Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within
I enjoyed this summer’s solid-though-not-spectacular Star Trek Beyond, but for me, for the past decade-plus most of the best Star Trek has been of the unofficial kind. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many of the Star Trek fan films that are being made (fan films that sadly remain threatened by Paramount’s draconian lawsuit against the fan-film Axanar), and I’ve also been eating up the Star Trek novels being published by Pocket Books. Those novels have been weaving a vast, interconnected saga, taking the Trek characters and stories far beyond the last official on-screen adventures of Star Trek: The Next Generation (which ended with a whimper with 2002’s dismal Nemesis), Deep Space Nine (my favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 1999), and Voyager (my least favorite of the Trek series, which ended back in 2001). But I’ve fallen somewhat behind on reading the new Trek books, so much so that when I started to read one of the new ones, I found I had lost the thread of several of the stories. So I decided to go back and re-read several of the Trek novels from the past few years, which has been a lot of fun. While doing so, I also decided to read some of the Trek e-book novellas that I had skipped over originally. My first stop was Christopher L. Bennett’s “Typhon Pact” novella: The Struggle Within.
Back in 2010, Pocket Books published a four-novel series subtitled “Typhon Pact.” Introduced in Keith R.A. DeCandido’s novel A Singular Destiny, the Typhon Pact was an alliance of many of the Federation’s fiercest enemies: the Romulans, the Gorn, the Tholians, the Tzenkethi, and more. The Typhon Pact four-book series explored this newly-created alliance, with each book fleshing out one of those just-mentioned alien races. Over the course of those four books and the many novels that have followed, it’s been fun to see both the story of this anti-Federation alliance play out, and also to see these various alien races well-developed. We already knew a lot about the Romulans, but the Gorn and Tholians were little-seen in previous official on-screen Trek canon — and the Tzenkethi have never actually been seen on-screen, they were only mentioned a few times on Deep Space Nine — leaving a lot of room for the writers to expand and elaborate upon them.
Christopher L. Bennett’s 2011 e-book novella, The Struggle Within, takes some time developing the Kinshaya, another race who had been mentioned as being a part of the Typhon Pact but who had not been explored by any of the previous “Typhon Pact” novels. The book tells two parallel stories. In the first, two characters from the post-Nemesis-set TNG novels, Jasminder Choudhury and T’Ryssa Chen, go on an undercover mission to a world controlled by the Kinshaya, in an attempt to contact a dissident movement seeking to overthrow the religious extremists who control the Kinshaya government. The second story is a surprising sequel to the TNG episode “Suddenly Human.” In that episode, Picard discovers that a boy on a Talarian vessel is actually a human, who had been raised by the Talarians after the death of the boy’s human father. Picard at first seeks to bond with the boy and return him to his human family, before eventually realizing that he should not interfere with the genuine bond and love between the human boy and his adoptive Talarian father. Here in The Struggle Within, Picard is reunited with the boy, Jono, now grown into a man and an ambassador for the Talarians. Picard seeks to broker a treaty between the Talarians and the Federation — which is seeking new allies following the devastation of the Borg attack from Star Trek Destiny and the secession of Andor from the Federation in Paths of Disharmony — and hopes that Jono will prove to be a trusted go-between between the two peoples.
“Suddenly Human” was not a Trek episode that ever felt to me like it was crying out for a sequel, and yet Mr. Bennett’s story proves to be a wonderful follow-up to ideas first introduced in that episode. Meanwhile, Choudhury and Chen’s experiences among the Kinshaya are also interesting. I enjoyed the focus on those two characters (one of whom was, sadly, written out of the TNG continuing story a few years ago), and it’s nice to see the Kinshaya get a little bit of fleshing out.
Both stories eventually deal with the idea of non-violent resistance, which provides a powerful through-line for this e-book. The best Star Trek has a message, and so I enjoyed seeing that idea at the core of this e-book’s tale. Mr. Bennett was clearly inspired by the “Egyptian Spring” — the resistance that began in January 2011 and led to the overthrown of President Hosni Mubarak. (Egypt is actually mentioned twice in this short novel.) One can debate whether or not those 2011 protests had the desired result, but I respect Mr. Bennett for crafting this story around an ideal that he clearly felt was so important.
The Struggle Within certainly isn’t an essential piece of Pocket Books’ ongoing Star Trek story, but I’m quite happy to have finally had a chance to read it.
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The Limit, Resistance and Q & A, Before Dishonor and Greater than the Sum, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal Coil, Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory, Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons, Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric, The Light Fantastic
Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi Maru, The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overview, Stone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in Action, Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff
Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions – Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light