Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fatal Error

Star Trek: S.C.E. #2
Fatal Error by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Published September 2000
Read January 23rd 2013

Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #1: The Belly of the Beast
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #3: Hard Crash

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.

Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover.

Spoilers ahead for Fatal Error and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
For centuries, the planet Eerlik has had a thriving civilization, completely run, maintained, and administered by a giant sentient computer. But now that computer is breaking down and the desperate inhabitants are helpless to repair the damage. Only the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci, accompanied by Geordi LaForge, can hope to fix the massive computer before the Eerlikkan society collapses entirely. Their mission grows more dangerous, however, when they discover evidence of sabotage -- and learn firsthand that hostile forces will do whatever it takes to stop Gold and his crew from saving the imperiled planet!

My thoughts:

In Fatal Error, the second novella in the S.C.E. series, Commander Gomez and her team must attempt to repair a sentient planetary computer system named Ganitriul while at the same time dealing with insurgents bent on overthrowing said computer and the government of the planet Eerlik. While the plot is fascinating and the crisis is compelling, where Fatal Error truly shines is in its treatment of the characters.

A Bynar pair, much like 110 and 111.
I'm really starting to enjoy the characters of S.C.E.. A few of them were "minor league" players on other shows (Gomez and Duffy on TNG, and Stevens and Lense on DS9) with a few new faces thrown into the mix. In Fatal Error, I was especially interested in the outcome of the horrible loss that 110 experienced in the previous story. His mate, 111, was killed, and he must now deal with that terrible loss. The death is made all the more tragic by the degree to which a Bynar relies on his or her mate. Without 111, 110 feels incomplete in a very real sense. I believe that the series is leaning towards having him remain aboard the da Vinci, but doing so comes with severe consequences. 110 will basically become an outcast in the eyes of Bynar society. I'm curious to see where these developments will lead.

I have to admit that I kept expecting the Star Trek trope of a planetary computer going all evil and enslaving the population to rear its head, but I was pleasantly surprised when Fatal Error didn't take this route. In fact, Ganitriul was an interesting character in his own right, and I found myself genuinely caring for the life of the computer system. One of the most amusing parts in the novel is when Scotty muses about how sentient computers were dealt with in the previous century: "Shaking his head, the older man said, 'In my day, when we saw a planet that had been taken over by one'a those -- Ah, but that's neither here nor there.'" Clearly making reference to Captain Kirk's consistent tendency to destroy planet-controlling computer systems, Scotty's musings brought a smile to this reader's face.

Final thoughts:

Keith DeCandido has yet to disappoint me. I have very much enjoyed everything he has written, and Fatal Error was no exception. I'm very curious to see the outcome of 110's story, and I'm also enjoying the stories of the other characters of S.C.E.. Fatal Error provided a few more insights into the lives of the characters, and presented them with an interesting problem which required a creative solution. 110 showed his computer expertise and saved the day, even while dealing with the loss of his mate. I'm looking forward to more stories featuring these characters!

Also by Keith R.A. DeCandido:

My next read:

Continuing on with the first four S.C.E. stories this week. Next up is #3: Hard Crash by Christie Golden.

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