Monday, October 31, 2011

The Struggle Within

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett
Published October 2011
Read: October 27th, 2011

Previous book (Typhon Pact): Paths of Disharmony
Next book (Typhon Pact): Plagues of Night

Spoilers ahead for The Struggle Within and other novels from the post-Nemesis TrekLit relaunch!

From the "back cover":
An original e-novella in the acclaimed Typhon Pact series!
The Enterprise-E is on a diplomatic mission to the Talarian Republic, the last holdout in the Federation's efforts to expand the Khitomer Accords in response to the emergence of the Typhon Pact.  In the wake of Andor's recent succession, the Federation is more concerned than ever with strengthening its alliances.  The Talarians have been a tenuous potential partner at best, given the history of conflict and mistrust between them and the Federation.  But the negotiations between Picard and the Talarians are disrupted by a growing public protest of those who are demanding greater rights -- and before long, it becomes clear that the dissidents are not limiting themselves to nonviolent means ...

About the Novel:

The Struggle Within is a very short "e-novella," written by Christopher L. Bennett (writer of one of my favorite novels from the past year, Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock).  It follows two stories.  In the first, the Enterprise is assigned to negotiate with the Talarians 
(first featured in the Next Generation episode "Suddenly Human") in an effort to ally them with the Federation as a counter to the formation of the Typhon Pact, the alliance between the Romulan Star Empire, the Gorn Hegemony, the Breen Confederacy, the Tholian Assembly, the Tzenkethi Coalition, and the Holy Order of the Kinshaya.  Formed following the events of the Star Trek: Destiny series of books, the Typhon Pact has risen as a major power, challenging the Federation in a series of Cold War-style confrontations.  During the negotiations, a number of women disrupt the meeting between Picard and the Talarian government.  It turns out that the women of Talar are unhappy with their treatment by the government, and in a series of ever-escalating demonstrations and attacks, they mean to get their point across.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Jasminder Choudhury and Lieutenant T'Ryssa Chen travel undercover to a world within the borders of the Holy Order of the Kinshaya.  Disguised as Romulan members of Spock's unification movement, Choudhury and Chen are there to gather intelligence on this little-known member of the Typhon Pact.  While there, they observe peaceful protests against the theocratic Kinshaya government.  However, the reaction to these protests takes a much deadlier turn than those on Talar, and the two Starfleet officers find themselves caught in the middle of it.

My Thoughts:

As a fan of Christopher L. Bennett's writing, I really enjoyed The Struggle Within.  However, I found that this story might not have been the best fit for the e-book format.  There is a lot happening, crammed into too few pages.  It really is a credit to Mr. Bennett's writing that, throughout the novella, I kept wanting more.  I would have enjoyed seeing this story expanded to the length of a novel.  As it stands, it was very interesting and filled in a bit of information about one of the pact members whom we didn't know much about, but I certainly could have used more.

The positives:  I like the fact that we learn more about the Kinshaya, a race whose membership in the Typhon Pact was ignored for the most part in the previous
Typhon Pact series of novels.  Even though it was very short, it was nice to get a supplemental entry to the series.  Also, I really enjoy the character of T'Ryssa Chen, and it was great to see her front and center in this outing.  I finally feel like I'm getting to know Choudhury a little better too, and she is starting to feel a little more fleshed-out now.  Another positive is the inclusion of a large role for Beverly Crusher, who often seems to get short-shrift these days.

The negatives:  As mentioned, the short format of the story didn't allow for as much build-up and payoff as I would have liked.  The scenes in Chen and Choudhury's story, for example, felt as though they only took a couple of days, as opposed to the few weeks they were supposed to represent.  Also, and this is a very minor quibble, I would have liked to see a representation of either Choudhury or Chen on the cover, as opposed to Worf who didn't play much of a pivotal role in the story.

Final Thoughts:

High quality of writing means that I wish the story were longer and more drawn-out.  Hardly a negative appraisal, I should think!  As it stands, things wrap up a little too quickly.

Final rating: 7.5/10.

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

My next read:

Look for a review of Vanguard: Declassified coming soon.  I am also reading the latest Star Trek: Enterprise novel: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm by Michael A. Martin.  Reviews coming soon!

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