Thursday, 18 December 2014

Seekers 2: And Now the Continuation

A starship down and a seemingly malevolent alien race are in control of a planet.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that might be a great tag line to introduce a standalone novel but in this case it's a description of how the second Seekers story kicks off. 

Dropping the reader right into the middle of the story will be of no issue to those who have (sensibly) tackled Seekers 1 however for those of us that haven't it's more than a little challenging.

There is a brief recollection within the first chapter of Point of Divergence (the subtitle for the second book) as to the events that immediately preceded this release but they are pretty sparce and it's not as accessible as I found The Fall could be if you weren't reading them in a linear fashion. However I doubt that with Seekers you'd be reading the second book if you hadn't touched the first.

Anyway, let's tackle this story and see where it takes us. As with every one of our book reviews we do like to note that there may be SPOILERS ahead so if you are worried we'll give something away, click onto one of our other articles and enjoy.

Seekers 2 is a direct sequel, launching the reader back into a tense confrontation between the Klingons, led by Kang, the Federation and an evolving people known as The Changed. These Changed - and one in particular - are fairly hostile towards outsiders and aren't concerned with differentiating a Klingon from a human as we come to find out fairly soon. It's a conflict with two fronts actually as we have the surface activity involving all three parties around the crashed hull of Captain Terrell's USS Sagittarius and then the stand off between Kang and the USS Endeavour in orbit above. 

For new readers there are a lot of characters to get acquainted to fairly briskly although anyone who has made it through book one will have no trouble identifying the leads here. My issue is that they all seem very average with no-one particularly standing out or making a mark and that's a shame since the grounding of Point of Divergence is perfect, relating back to The Paradise Syndrome and the Preservers as well as exploring their legacy and secrets. But I couldn't get excited. Sorry.

You see this series (which will be receiving at least a third book in 2015) just doesn't seem to deliver the suspense and excitement factor I've felt with other recent Star Trek literary releases. It's good but standard fayre that seems to be trailing off the backend of the very successful and well regarded Vanguard series. Perhaps the hype for these books has overshadowed their purpose but that doesn't mean that authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore haven't done a good job because they have. This is solid and well written with solid and well written characters in a solid and well written environment however the spark just doesn't seem to eminate from the page and this really does take a long time to get anywhere. If there's one thing I can say it's that while the first book provided a great cliffhanger to draw readers back for a second helping it's continuing story has echoes of one of The Next Generation's less successful two-parters - the second round never quite lives up to the work put into the first slice.

In fact I found the first half of this book a slog. Nothing really happens once the Tomol known as Nimur completes her/its transformation into one of the Changed (close to the opening) and sets about making sure her brethren also take the evolutionary leap they have been restrained and nigh on forced to avoid for centuries by the Preservers through a life-ending ritual. That alone is a great draw as a plot point not dissimilar to Logan's Run in it's conception but when the bulk of the book is drawn into an almost cat and mouse chase sequence across the planet with the Sagittarius in the middle effecting repairs it gets a bit repetitive. 

Captain Khatami and the Endeavour are there for plot exposition, revealing the machinations of the Preservers and their relationship with the trampled Tomol but offer little heroics. Khatami herself bounces between the planet and her ship and while we might have expected the crew of the Enterprise to knuckle down and find a solution quick time, the Starfleet crew here seem to take a while going round the planets to come up with something feasible - and that's after a considerable amount of time with characters chatting about their observations of the Tomol or Kang trying to guess what's going on just about anywhere.and repair his own damaged vessel.

Luckily there is a turn of events but it could have come earlier in the book when the Tomol/Changed finally arrive at the Sagittarius but as a new reader to the series I wasn't gripped. The key character here is, of course, Terrell and we all know that he's destined for more wriggly things in The Wrath of Khan which totally detracts from any sense of forboding that could have been created here. Had this been another captain, another name and character specifically for this series then we might have cared as we would have come to know them in the course of one and a half novels. Given it's Terrell you can't take the danger seriously and that's where this whole series might fall down. The premise is good, the idea is good but one captain just lets the realism slip because of our knowledge of the "future".

The Tomol themselves, complete with morphing ability that makes them sound uncannily like the Hulk at some points and Superman at others aren't evil but driven to eradicate all that isn't pure from their home and cause some damage along the way to make the outsiders pay for apparently stunting their growth - in other words thinking the Starfleet crews are their former "jaliers", the Preservers aka the Shenai. Point of Divergence does get very wrapped up in the whole situation with what is causing the change and genomes, DNA and all sorts of biological tech get blasted in to help explain the challenge but I wasn't sure how this would work out and what the point was when the mission seems to be to ensure the Sagittarius crew are rescued. Ok, so it's a reaction to make sure the Tomol/Changed remain on the planet as they can become airbourne but these abilities seem to hinder the plot and make the apparent adversary a super-race and therefore seemingly unstoppable by any normal convention which is equivalent to writing yourself into a very tight corner.

I do feel for the authors of this second book and also for David Mack who wrote the first book. Perhaps my view on the series would be different had I chosen to read and review the first chunk of the tale but sadly that wasn't possible on this occasion but it does go to prove how sometimes just picking up a book from a series can make it incredibly inaccessible. As I'd missed a lot of character build-up and establishment in Seekers 1 I did find all of the characters distant and perhaps a little one dimensional. I didn't understand who they really were because those following the story already knew that and for me not engaging in that formation of a narrative relationship and believing in the characters absolutely shut down my engagement with this book. Had I got to know the crews in the first place I may well have approached this novel much more openly and positively but as it stands, as a standalone, I felt it doesn't hit the mark.

For all of you thinking of reading Seekers you absolutely HAVE to read book one otherwise book two will be a waste of your time and money. I just hope that having taken the time to dabble with the second book I might stand a chance of understanding book three next year. That and I'll have to grab a copy of book one.

Following the Seekers saga? Do you think we're right? Let's discuss!

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