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Star Trek Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship

Pocket Books continues to weave a tight continuity between their Star Trek novels, particularly those set in the post-Nemesis time-frame.  For the past year or so, all of these new 24th century novels have fallen under the “Typhon Pact” banner, named for the new alliance of bad-guys that threatens the Federation.  It’s neat to see a new, long-term, serious threat to our heroes being developed, and I’ve really enjoyed how liberally all of the Typhon Pact books have mixed characters from the various Star Trek series.  After David R. George III’s absolutely spectacular DS9-focused duology Plagues of Night and Seize the Dawn (click here for my review), I was eager to read the next installment in this continuing Star Trek saga.

In Una McCormack’s new novel Brinkmanship, the Typhon Pact’s Tzenkethi Coalition (who were so memorably developed in the afore-mentioned David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novel Rough Beasts of Empire click here for my review of that book) again step into center stage.  When they form an alliance with the (created-for-the-novel) Venette Convention to lease bases near the borders of the Federation, the Cardassians, and the Ferengi (newly allied as a result of the end of Seize the Dawn), the three allied nations immediately suspect that the Tzenkethi plan to militarize the bases to use against them.  So they launch a diplomatic initiative to convince the Venette to ally themselves with the Federation and its allies, rather than with the Typhon Pact.  When that fails, and the Tzenkethi send ships to deliver supplies (supplies that might be weapons) to their newly-leased starbases, the Federation demands the ships be halted before they can arrive at the bases, or there will be war.

It didn’t take me long to realize that Brinkmanship was Una McCormick’s Star Trek version of Thirteen Days, the famous story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It’s a clever parallel, and the idea of a cold-war story set in the Star Trek universe has a lot of potency.  (Certainly several classic Original Series adventures had strong Cold War parallels — I’m thinking of “Balance of Terror” in particular — and of course the final adventure of Kirk & co. in Star Trek VI was all about the post-Cold War world.)  I did feel that Ms. McCormack hit that nail a little more on the head than she needed to, as a slightly subtler approach might have worked better in my mind.  (When one character declares that the Tzenkethi must “turn those ships around!” I thought that was a bit too on-the-nose.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Ms. McCormack’s previous Star Trek novels, Hollow Men and the terrific Cardassian story The Never-Ending Sacrifice (click here for my review).  I didn’t find Brinkmanship to be nearly at the level of The Never-Ending Sacrifice, and it is also a bit of a come-down from David R. George III’s magnificent Plagues of Night/Seize the Dawn duology, but Brinkmanship is nevertheless a strong novel and an entertaining new installment of the Typhon Pact series.  (And being that Ms. McCormack’s previous novels have been very focused on the Cardassians, I was not at all surprised — though quite pleased, nonetheless — that a familiar plain, simple tailor made an appearance towards the end of the novel.)

It’s particularly nice to see Captain Picard and the Enterprise E return to the forefront of these 24th century-set stories, and I thought Ms. McCormack used Dr. Crusher particularly well.  (It is rare to see a Trek story in which Crusher has a meaty role, so kudos to Ms. McCormack for this.)  Picard came off as pretty useless in Dayton Ward’s Typhon Pact novel Paths of Disharmony (click here for my review), so it’s nice to see Picard back to his usual competent self — on the bridge of the Enterprise and sorting out complicated diplomatic messes.  There’s one particularly great moment in which Picard calmly, using a clever turn of phrase, saves a heading-off-the-rails diplomatic meeting.  It might be my favorite scene in the book!

The other half of the story-line centers on Captain Dax and the Aventine. Turns out one of Dax’s newly-assigned officers is an old Academy friend who has a complicated history with the Tzenkethi.  The Aventine half of the story is a little less compelling to me than the Enterprise half, mostly because I wasn’t as invested in Dax or her new-for-the-novel old Academy friend who finds himself at the center of some interstellar intrigue and espionage.  That aspect of the story was perfectly good, just not particularly memorable.  I’m not desperate to see Peter Alden again any time soon.

I didn’t altogether buy the set-up of Brinkmanship. The idea is that the Tzenkethi are taking control of Venette bases on the borders of the Federation, the Cardassians, AND the Ferengi.  Don’t those three powers control HUGE areas of space?  How could this never-before-heard-of species, the Venette (a group so unimportant that, in the novel’s backstory, we learn that they had previously applied for Federation membership but had been forgotten in what amounted to a bureaucratic oversight) control a territory so wide that it abuts all THREE major powers?  That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I also can’t say I was hugely pleased by the resolution, in which we learn that one character was behaving out of sorts as part of an elaborate scheme to undercut their enemies.  That seems to me to be a particularly TV-fake scenario, of the sort of that it’s hard to imagine any politician/diplomat actually doing.  It felt like a too-easy ending to me, and I would have preferred the story stay more closely in the realm of a more real-world, no-easy-solutions scenario.

But, despite some concerns with the novel’s set-up and conclusion, I still really liked the book!  Ms. McCormack has a solid command of these characters, and she wove a compelling story-line for Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Dax.  I like the Cold War-esque setting and tone of the story, and I enjoyed this small step forward in the larger Typhon Pact storyline.  I am eager for the next installment.

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken TruthTroublesome MindsCast No Shadow

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending Sacrifice, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn

Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi Maru, The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesBook 5: Under a Torrent SeaBook 6: Synthesis

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of DisharmonyPlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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