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Star Trek Titan: Fallen Gods

Star Trek: Titan has been a continuing series of novels, for the past several years, chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker, following the events of the final Next Gen movie, Nemesis, and Riker’s finally accepting a captaincy of his own.  I have very much enjoyed the books in the series, not only for their development of the characters of Riker and Troi but also for their focus on telling stories focused on adventure and exploration, and the development of new alien races and scientific concepts.  The series has also been a big part of most of the major multi-novel stories of the past few years, from the Borg invasion of David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy (click here for my review) to the recent “Typhon Pact” story-lines.  I have loved the way that the last several years’ worth of Trek novels have woven together into an incredible tapestry, freed from having to maintain the status quo of the TV shows or movies, and the Titan series has been a huge part of that.

The Titan book series was begun by Michael A. Martin, along with co-writer Andy Mangels, and after several years and several books written by other authors, I was excited for Michael A. Martin to return to the series with the latest novel, Fallen Gods.  But I will also admit to a little trepidation.  Together, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have written some of my very favorite Trek novels, including that first Titan novel, Taking Wing (click here for my review) and their magnificent Captain Sulu epic Excelsior: Forged in Fire (click here for my review), a story that shed light on the backstory of Dax and Kor, Kang, and Koloth (the three great Klingons from the Original Series whose connection to Dax was the focus of the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”).  Their recent Enterprise series of novels, chronicling the post-finale adventures of Jonathan Archer & his crew, and finally telling the story of the Romulan War (an often-hinted-at piece of Star Trek back-story) started off strong but ultimately fizzled out and ended up as a big disappointment to me.  Possibly this is because mid-series their writing partnership seems to have broken up.  Mr. Martin finished the Romulan War series by himself, and I did not feel the same magic was there.

To my relief, Fallen Gods is far superior to those “Romulan War” novels.  It’s a very solid book, and a compelling new Titan adventure.  I will say, though, that the first half is far stronger than the second half, and there was a lot that frustrated me in that second half.  I’ll get into more details about that shortly.

Fallen Gods picks up immediately on many of the plot threads from the last Titan novel, Seize the Fire (click here for my review), which was the Titan book in the “Typhon Pact” crossover series.  That novel was also written by Michael A. Martin, so it’s not a big surprise that Mr. Martin would pick up on those story-threads.  The cybernetic life-form SecondGenWhite-Blue has been damaged, perhaps fatally, and Tuvok is haunted by the remnants of terraforming technology that has been stuck in his head after a mind-meld with the powerful Brahma-Shiva device.  The Titan was forced to destroy that eco-sculptor device, but the terraforming technology has the power to restore the many Federation worlds devastated by the Borg invasion.  Sadly, Tuvok is all too aware that the technology could also be used as a deadly weapon, like the Genesis Device from a century before (yay Star Trek II!), so he decides to keep this information to himself, a decision that weighs heavily on his conscience.  Meanwhile, the Federation is still rocked by the secession of founding planet Andor, as chronicled in the “Typhon Pact” novel Paths of Disharmony (click here for my review).  The Titan has seven Andorian officers on-board, but Starfleet, seeing the Andorians in its midst as a potential security threat, has ordered them all to be re-assigned to unimportant, planet-based positions.  However, the Andorians on-board Titan do not wish to leave the ship, and Riker is angered by the spectre of the Federation resorting to fear-based racial politics in the assignment of his officers.  With a Federation starship, the U.S.S. Capitoline, en route to the Titan to collect their Andorian officers, will Riker obey his orders?

In the midst of all of this, as is the model for Titan stories, the crew is also faced with a perilous new mission of discovery in an uncharted region of space.  The Titan is investigating the Velar pulsar, a violent remnant of a supernova explosion.  It’s an important subject for scientific study, but more importantly the Titan discovers that a nearby life-supporting planet is only days away from having all life on the planet snuffed out by the Pulsar’s increasingly deadly emissions of radiation.  The inhabitants of the planet, Ta’ith, do not appear to have warp capability, so not only are the unable of saving themselves by evacuating the planet, but the Prime Directive forbids Riker from making contact with them or in any way interfering their development.  Does that mean he should leave them to die?  His moral conundrum is complicated by evidence that Titan’s own warp field has exacerbated the Pulsar’s emissions.  In other words, Titan’s presence in the system might be the reason why the planet’s inhabitants are about to die.

All of the main stories in this book are wonderfully juicy moral dilemmas and, like the very best Star Trek stories, they are wrapped up in a wonderful sci-fi story.  I love Mr. Martin’s development of the world of Ta’ith and it’s inhabitants — they are very original creations that I enjoyed learning more about as the novel progressed.  I loved the continuity with previous novels, in particular the development with the Andorians.  It’s nice to see real fallout from Andor’s secession from the Federation being explored in these subsequent novels.  And I loved seeing our heroes, particularly Riker, being faced with a really tough situation without any easy answers.  That’s a compelling emotional hook for the novel.

