Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2012: "Silent Weapons"

Three years after the disastrous final Borg invasion, a bitter cold war against the Typhon Pact has pushed Starfleet's resources to the breaking point. Now the rise of a danderous new technology threatens to destroy the Federation from within.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew answer a distress call from an old friend, only to become targets in a deadly game of deception. To protect a vital diplomatic mission, they must find a way to identify the spies hiding in their midst, before it's too late.
But Worf soon realizes the crew's every move has been predicted: Someone is using them as pawns. And the closer they get to exposing their enemy, the deeper they spiral into its trap...

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – COLD EQUATIONS

SILENT WEAPONS
by David Mack
Mass Market Paperback – 340 pages
Pocket Books – December 2012 - $7.99
LaForge receives a private distress call,
bringing the Enterprise to the heart of the action.
STORY SUMMARY

In spite of some lingering nasty side effects of the crew’s preceding mission, the Enterprise has gotten herself back into a routine, this time fiddling around with some of the science of metaphasic radiation – yep, the same stuff that they stumbled across back on the Baku planet in “Insurrection”. The experiment attracts the attention of the Typhon Pact, which is just fine, because the real fireworks are occurring somewhere else… specifically, on Orion, where one of the titans of interstellar banking is about to become the central focus of not one but two investigations that may well serve to forge elements of the future of local space. But, when Geordi LaForge receives a private distress call that could only come from one source, the crew walks right into the middle of a highly guarded secret – where the stakes are far higher than some stock dividends or casino winnings. The outcome of the secret game will have repercussions in both the Federation and Gorn halls of power, one that will ultimately end in quiet words whispered on the soil of Cestus III.
REVIEW


The relationship evolves.
As the reader enters David Mack’s new novel, “Silent Weapons”, two months have passed. As is typical of contemporary Trek literature, you can definitely tell that the universe has subtly altered. Worf’s most recent personal setback remains just a footstep behind him, Picard and Crusher’s relationship continues evolving along a new dynamic line, and the rest of the universe continues to spin inexorably around. And that is, of course, where the rub is – fortunately for us readers.

Never one to shy away from a complex story, Mack takes the reader into the heart of an operation that draws on some of the technological threads present in last month’s novel, “The Persistence of Memory”, while at the same time exposing a significantly deeper set of priorities on the part of certain members of the Typhon Pact. D├ętente has created some impressions of weakness among members of the Pact, and it didn’t take long for someone to recognize the chance to throw multiple monkey wrenches into the process. 

Within “Silent Weapons”, we are treated to significant glimpses of the internal political activities of the Federation, as well as those of several members of the Typhon Pact. Federation President Bacco and her retinue make an outstanding and engaging contribution to the story, and Mack makes great use of them as the interstellar chess game plays out at their proverbial front door. In what is, quite possibly, Bacco’s finest contribution to the lit-verse to date, she is forced to realize the high price that civil office can exact from a states-person while, at the same time, leaving open the doors to the ongoing process of rapprochement with at least some of the Federation’s antagonists.  
A welcome addition to the story.
Among the welcome guest appearances in “Silent Weapons”, Captain Morgan Bateson’s was both entertaining and purposeful. His scenes open with what feel like a loving Starfleet send-up of shore patrol scenes from movies such as “Mister Roberts” before events of galactic significance leave the liberty mess far in the rear view mirror. Equally impressive is the way that Lieutenant T’Ryssa Chen steps up in this month’s book. Chen bluffing her way into ordering a superior officer to withdraw in the middle of a potential battle situation was priceless, and Mack’s writing really allows Chen’s characterization to flower exponentially. In taking a gutsy tack while serious Federation interests are at stake, Chen probably earned herself a reprimand and, one could hope, a promotion… which hopefully means she’ll get some more extensive face time in future stories.

Orion culture gets some further exposition.
A deeper examination of general Orion culture and ethic is present in “Silent Weapons” than we have truly been exposed to previously. Mack uses his keyboard to more fully develop Orion society in a way that is able to comment obliquely (and, at times, directly) on contemporary first-world society, both as it is today, and as it could be if compassion and perspective are not present in the ongoing evolution of industrialized society. Star Trek has always provided a pulpit of sorts for social commentary, and Mack seamlessly works his thoughts into the story, ensuring that they serve to actually further the story while, at the same time, they comment on twenty-first century reality.

“Silent Weapons” is another outstanding story, expertly crafted, and powerfully presented. Mack’s pitched two winners in a row… and, in just a few short weeks, he’ll go for the series sweep with “The Body Electric”. Something tells me that it just may be the time to shine up an MVP trophy.

This review originally ran at TrekMovie.com on Friday, December 7, 2012.

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