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 such critically acclaimed Star Trek novels as Ex Machina, The Buried Age, the Titan novels Orion’s Hounds and Over a Torrent Sea, the two Department of Temporal Investigations novels Watching the Clock and Forgotten History, and the Enterprise novels Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, Tower of Babel, Uncertain Logic, and Live By the Code, as well as shorter works including stories in the anniversary anthologies Constellations, The Sky’s the Limit, Prophecy and Change, and Distant Shores. 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.
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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.
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'.
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.
And, the Borg have access to transwarp conduits, which, as stated in star trek voyager episode ' hope and fear ' works similar and travels around the same speed as quantum slipstream. Also, the Borg would never take control of a federation vessel. They would assimilate it. That aside, it was a good story, just inaccurate.
This book is hard to review because it sucked but at the same time its necessary. Why did it suck? Well, I'm sorry but I like my Vulcans to be vulcans Sarek, Tuvok, Spock those are my boys and I love it!! So to have this Vulcan who doesn't act like a vulcan is a little jarring. Plus to put it mildly the book was a little boring in parts. To have a main character be a goof off and a silly goof off makes me wonder exactly who in "star fleet land" is vetting these applicants. I mean was she related to a high ranking admiral? Then, Picard to me was a tad bit whinny. I'm all for putting emotions and exploring the character but he's the captain of the flagship of the fleet is he really that petty?? (HMMMM to answer my own question he does get a little crazy when it comes to the borg). I actually like the new security chief she's pretty cool, but again she's a crier. Where's Worf when you need him (OH right he's first officer - See the A Time To series) I miss Data!! When is Geordi going to move out of engineering?? Everyone else is moving up why is he standing still??? (okay don't mean to use this to vent back to the book)
Why do I think this book is necessary? Well I just ordered the Destiny trilogy and from the reviews (and my friends) you would need to know whats going on in the Borgs head and why Picard is even more intense. (SPOILER ALERT - I should say why the Picard's are even more intense)
So all in all I would say if you're an avid trek fan and you can follow "trek world" bypass this book unless you just have to read every story (like me)!!