Star Trek Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony
Although I was a bit lukewarm on the first two novels in the four-book Star Trek crossover series, Typhon Pact, I loved the third installment (Rough Beasts of Empire, by David R. George III), and having just read the fourth and final installment, Paths of Disharmony, I am pleased to report that Dayton Ward stuck the landing. I thought this novel was a terrific Next Generation book in its own right, and also a compelling finale to this four-novel series.
Although I have complained, repeatedly, over the past few years about the dearth of new Deep Space Nine novels, I was thrilled by how DS9-centric this Typhon Pact series has been. The first novel focused on Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir, the third novel focused on Benjamin Sisko, and in Paths of Disharmony I was thrilled to discover that we were finally returning to the story-thread that was so-prominent in the early post-finale DS9 novels: the reproductive problems afflicting Andorian society (with fewer and fewer Andorian children being born each year), and the personal journey of young Andorian Starfleet officer Thirishar Ch’Thane.
It’s been many long years since Shar has appeared in a Star Trek novel (I believe his last appearance — certainly his last PROMINENT appearance — was in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Andor: Paradigm, by Heather Jarman, from back in 2004). In the timeline of the Trek novels, it has been four years since the events of Paradigm. Shar has been working on Andor, and the need to solve his people’s reproductive crisis has only been exacerbated by the planet-wide destruction wreaked by the Borg during their invasion of Federation Space (in the series Star Trek: Destiny).
In this new novel, Andor’s story intersects with that of the growing Typhon Pact storyline. Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E are sent to Andor to help ensure security for a conference of scientists working to solve the Andorian reproductive crisis. But Andor is still reeling from the havoc caused by the Borg attack, and the population is in turmoil over the various scientific solutions being proposed in order to attempt to solve their reproductive issues. Anti-Federation sentiment and anti-alien hatred collide with fears over scientific tinkering with the Andorian genetic code leading to the possible eradication of everything that makes Andorians, as a species, unique, and though the current Andorian Presider (their top governmental official) hopes that the conference will help spark a scientific breakthrough, the gathering also has the potential to turn into a flashpoint for violence.
In addition to complaining about the dearth of recent DS9 novels, I have also written repeatedly about how I felt the attempts to relaunch the Next Generation series of novels (set after the events of Nemesis) were quite rocky. New characters came and went from novel to novel, and the characters that did carry over between books were subjected to wildly inconsistent characterizations. There have been some very solid Next Gen novels over the past few years (certainly David Mack’s Destiny trilogy is an example, but I also really dug Christopher Bennett’s Greater than the Sum, and William Leisner’s Losing the Peace), but I think Paths of Disharmony represents my new favorite post-Nemesis Next Generation novel. For the first time, this new crew of the Enterprise E — which consists of familiar characters (Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher, Worf, Geordi) and new characters (Dina Elfiki, T’ryssa Chen, Jasminder Choudhury) — really felt to me like a complete, genuine ensemble. I’m truly starting to get to know and like the new characters, and I love how fully integrated they are with the familiar Next Gen cast.
I’m enjoying watching the deepening of the mentor-mentee relationship between Captain Picard and Lt. Elfiki, and having Dr. Crusher solicit Lt. Elfiki’s assistance in repairing Captain Picard’s beloved Ressikan flute (from the episode “The Inner Light”) was a nice nod to continuity. I’m also enjoying the progression of the relationship between Worf and Lt. Choudhury. While there is consistency in terms of the women Worf seems to fall for, it’s nice to see that this relationship is quite different from that Worf had with K’ehleyr or Jadzia Dax.
And in this novel, Geordi LaForge finally gets a girlfriend!! Say Halleyuyah!!
I have long commented on how ridiculous it was that Geordi could never seem to get a girlfriend throughout the Next Gen TV show or movies, and I thought it was even more disappointing that, in the novels, while we have seen other characters grow up and move on (Riker and Troi are married with a child, Picard and Crusher are married with a child), poor hapless Geordi was still single. Many thanks, Dayton Ward, for finally cutting our favorite engineer a little break!
I love that the first 100-150 pages of Paths of Disharmony are mostly focused on character beats, as we get to spend time with many of the Enterprise E characters (and others, like Shar), seeing where they are at, emotionally, and how their lives are progressing. What makes these continuing series of Star Trek novels so compelling are not just the adventure stories, but the development of characters who we love, and getting to follow those characters as their stories move forward. Mr. Ward seems to understand this clearly, and I really appreciate the depth of character development — for MANY characters — found in this novel.
I only have a few small complaints. The first is that, after my initial excitement at seeing Shar’s face on the cover of this novel, and his inclusion in the early-going, I was a bit bummed that he wasn’t more integrally involved in the events of the story. Shar doesn’t actually get a lot of focus-time in the book, and he remains mostly peripheral to the main events. I was even more disappointed that his relationship with Prynn Tenmei — left hanging following the events of Paradigm — was barely addressed. The novel indicates that four years have passed since Paradigm, and I find it difficult to believe that Shar and Prynn have just been treading water for all of that time. A lot of attention was given to this relationship in the early DS9 relaunch novels, and as a reader I really invested in that story. That it has been left hanging since 2004 really bothers me.
My other complaint centers on the culminating events of the story — the events that explain why this Andor story is really a Typhon Pact story. I’m not going to spoil the ending here, but I will comment that I guessed where the story was heading about halfway through the book. So a) I wasn’t that surprised by the ending, and b) I thought it made Captain Picard look pretty foolish that he was so clueless as to where he was going, right up until the final moment when the dramatic events happen. I think our hero characters need to be smart — AHEAD of events, not behind them. I am all for an unhappy, unresolved ending, in which, despite their best efforts, our heroes aren’t able to win the day. But I am not a fan of seeing our heroes look foolish, as I think Picard does here.
Still, kudos to Dayton Ward for bringing the Typhon Pact series to a strong conclusion. There is clearly a LOT of story left to tell — I eagerly look forward to the next adventure!
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek — Unspoken Truth
Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle