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Star Trek: TNG: Greater than the Sum, by Christopher L. Bennett Book Review | SFReader.com
Star Trek: TNG: Greater than the Sum, by Christopher L. Bennett Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2008 Review Posted: 1/21/2009 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 5 out of 10
Star Trek: TNG: Greater than the Sum, by Christopher L. Bennett
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
The "re-launch" of the Star Trek: TNG series of Star Trek books has been fairly substandard so far, with only one book rising above the mediocrity (or at least the irritation) of the rest of the books. Christopher L. Bennett has been tasked with clearing all of that up (of course, the editors would probably disagree with that characterization) and he does a reasonably good job in Greater Than the Sum, the next adventure of the intrepid Enterprise crew. Bennett's got a lot on his plate as he has to continue the Borg storyline, rescue (or at least resolve) the characters whose personalities Peter David manhandled in Before Dishonor. Thankfully, Bennett comes through with flying colors, also writing a Borg book that can be read by those who are sick and tired of the Borg.
The Earth is safe, but the Einstein, the ship assimilated by the new version of the Borg, has escaped for parts unknown. The starship U.S.S. Rhea stumbles upon it and is attacked while an away team is exploring the planet below (these Borg are aggressive, not reactive like normal Borg). The landing party is about to be assimilated like its crew above when the aliens who inhabit this carbon-based planet whisk Lieutenant T'Ryssa Chen, a half-Vulcan, a vast distance back to the Federation itself. Her story prompts Starfleet to send Captain Picard and the Enterprise out beyond explored space to destroy the Borg ship before it can report back to the Collective, by any means he feels are necessary.
Given the horrible characterization of the new crewmembers in Before Dishonor, Bennett had a lot to fix in Greater Than the Sum. He not only deals with the repercussions of the mutiny, but does so in a thoroughly logical manner, which greatly impressed me. Not only did he deal with them, allowing the only crewmember for whom it made sense to stay on board do so, but he introduces some wonderful other characters as well. The new security chief, Lt. Jasminder Choudhury, is a breath of fresh air in security, though I did find certain scenes with her rather forced. Bennett has brought over another character from the S.C.E. series, as well as Lt. Chen. Of the three, only Chen doesn't fit in as well as the others. I know that was the purpose of the way Bennett wrote her, but I found her increasingly irritating, though she did start to grow on me after a while.
Bennett's skills have always been in the creation and exploration of new life forms, based in real science even if the specifics are a bit out there (like most SF writers, probably). In exploring the life forms of the carbon-planets that the Rhea has discovered, Bennett has come up with an interesting concept and ran with it. These beings are standing between the Borg and the Enterprise, so Bennett is able to have the crew concentrate on the first-contact aspect of the story even as the Borg are hanging in the background, rearing their ugly heads again and again. The Borg are definitely important to the plot, and Greater Than the Sum is definitely a bridge between Before Dishonor and the upcoming "Destiny" trilogy in regards to the Borg, but those who are tired of the Borg can still enjoy this novel.
That all being said, there are a few problems, some of them probably unavoidable. Being a bridge novel, Bennett has to spend a lot of time filling in the reader on the backstory. I hate pointless continuity, but in this case Bennett is trying to make sure readers who start with this book can understand what's been going on in the last three books. It's a tall order, and the infodumps Bennett uses to do so are incredibly tedious for those who have read all the previous books. It doesn't help that Bennett than uses many concepts that were introduced in the Voygaer series, thus requiring him to fill in the details on that as well. Once the book gets going, it's very interesting; it just takes a while to accelerate.
The other problem with the book is that some of the dramatic scenes between Crusher and Picard (now married!) lack some of that emotional punch, or at least they failed to affect me. Crusher desperately wants a child, and Picard does too, but Crusher doesn't buy Picard's reasons for delaying. A couple of the scenes where they have a breakthrough are very dramatic in their writing, but lacked impact. It felt like "discussion, emotional breakdown, resolution, end of scene." The same can be said for the major Picard/Guinan scene near the end of the novel.
Even that only brings Greater Than the Sum down from an excellent novel to a very good one. Those who get irritated at too much hard science description may find themselves bored at times, but Bennett generally tones this down to a mild roar and I didn't mind it at all. His characterization of the regulars is also top notch (with the exception of the emotional scenes mentioned above) and I loved the new characters too. These are people I can see continuing on in the series, unlike those walking pod people introduced before. I will be greatly upset if David Mack kills any of them off in the next trilogy.
Greater Than the Sum is a definitely step upward for the post-Nemesis TNG stories, one that was greatly needed. It's not perfect, but it's very good, and will keep you reading into the night.
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