Friday, 1 July 2016

Just Be A-Ware with Bennett's Live by the Code

Tiff takes us into the expanded Enterprise story with the next in Christopher L Bennett's series....

Following on from Uncertain Logic, Christopher Bennett’s Live by the Code is the fourth book in the Rise of the Federation series. 

Again, I must warn you that this review does contain spoilers.

A big fan of Bennett’s, I was avidly looking forward to reading his new release. The story begins solidly with Captain Archer settling into the position as Chief of Staff, before quickly events spiral.

With the continuing search for the creators of the Ware technology bringing its own problems, an attack from the Klingons also seems on the cards. As in the previous novels, it is very easy to jump into this without knowledge of his previous outings as the situation is neatly summed up in the first few pages.

We start off on board the Andorian Cruiser, the Vol’Rala. Sharing the name Enterprise this ship is where we jump into several story threads. Initially the mission to shutdown the Ware technology seems to be pretty straightforward, however gradually; it becomes apparent that it will be a difficult undertaking.

From this intriguing perspective, Federation ships are seen as an invading force, Bennett enables us to visualize events from the ‘other side’ so to speak. The situation is further complicated by the interference of the Klingon QuchHa’ (those Klingons afflicted by the Qu’Vat Virus), which literally means ‘Unhappy’ or ‘Deprived of Forehead’. They are seeking to use the Ware to take control of Qo’nos owing to the death of the previous Chancellery has left the current Empire in disarray.

Bennett’s characterisation is, as ever extremely good and he has an excellent grasp of people within their surroundings.  

“Shran could keep up a good sulk for months.” (Archer’s observation of the Andorian Commander)

And during the wedding of Dr Phlox’s daughter, his explanation of the Denobulan family tree is quite frankly baffling as you realise that every single Denobulan on the planet is related to each other by marriage!

And his knowledge of Star Trek is equally far-reaching as he draws on various sources for the story, such as Requiem for Methuselah when reintroducing us to Willem Abramson, known here as Akharin and in the future, Flint the Immortal. There is also a wonderful First Contact reference!

His illustrations of the issues surrounding the newly formed Federation are just as good. He elaborates on discussions and decisions to be made regarding the new ships to be constructed and this is a delightful read for the ardent fan of all things starship

Ultimately this is a story about division, Klingon partisan in-fighting, personal doubt and disillusionment, and above all the upheaval and damage done to those worlds that have tried to utilize the Ware.

Just as the diversity in cultures were overcome and embraced when forming the Federation, so must the divisions within our own lives be conquered? 

Historically this makes us stronger, better people for it, but the process is ever painful. There are obvious allegorical nods to our current society, maybe this a flaw in Bennett’s writing, and perhaps we are looking for escapism in Star Trek rather than a moderately preachy manifesto

He is an excellent author with many good novels under his belt, but to any real Trekkie, this is a message that doesn’t need to be spelt out.  We understand diversity and revel in it. ‘Infinite Diversity - Infinite Combinations.’ But Bennett appears to have lost the real message of what it means to love Star Trek. Let’s hope that he regains that form for his next outing.

Have you been following the Rise of the Federation? Where do you think we're heading?

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