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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Greater than the Sum Kindle Edition

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Length: 370 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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About the Author

Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with bachelor’s degrees in physics and history from the University of Cincinnati. He has written critically acclaimed Star Trek novels as well as shorter works including stories in anniversary anthologies. Beyond Star Trek, he has penned the novels X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. His original work includes the hard science fiction superhero novel Only Superhuman, as well as several novelettes in Analog and other science fiction magazines. More information and annotations can be found at home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett, and the author’s blog can be found at ChristopherLBennett.wordpress.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

U.S.S. Rhea
Star cluster NGC 6281

Stardate 57717

"Are we there yet?"

Lieutenant Commander Dawn Blair rolled her eyes at the question. "Are you going to ask that question every morning, Trys?"

"At least until we get there," T'Ryssa Chen replied, brushing her shaggy bangs out of her eyes. The gesture briefly revealed one of the elegantly pointed ears that she usually kept hidden under her shoulder-length black hair.

"You're just hoping to annoy me into letting you go on the away team," Blair said.

"Is it working?"

"Mmm...no."

"Aw, come on, Dawn!" T'Ryssa moaned. "A whole cluster full of carbon planets, and you expect me to sit up here manning a boring old console?"

"Well, it might help if you remembered to call me 'Commander' when we're on duty, Lieutenant."

T'Ryssa's slanted eyebrows twisted in a way that Blair still sometimes found incongruous. She knew the younger woman had been raised by her human mother and had barely known her Vulcan father, but it was hard to shake off one's expectations of Vulcans. Which was probably why T'Ryssa defied those expectations so aggressively. "Right, I keep forgetting."

"On purpose. You always have to be such a nonconformist, Trys. That's why you're still a jg at twenty-six."

"I don't have to be," T'Ryssa countered. "I'm just very good at it. Gotta play to your strengths, you know."

She grew serious, or as close as she ever came. "And I'm not very good at sitting still in a cubbyhole, which is why you've gotta let me go down there and do some science! When we get there," she added. "Come on, Daw -- Commander Dawn, sir, ma'am -- " At the science officer's glare, she started over. "I mean, this is a Luna-class ship, right? All about crew diversity and cross-cultural synergies and exploring new approaches? Which means, in short, we're a ship full of nonconformists, and proud of it. Nonconforming -- ity -- ism -- is how we get the job done around here, right?" T'Ryssa bent her knees and clasped her hands in supplication. "So how about it, O Dawn, commander of my heart? Pleeeeeze?" She actually batted her eyelids.

Blair sighed, knowing T'Ryssa would keep this up until she relented. "Okay! Okay. Janyl can man the console, you can go on the away team and out of my hair."

"Oh, thank you, thank you! And such lovely hair it is, my commandress."

"Don't push it," Blair said. She was self-conscious about her hair, an unruly mass of cinnamon-brown waves that she usually kept confined within a bun or French braid while on duty, though Derek from environmental engineering insisted it was the most gorgeous thing he'd ever seen. Still, she couldn't help smirking at T'Ryssa's antics. Blair was too soft a touch to be any good at keeping her in line, which was probably to T'Ryssa's detriment in the long run. But giving her this away mission could help improve her career prospects. The half-Vulcan woman may not have been very good at practicing Starfleet discipline or respecting the chain of command, but she was a good scientist with a knack for understanding alien behaviors, sentient and otherwise. If the anomalous biosigns coming from the carbon planets of the NGC 6281 star cluster were correct and there was complex life there, she could be genuinely useful.

"Anyway," Blair went on, "we have to get there first."

T'Ryssa sagged. "I am so sick of this. We hit a zone of altered subspace, we get knocked out of warp, we spend five hours recalibrating the warp engines, we make it four hours before the structure of subspace changes, and we drop out of warp again. I swear I'm getting motion sick. Are we getting any closer to figuring out a pattern behind these distortions?"

Blair shook her head. "Only that they seem connected to the energy emissions from the carbon planets. And that those emissions seem to be coming from beneath the planets' surfaces, not localized around any of the biosigns."

"What about the cosmozoans?"

"We can't confirm that the energy readings from them are connected. It could be interference from the subspace distortions."