Unfortunately, things take a turn about half-way through the book, when another starship arrives in the system — but it’s not the Capitoline, it’s an Andorian warship, demanding that Riker surrender the Andorians on his crew so they can be returned to Andor.  From the moment this Andorian ship arrives, it is very clear that these are villains, with some sort of secret evil plot.  I think it’s a shame that the story that had been so wonderfully filled with shades of grey should then turn into such a simplistic here-come-the-bad-guys development.  Not only that, but in the book’s second half, this Andorian warship and their machinations becomes the book’s main focus, pushing aside the other story-lines that I had found far more interesting.  For instance, I thought we were going to have a complex confrontation of ethics and morals when the Capitoline arrived to re-assign Riker’s Andorian crew-members, but instead we get the far simpler, more superficial story of Riker fighting to prevent the Andorian bad-guys from taking them by force.  When we finally return to the Capitoline dilemma at the very end of the book, the situation gets resolved in just a few pages.  I like Riker’s solution, but it comes so suddenly that it felt to me like a real let-down, a way-too-easy-victory, after all of the build-up we’d gotten in the book’s first half.

I was also bummed that, in the second half, we lost our focus on what was happening on Ta’ith.  For the first half of the book, every few chapters we would leave the Titan crew to follow several characters on Ta’ith, in particular Eid’dyl, a faction leader trying to preserve the archaeological and technological remnants of their ancestors from long ago.  But in the second half of the book, we seem to lose track of Eid’dyl.  When she finally re-enters the story towards the end, she is quickly written out.  Even more disappointingly, while to that point when we saw her, we had been following the story from her point of view, that final chapter in which she appears is told from the point of view of a different character.  That was a let-down to me.  We’d spent a lot of time with Eid’dyl in the beginning, so I wanted to close that loop and be with her character at the end of the story.

In some ways it is hard to judge Fallen Gods as a complete novel, because the book leaves so many story-lines hanging that it feels like only half a story.  I assume that Mr. Martin will soon be writing a follow-up.  I certainly hope so, because while I love continuity between these Star Trek books, I was frustrated to get to the end of the book with so many of the stories unresolved.  There were two big matzah balls left dangling that left me particularly annoyed.  First, at the very beginning of the book, after Riker gets his orders that all of his Andorian crew-members are being re-assigned against their will, we cut to the Starfleet admiral’s point of view.  She hints to another Admiral, Akaar (a familiar character in these recent Trek novels with a connection to the Original Series), that there is more going on than we know, saying that she doesn’t like keeping Riker in the dark as to the big picture, and that when things come to a head he will be in the middle of it.  But we never learn anything more about that nor ever return to the Admirals again.  Second, and more importantly, is the transporter-related scheme of the Andorian warship captain.  I figured out what he was up to right away, and I wasn’t happy about it.  My heart sunk as I got towards the end of the book and realized I was right.  I am not a big fan of the Next Gen episode “Second Chances,” and I prefer to ignore what happened in that episode.  (I am being vague so as not to totally spoil everything, but Trek fans likely know what I am talking about, and anyone who doesn’t can just google that episode title.)  Having that be the crux of this book’s plot was just annoying to me.  Plus, the device of having one of the Enterprise’s transporter technicians just happen to recall the event of that episode — which took place almost two decades before the events of this novel — just so the author could recap the events for any reader not up to speed, was awkward in the extreme.  So I was not excited about this particular plot development, and then to discover that everything was left hanging at the end — with the Andorian captain apparently victorious, and the fate of Riker’s Andorian crew-members left uncertain — was a big disappointment to me.  I guess whether or not these stories are picked up by future novels, and how I feel about their resolutions, will eventually color my satisfaction with this book.

I liked Fallen Gods, I did.  Despite my frustrations with the Andorian transporter shenanigans in the books second half — and those frustrations are myriad — I still enjoyed the book over-all, and felt it was a solid installment in this continuing series.  I just wish the book had more resolution.  I hope these stories are continued in the next Titan book, and not left in limbo for years.  We’ll see!

My next Trek book will be the second installment in the new big crossover, “The Fall.”  I loved the first book in the series, Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), so I am excited to read book two: The Crimson Shadow.  Cardassian-loving author Una McCormack has again taken her book title from the fictional name of a Cardassian story once mentioned on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so that makes this DS9-loving fan very happy.  Hope the book is as good as the title.  I’ll be back here soon to tell you all about it!

 

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric

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

Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures

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 DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and Dust

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

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

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)

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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