Posts Tagged With: Robert Simpson

Centauri Dawn, by Michael Ely and Robert Simpson

centdawnA Spartan would rather lose an ankle than lose a fight?
I didn’t lose either, Jahn.  I didn’t yield; you stopped.  The Spartans have an incredible tolerance for pain, and they don’t surrender.  If you had broken my foot and stood up to leave, I would have kept on fighting.
-Rankojin of the Peacekeepers, giving Jahn Lal some insight on Spartan thinking

Well, it looks like Earth finally did it.  Let me rephrase that:  Mankind finally did it-it managed to pretty much kill itself.  The year is 2100, and the last remnants of humanity are arriving at the planet Chiron, which is in the Alpha Centauri system.  Unfortunately, the landing is a little rough, as a mutiny on the ship Unity forces various landing pods to eject from the ship without plan or purpose.  Not a sterling beginning to mankind’s attempt to rebuild itself.  It is, however, the beginning of this book, Centauri Dawn.  This is book one of a series (don’t know how many there will be, though)-so this gets the dubious honor of being the first book that I’ve reviewed that is just beginning.

This book takes place across several years, centering mostly on the doings of one of the several factions of survivors, the Peacekeepers, although there is a strong emphasis on the Spartans as well; and yes, you can almost guess the general thrust of the relations between these two factions.  The leader of the Peacekeepers, Pravin Lal, is desperately dedicated to trying to keep the Unity survivors in a building frame of mind; cooperation, rather than coercion.  Corazon Santiago, on the other hand, is the ultimate survivalist, seemingly embodying the worst parts of that subculture, where the weak are allowed to die (unless they’re killed flat out, naturally) and the strong take what they want.  There are other factions, but they are only briefly touched upon.  This story really belongs to these two factions.

The characters are interesting enough.  Pravin is a idealist, even though his fellows haven’t really given him reason to be-his wife was virtually killed in the mutiny-but perhaps too much so.  His son Jahn is probably as normal as a guy can get growing up on another planet.  Corazon doesn’t come off too fanatical…in fact, she shows glimmers of good sense occasionally.  Her advisors, such as a fellow named Diego, don’t have nearly as much good sense, and are apparently spoiling for a fight.  Corazon’s son, Victor, lives off of borrowed time, as many within the Spartan faction don’t think he’s tough enough for their philosophy.

Okay.  That’s the synopsis.  Here’s my opinion:  I wasn’t all that impressed.

It seemed to me that roughly half the book was a war between the two factions; I suppose I really shouldn’t have been surprised:  after all, this book is based on the computer game, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, and of course, it has a strong emphasis on battle.  On the other hand, given the events in this book and the implications of the future books, it amazes me how anyone capable of building a ship and sending it to Alpha Centauri could crew it with a bunch of mental defectives.  I mean, with the survivalist Spartans, and a faction called the Believers (which may or may not be acting with their boss’s awareness), and the hints of another one with less than honorable intentions-how could anyone think throwing all these people together would be a good idea?  The wonder isn’t that they mutinied-it’s that they did so at the end of the journey instead of in the middle or earlier!

It occurs to me that I wasn’t all that impressed with the other computer game-related book I’ve reviewed, Planescape:  Torment.  Perhaps I should take this as a hint that what might make good games don’t automatically make good novels.  I think when I see the next book on the shelves, I think I’ll leave it there. Alpha Centauri:  Centauri Dawn may appeal to the hardcore fans of the computer game, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Categories: Alpha Centauri | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lesser Evil, by Robert Simpson

mgamma4I just wanted to thank you for your vote of confidence in me.  But I’m confused about what you said regarding my Starfleet status.  My commission was always supposed to be temporary.  I resigned it when I returned from Cardassia after the war.
Did you?  We must have lost the paperwork.
-Colonel (Commander?) Kira Nerys of DS9 and Admiral L. J. Akaar of Starfleet

Lesser Evil is the grand finale of the Mission Gamma books.  But is it truly grand?