T'Ryssa sighed, and Blair shared in her disappointment. As their sister ship Titan had confirmed half a year back, spacegoing life-forms were prone to inhabit star-formation regions. The open clusters Rhea was currently surveying were located be-tween the Orion and Carina Arms, removed from the star-formation zones that defined the arms of the galaxy, but they were still fairly young (as all open clusters were, for eventually their components were scattered by gravitational interactions with other stars and nebulae). NGC 6281 itself, a clump of a hundred or so young stars sharing a volume of space barely fifteen light-years in diameter, was less than a quarter billion years old and still retained a faint remnant of the nebula from which it had formed, so finding spacegoing organisms here was not a complete surprise. But the cosmozoans detected in this particular cluster were as strange as the space they occupied, giving off anomalous energy readings and biosignatures and seeming to appear and disappear unpredictably from sensors. Getting close to any of them, however, would take considerable time unless Blair and chief engineer Lorlinna could devise some way to adjust the warp engines to cope with the inexplicably shifting subspace geometry of this cluster. If they were unable to do so, then Captain Bazel might decide to turn back after the survey of the nearest component of the cluster, NGC 6281-34, and move on to the next open cluster once the Rhea slogged its way back to normal space.

It all depended on what they found on System 34's planets and whether it was exciting or mysterious enough to warrant surveying any of the other systems in the cluster. But it would be at least another day before they reached that system, a system they could reach in a few hours under normal circumstances.

Dawn Blair found herself agreeing with her friend's sentiment, if only in the privacy of her thoughts. Are we there yet?

T'Ryssa Chen hated going through the transporter. It wasn't that she was afraid of it or anything; rather, she was ticklish, and being transported felt like being tickled from the inside. People kept telling her she was imagining things, that there was no untoward sensation involved with transporting other than a slight tingling numbness, but she knew what she felt. Maybe it was a side effect of her hybrid nervous system; maybe all human-Vulcan blends had the same reaction but were too disciplined to admit it. Or maybe the transporter gods had just decided to pick on her. She tried to shake it off once she materialized, a convulsive move like she was trying to brush spiders off her body, but the heavy EV suit she wore hampered the movement.

Not that she regretted wearing the suit in this environment. NGC 6281-34 III, like most of the planetary bodies that long-range sensors had detected in the cluster, was a carbon planet: a world where carbon was the most abundant element in its mineral composition. In carbon-rich protoplanetary disks, graphite, carbides, and other carbon compounds tended to solidify sooner than the silicates that made up the bulk of normal planets, producing worlds with iron cores, carbide mantles, and crusts of graphite and diamond. The resultant surface chemistry was oxygen-poor, with tarry hydrocarbon seas and an atmosphere of carbon monoxide and methane.

And it looks about as inviting as it sounds, Trys thought as she looked around her through the helmet visor. The rocky ground on which they stood was dark and crumbly, like a carbonaceous asteroid. The depressions in the surface were filled with pools of tar, black against gray-brown. The hazy blue-green sky was smudged with clouds of graphite dust.

As First Officer Sekmal and the rest of the away team deployed their tricorders, T'Ryssa struck a pose as though planting an invisible flag and proclaimed, "I dub this planet Pencilvania!"

Sekmal turned to glare at her, raising an eyebrow in that way that Vulcans seemed to be specially trained for. "Explain."

"Pencil. You know. Old writing implement? Used graphite? It's why graphite's called that? Because people wrote with it?" Sekmal simply continued to glare until Trys sighed. "Never mind," she said, taking out her tricorder. Vulcans. For all their claims of emotionlessness, the Vulcans on Rhea were consistent in their disdain for Trys herself, as though her biology somehow required her to live up to their cultural standards. She could never see the logic in that.

"I thought it was funny," said Paul Janiss, smiling at her through his helmet. Trys gave him a wan smile of gratitude, knowing it was more likely that he just wanted to flatter her into sleeping with him again. Not that she wouldn't be interested in doing so, at least on a purely physical level, but she preferred more sincerity in her praise, and in her men.

"Anyway," Paul went on, "it's not like we're going to have any other fun on this dump of a planet. Bleakest hole I ever saw."

"Don't dismiss it so quickly," said Thyyshev zh'Skenat, the Andorian geologist. "As the galaxy ages and supernovae inject more carbon into the interstellar medium, the ratio of carbon planets to oxygen planets will increase. In a billion years or so, all new planets may be carbon worlds."

"Thanks, Thyyshev. You just gave me a reason to be glad I'm not immortal."

"How do you know?" Trys asked.

"Know what?"

"That you're not immortal? I mean, there's only one way to know for sure, isn't there?"

It took Paul a moment. "Oh! Good one."

