Star Trek: The Next Generation: Greater than the Sum Mass Market Paperback – Jul 29 2008
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About the Author
Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with bachelor’s degrees in physics and history from the University of Cincinnati. He has written critically acclaimed Star Trek novels as well as shorter works including stories in anniversary anthologies. Beyond Star Trek, he has penned the novels X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. His original work includes the hard science fiction superhero novel Only Superhuman, as well as several novelettes in Analog and other science fiction magazines. More information and annotations can be found at home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett, and the author’s blog can be found at ChristopherLBennett.wordpress.com.
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So after all this nicely done continuity, the only thing I can figure is that the editor (editors?) decided at least one series needed to stand on its own and not bother with the overarching details, because then we got Resistance, J. M. Dillard's thoroughly underwhelming Borg story, and suddenly there were no references to the earlier novels. Or established continuity about the Borg, or events from the A Time To... series, or anything. It was jarring.
And from that book on this series has gotten it completely backwards. All the stuff that should stay the same from book to book - consistent characters, long-term relationships, that kind of thing - has been scattered and random, and all the stuff that should vary from book to book - variety in storyline, villains, that kind of thing - has stayed the same. For instance, in Resistance, we were introduced to a new helmsman, tactical officer, and counselor. The helmsman and tactical officer die. Then, in Q&A, the next book, we get a new tactical officer and (finally) an ops officer, to replace Data. That's all well and good until Before Dishonor, which manages to stunningly mischaracterize all three ongoing characters so far. And then we get this entry, which takes two of those characters and kicks them off the ship and introduces three MORE new characters, in the mean time explaining to us the story of at least one OTHER character that came on the ship only to leave a few weeks later. It's just... a complete failure of an ongoing series.
And, get this - Resistance and Before Dishonor were both about the Borg! And so is this one! So overlayed on top of this inability to keep track of characters or any traits thereof, we get the numbing repetitiveness of the same villain three times... oh, and, by the way, they're going to be the villain in the NEXT three books, too.
Now, I should add that Bennett is a fantastic writer, and given these circumstances, this book is probably the best it could've been. It's as different a story about the Borg as one could do in a standalone, and there's some attempt to turn the lack of consistent new characters into a story about family. It would almost have worked, had there not been so many problems with the TNG relaunch so far that the entire first third of Greater Than The Sum is just fixing plot holes and abruptly tying off character arcs.
It's funny, because the Star Trek books these days are spectacular, utterly fabulous, better than they've ever been. Between Vanguard, Titan, New Frontier, the Deep Space Nine Relaunch, The Lost Era, and all the others, there has never been a better time to be a fan of the Trek novels. And, despite the fact that it'll be Borg-centered again, the Destiny trilogy that starts in October - written by the biggest, baddest, most epic Trek author ever, David Mack - promises to be pretty fantastic.
But somehow, in all that awesome, the TNG relaunch has been all but a total failure. This is four books in a row now that, despite using the same subject matter over and over, seem bound and determined to re-relaunch the whole series with each novel, with a completely new supporting cast. I sincerely hope we're done with that now, and everything after this stays consistent, because this is really irritating.
If you're a completest, you probably already own the TNG-relaunch books; if you aren't, I think I'd pretty much recommend reading Death In Winter along with all the other books that take place right after Nemesis, and then skipping right to the Destiny trilogy. There's no possible way it could make less sense than actually trying to decipher logic in these four novels' mishmash of failed arcs and 'continuity'.
But Bennett turns out a good read in the latest relaunch novel. We see some final settling among the crew. After finishing the book, I really feel like the senior staff of the Enterprise has finally settled in and is starting to mesh together. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say we'll likely see this crew remain together.
Some surprising character growth occurs among the leading cast as well. I won't spoil anything, but Worf is showing more depth, as is Picard, Crusher and LaForge. They were starting to run the risk of turning Picard into a two-dimensional Borg fighter, but Bennett does a good job of seeing that the good captain remains as deep as he ever was. There are a couple of new additions, including a contact specialist, counselor and tactical officer, and even a familiar face from the SCE crew. These new additions seem to be the final piece of the puzzle missing from the command crew and were brought into the book and the crew smoothly.
