s your go-to guy when you want something explosive, unpredictable,  and engaging. In spite of the fact that “The Persistence of Memory” contains several elements I generally find distasteful in Star Trek literature, I can say without hesitation that every single element of Mack’s story absolutely works.

If it weren't for bad luck...
The book is framed in three sections – the first, which uses the heist of B-4 and company as its main fixture; the second, which focuses on the evolution of Soong’s progeny, and a final section where covert operations and quick thinking come together to address so many plot lines (some stretching back to Star Trek: Nemesis) that it is hard to figure out a way to accurately summarize them all.

In addition to its connections with previous filmed Trek, the story is a direct sequel to Jeffrey Lang’s February 2002 novel “Immortal Coil”. Elements from and fallout from the previous tome pepper the pages of “The Persistence of Memory”, particularly in the second section.

Call it... inspiration.
To be sure, some readers will probably express some disappointment concerning this book, if for no other reason that the reasons I would normally dislike the story. But David Mack could probably take a steaming pile of cow dung and make it palatable; and the core story of “The Persistence of Memory” is far more appealing than that. While the action/adventure side of things definitely takes precedence throughout the story, there are finely woven threads tacked into the book, threads that serve to explore ethics, not just in the twenty-fourth century, but in our own time as well.

David Mack presents the reader with a story of redemption, renewal, and hope… as well as one of determination. Emotionally, there are sharp points, reminiscent of the masterful sixth season TNG two-parter “Chain of Command”; but at the same time, there are retrospective moments that seem to channel the spirit of “Data’s Day”. Each portion of the story feels like an episode in and of itself, and are paced to be enjoyed as such.

The end result is an outstanding story that needed to be told… and that will once again change the course of Star Trek literature – boldly in some ways, subtly in others – in a way that is absolutely satisfying. It is, at this point, the best Star Trek story I have read in 2012.

COMMENTS AND SPOILERS: It is the policy of this site that all comments must be spoiler-free until the first of the month following the official release of the book. Comments deemed spoilery will be removed by the moderator without warning.

Those seeking a discussion of "The Persistence of Memory" where spoilers may well abound may wish to visit the TrekBBS Trek Literature forum thread for the book, at this link.

1 comment:

  1. I liked it, pretty much. The retcon is handled pretty smoothly, and the novel slides nicely into the TV and novel canons.

    Some of the elements don't thrill me but I'll see where the next two books go.

    My only real pet peeve is that the book gets some Geordi stuff wrong....