On Bajor, things have gone to hell.  A major figure has just been assassinated, and it looks like someone in the Federation’s to blame.  At a time when Bajor was dead certain to be joining the United Federation of Planets, a bold move has derailed the process.  Needless to say, Kira Nerys is not happy with seeing the bright future that was opening up near the end of the last book go down the toilet.  For that matter, the Federation ambassadors aren’t too thrilled by it, either-and when a cloaking signature is found heading away from the station is detected, a Starfleet ship is dispatched to pursue, with a Bajoran officer (hm, wonder who) tagging along to help.  Ro Laren, on the other hand, isn’t at all certain that all is at it seems; and as chief of station security, she takes it very personally….

In the meantime, the mission in the Gamma Quadrant is reaching conclusion.  The previous books only have touched upon some of the highlights, as chapter one shows that they’ve made a bunch of new friends, some new enemies, and essentially done a pretty good job on fulfilling Starfleet’s charter to explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and new civilizations.  But the Defiant stumbles upon something that isn’t at all new, and potentially very, very dangerous-and for Commander Elias Vaughn, something very personal-something that overrides his better judgment, but something he can not ignore.

And in a bit of a subplot, Joseph Sisko, father of that famous captain, is recovering physically from a collapse, but emotionally he’s a wreck, dealing with not only the loss of his son, but possibly his grandson as well.  We get to meet Ben Sisko’s sister (I didn’t know he had a sister; I guess I don’t qualify as being a serious Trekkie, I guess!), who seems to have a good head on her shoulders, but can’t figure out what to do about her father.  Luckily, her sister-in-law has a desperate idea that might help.

Of the four Mission Gamma books, this one certainly had the smallest page count; it also was the least impressive.  If this were an episode on television, I’d say this was a filler episode.  The encounter in the Gamma Quadrant seems contrived (even given the way the Orbs affected Vaughn, this stretches coincidence way too far); while I don’t have a problem with certain aspects of it (and I hate having to tip-toe around it, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise), the personal aspect makes little sense to me.  I also have a problem with the way it all turns out in the end.  This isn’t to say that there weren’t good points to it-because it does fill in some gaps in Vaughn’s background, which is good; and I did like the reasoning behind the reasons why the Defiant detected the signal leading to this encounter (although I refer to the personal reasons, not the coincidental nature of it).

On the Alpha Quadrant front; well, I didn’t see this one coming.  My predictions foresaw a certain shadowy organization (although I won’t rule out their involvement completely-they can make a guy paranoid!) behind all this.  However, the explanations create a nice tie between DS9 and the Next Generation-and explain a bit on just what was going on with Shakaar Edon before it all hit the fan in the last book.  Ro gets a chance to show off a bit, with a little help of the local Jem’Hadar soldier (nice to see him being useful again instead of scaring the locals).  I was also happy to see Kira getting a chance to show off a bit too, joining the Starfleet pursuit-especially when certain truths become known, which are setting things up for a very different kind of conflict that won’t necessarily be fought in space.  I’m also a bit cheered to see a little bit of the maverick in Admiral Akaar; “lost the paperwork”, indeed!

While Lesser Evil itself didn’t leave me with the same feeling as the rest of the series had, it did manage to put together a passable story (well, at least in the Alpha Quadrant); and we get to see the return of a number of characters-including the most tortured man in Starfleet, the slimiest character in the Dominion, and the-well, heck, I’ll leave the last couple as a surprise (and no fair peeking at the inside back cover).  It does advance the main storyline of Deep Space Nine, but it didn’t have the same “meat” to it as the other books had.

In closing, the Mission Gamma series seems to be pretty good; while it often seemed that the goings-on at Bajor overshadowed the Defiant mission, it did manage to blend the continuing storyline that fans of DS9 enjoy with the episodic stories that characterized the other Star Trek series.  We got insight on the most mysterious of the current cast, closure on some storylines, movement on the strange relationship between Quark and Ro, and a peek at the potential future for Bajor and the Federation.  All in all, I’d say Mission Gamma was a very respectable series.

So far, the Deep Space Nine relaunch continues to gather steam!

Categories: Deep Space Nine, Mission Gamma, Star Trek | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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