I'm not sure yet if I like the new "evolved" Borg, but here we see them taking the next step toward all out war with the Federation. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the Borg, if the ending of this novel is any guide, but I believe the intensity of the relaunch is about to be stepped up a notch or two.
Greater Than the Sum is worth your time and really, to my mind, is beginning the smoothing out of the TNG relaunch. I've yet to put these novels on the level of the DS9 relaunch, but this one is an indication to me that they may soon reach that level of greatness.
Don't get me wrong, he does a marvelous job at TELLING a story. His writing is tight and he's technically competant. It's just that the stories he tells seem like they sprang from the imagination of a middle schooler. Reading this book, you get the feeling that he never grew or developed past the age of 12 or 13. Important conversations that occur seem like they are what a 12 year old envisions as a "grown-up" conversation. Character decisions & actions are rewarded with the kind of consequences that a 13 year old imagines happening.
Bennett created a character for this story that is a half-Vulcan. I hated this character more than I hate wet socks. I will spare you a 30 page diatribe about her and will suffice to say that this character was based upon a Dungeons & Dragons charater that he or one of his friends played when he was a child. I'm not kidding. He says as much in the book's acknowledgemnents section.
Finally, it took me a year and a half to read this book b/c I couldn't stomach more than a few pages of it at a time. But I'm comitted to reading the relaunch so I pushed through it. Fortunately I didn't pay for the book. So my advice to you is: DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! Go online & read a summary of it. The summary will tell you everything you need to know and you won't feel the need to write poison pen letters to the idoits who hired this hack to write this book.
For the record, I disapprove of the very idea of the STNG "re-launch". What made the actual series, and the novels closely based on it, so wonderful was the ensemble cast. Yes, that includes Data. Yes, I realize that Brent Spiner couldn't go on playing an ageless android forever. Yes, I realize he was killed off in the final movie. And, yes, I also realize that there's only so long you can have the whole ensemble standing around waiting for promotions that never come so that they stay with Picard on the Enterprise.
But trying to move the novels forward in time in anything like a consistent way smacks of soap opera, and leads to bad novels like this one, in which more pages are spent on exposition than on plot.
I'm not exaggerating! I counted out the pages in one particularly tedious passage and found that it went on for SIX PAGES. No dialogue, no action, no passage of time within the novel's universe. Just the narrator telling us what supposedly happened in the novel's past. And this passage was not early in the novel, nor was it by any means the only one. It happened again and again. If the only way to re-launch was to have novels like this, then the re-launch should have been scrapped.
After all, the best of the early Classic Trek novels simply interpolated events in the midst of the period covered by the TV series. There's plenty of time between episodes to do that with TNG, too, and for this ardent fan, it would be far more interesting and far more true to the characters than pretending the story goes on.
The storyline is seriously implausible--Crusher, at her age, wanting a child (and being capable of conception)? I can buy the marriage of Picard and Crusher, but beyond that? Not so much. I'm not sure how things work in the _Star Trek_ universe, but I'm pretty certain the laws of biology really haven't changed THAT much. Worse, Picard as a father? Please. The man is married to the _Enterprise_. A wife? Possibly. A child? Never. The request for the suspension of disbelief really was too much for me.
I can see this novel being given to some guy whose significant other has decided the time is right for a child--the whole book being all about the glories of being a parent and reproduction. But the way it was written really insulted my intelligence. Nothing is thinly veiled. The message is being smashed against my head with a sledgehammer--very un-Star Trek-like. _Star Trek_ is all about making a reader/watcher THINK. There was no thinking allowed for the reader.
The final nail on the coffin was that Picard was written totally out of character. Some (and I emphasize SOME) dialogue was classic Picard, but the idea of his "eyes still dart[ing] down to her womb" (350) was simply too much.
If you want a fast read and don't mind the gross affront to your intelligence, this is probably an o.k. book for that purpose. Otherwise, please, Bennett. Get a better editor.