Breakdowns (Star Trek: S.C.E) Mass Market Paperback – 2005
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Home Fires": Actually two stories in one as we see Corsi and Stevens visit her homestead and take a trip on a freighter. This story explores some of Corsi's history only mentioned in passing before. It's a quiet story that unexpectedly veers off into a flashback adventure set during the Cardassian conflict that explains Corsi's father's problem with Starfleet. Indeed, it does feel a bit unfair what Starfleet asked the Corsi family to do, but falls within the realm of the plausible that it gives the story some weight. The action was a nice surprise. One quibble though: Stevens goes to get food and her father tells Corsi to go find him after their heart-to-heart. We then go to the next chapter where she's going to his quarters, wanting to tell him about her talk with her father and Stevens is apparently just getting out of the shower. Now did she go find him in the kitchen and not tell him only to really want to tell him later? Just seemed like a snafu.
"Age of Unreason": Certainly the weakest book of the anthology and probably the weakest SCE story since "The Riddled Post". This story was just simply half-baked. We really get little to almost no background or development of the featured aliens, the astral projection technology (a fascinating concept given frustrating short shrift) and the confounding and sudden rivalry between Abramowitz and her "arch nemesis", an evil culturalist (allow me to chuckle) so over-the-top as to never be believable in the slightest. The backstory on some supposed murder he was involved with was also confusing, making me feel like I was missing something. There's an attempt at a theme about power corrupting that feels borrowed from Lord of the Rings, but the story fails to draw me in to really care. Faulwell plays second string and Solomon appears in name only, making me wonder why the writer even bothered to include him.
"Balance of Nature": Conversely, the best story of the anthology and probably the best Heather Jarman tale yet. It's far more focused and tight than her other works, which tended to bloat up on the worldbuilding and skimp on most everything else to really engage me. But here it's a very nice balance between worldbuilding and character work. Pattie has always been a favorite of mine, so it was great getting to see some serious development on her and her homeworld. I loved the idea of cities in the trees, especially around one massive tree, and it gave off an Endor-vibe that I enjoyed. It was nice getting a Federation world that's quite exotic.
"Breakdowns": A nice way to round out these post-"Wildfire" stories, "Breakdowns" is a short story about Gomez and Gold coming to terms with what happened. Some of the family conflict in the Gold family lacked an explanation and thus distanced me from it, but otherwise I enjoyed the characters and their interaction. In some ways, the story felt a bit odd in that I'd figure Gold and Gomez would have hashed this out weeks before right after Duffy died. This might have been interesting to have set this story back on the ship on the trip home. I did however really like the brief court martial scene.
Overall, a pretty solid and understated SCE anthology. I'm quite looking forward to the next one where things pick back up again...whenever it comes out.
The previous book in the SCE series was different in that the "good guys", although triumphant, took heavy casualties rather than coming through unscathed. This book explores the emotional ramifications for the survivors of such an experience. Two of the stories (the one dealing with Corsi & Stevens, and the one dealing with Gold and Gomez) do nothing else. The one dealing with P8 Blue and the one dealing with Abramowitz, Falwell, & Soloman have relativey normal Sci-Fi plots overlaying the exploration of the characters' emotional states. Both approaches work quite well, although if you read Star Trek for the action and the Sci-Fi plots, you may be disappointed with two of the stories.