"On the other hand," Trys went on as if he hadn't spoken, "there's no way to prove anyone really is immortal either. Just that they haven't died yet. Kind of a meaningless category, really. Maybe it needs a better name. Like 'mortality challenged.'"

Thyyshev's antennae twisted under his specially designed helmet. "Aren't you supposed to be doing your duty...


Product Details

  • File Size: 964 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1501107178
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (July 29, 2008)
  • Publication Date: July 29, 2008
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0010SEOGM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,327 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Back in 2004 and 2005, the A Time To... series led straight into Titan: Taking Wing which lead straight into Articles Of The Federation, and all these books nicely referred to each other, mutual characters and continuity, all sorts of good stuff. Unified whole. Even Death In Winter, Michael Jan Friedman's post-Nemesis novel about Picard and Crusher, fit in to the universe pretty well.

So after all this nicely done continuity, the only thing I can figure is that the editor (editors?) decided at least one series needed to stand on its own and not bother with the overarching details, because then we got Resistance, J. M. Dillard's thoroughly underwhelming Borg story, and suddenly there were no references to the earlier novels. Or established continuity about the Borg, or events from the A Time To... series, or anything. It was jarring.

And from that book on this series has gotten it completely backwards. All the stuff that should stay the same from book to book - consistent characters, long-term relationships, that kind of thing - has been scattered and random, and all the stuff that should vary from book to book - variety in storyline, villains, that kind of thing - has stayed the same. For instance, in Resistance, we were introduced to a new helmsman, tactical officer, and counselor. The helmsman and tactical officer die. Then, in Q&A, the next book, we get a new tactical officer and (finally) an ops officer, to replace Data. That's all well and good until Before Dishonor, which manages to stunningly mischaracterize all three ongoing characters so far.
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Ok...ok...I see all the negative reviews out here for this book and I understand some of your complaints. Yes, the Borg are being used heavily and yes, the Enterprise senior staff keeps getting shuffled. Valid points.

But Bennett turns out a good read in the latest relaunch novel. We see some final settling among the crew. After finishing the book, I really feel like the senior staff of the Enterprise has finally settled in and is starting to mesh together. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say we'll likely see this crew remain together.

Some surprising character growth occurs among the leading cast as well. I won't spoil anything, but Worf is showing more depth, as is Picard, Crusher and LaForge. They were starting to run the risk of turning Picard into a two-dimensional Borg fighter, but Bennett does a good job of seeing that the good captain remains as deep as he ever was. There are a couple of new additions, including a contact specialist, counselor and tactical officer, and even a familiar face from the SCE crew. These new additions seem to be the final piece of the puzzle missing from the command crew and were brought into the book and the crew smoothly.

I'm not sure yet if I like the new "evolved" Borg, but here we see them taking the next step toward all out war with the Federation. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the Borg, if the ending of this novel is any guide, but I believe the intensity of the relaunch is about to be stepped up a notch or two.

Greater Than the Sum is worth your time and really, to my mind, is beginning the smoothing out of the TNG relaunch. I've yet to put these novels on the level of the DS9 relaunch, but this one is an indication to me that they may soon reach that level of greatness.
Comment 14 of 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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In trying to describe how terrible this book was, I'm not sure where to begin. It has, of course, all of the standard failures that you expect from Trek lit; mischaracterization of the main characters, no actual or long-term character growth and painfully predictable plot-twists. But having read Bennett's most recent two forays into Star Trek I can tell you his works are best to be avoided.

Don't get me wrong, he does a marvelous job at TELLING a story. His writing is tight and he's technically competant. It's just that the stories he tells seem like they sprang from the imagination of a middle schooler. Reading this book, you get the feeling that he never grew or developed past the age of 12 or 13. Important conversations that occur seem like they are what a 12 year old envisions as a "grown-up" conversation. Character decisions & actions are rewarded with the kind of consequences that a 13 year old imagines happening.

Bennett created a character for this story that is a half-Vulcan. I hated this character more than I hate wet socks. I will spare you a 30 page diatribe about her and will suffice to say that this character was based upon a Dungeons & Dragons charater that he or one of his friends played when he was a child. I'm not kidding. He says as much in the book's acknowledgemnents section.

Finally, it took me a year and a half to read this book b/c I couldn't stomach more than a few pages of it at a time. But I'm comitted to reading the relaunch so I pushed through it. Fortunately I didn't pay for the book. So my advice to you is: DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! Go online & read a summary of it. The summary will tell you everything you need to know and you won't feel the need to write poison pen letters to the idoits who hired this hack to write this book.
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