Star Trek Titan (Book Six): Synthesis
It’s taken me a few months longer than I had originally planned, but after completing James Swallow’s novel Synthesis, I am finally caught up with Pocket Books’ Titan series, which chronicles the post-Nemesis adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his new command, the U.S.S. Titan.
Continuing to explore uncharted space far beyond the borders of the United Federation of Planets, the Titan enters an area of severe spatial disruption. Finding evidence of a terrible battle, they find only one survivor: what appears to be a sentient computer from a race of artificial intelligences. Captain Riker offers to help, and tries to learn more about the mysterious enemy that the machines have apparently been fighting for centuries. But he is met with hostility and mistrust from the A.I.s – and then he too is forced to wonder if it is possible to trust the machines when the actions of the one they rescued (who identifies himself as SecondGen White-Blue) cause the main computer of the Titan itself to become sentient! Making matters even more awkward, the computer chooses as it’s avatar form an image from Will Riker’s past – the woman named Minuet.
The authors of the Titan series have really been living up to the series’ mandate of creating new species and new cultures for the Titan crew to encounter, rather than relying on familiar alien races. Mr. Swallow does an excellent job at presenting us with this look at a society of A.I.s – their history, how their society functions, and more. Mr. Swallow also continues to explore and richen the many faces of the Titan crew. I’ve been very pleased at the book-to-book continuity, and have enjoyed watching the development of the Titan characters (many of whom were created for this series of novels). This, more than anything else, is what leaves me eager for further Titan adventures.
There some instances in this novel, though, where I felt Mr. Swallow stumbled a bit. There were a few places where I felt his prose was a bit awkward (a reference to Serenity, in which a Titan character utters the phrase, “I’m a leaf on the wind,” felt particularly out of place to me). And after the complex world-building of previous Titan author Christopher Bennett, our investigation of the machine culture presented in this novel felt a bit superficial.
What was most disappointing to me was the use (or lack thereof) of Minuet. It seemed totally random to me that the newly-sentient Titan would choose this image – out of all of the billions of images in the ship’s computer – to take as it’s form. And once that happened, it didn’t really seem like the Titan’s appearing as Minuet went anywhere over the course of the story. Riker and Troi – now happily married and with a child – were (thankfully!) not the least bit threatened by the appearance of Minuet (with whom Riker had had a sort-of romance in a second season Next Gen episode, about twenty years prior to the events of this novel). So I wasn’t quite sure of the point of Mr. Swallow’s use of Minuet. Other than leading to an intriguing cover to the book (with Riker holding Minuet in his arm – something that, by the way, doesn’t actually happen in the story) it just didn’t seem to me that the use of Minuet went anywhere. Which leads me to wonder, why bother?
Still, while perhaps not a home-run, I found Synthesis to be an enjoyable installment in the continuing Titan adventures. I eagerly await the next novel, to see where the story goes from here!
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle