Following Star Trek Nemesis, Wil and Troi Riker left the USS Enterprise E to star in their own series of books, set aboard the USS Titan.This week, the Library Computer discovers some very intentional programming kinks as it looks at James Swallow’s “Synthesis”, the fifth Star Trek: Titan novel, .
Review: Star Trek: Titan: Synthesis
by James Swallow
Pocket Books mass market paperback – 400 pages
NOTE: Contains spoilers, including spoilers from previous novels.
As the Starship Titan continues her journey outbound on a mission of exploration and discovery, curious sensor readings lead to an abrupt encounter with a mysterious ship and a powerful force as James Swallow brings “Synthesis” to the bookshelf.
Looking strictly at the Titan elements of “Synthesis”, Swallow does an outstanding job of painting a vivid environment of storytelling – from the region of space in which the tale is set, right down to the emotional environment in which the action plays out. Captain Riker is beginning to find a very strong niche for himself among other Trek CO’s in this outing, balancing his various influences and tendencies in an obvious progression through the Titan series, leading to the events of “Synthesis”.
Christina Vale, Titan’s first officer, also finds some new purchase in the evolution of the Titan story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that she hasn’t had significant impact on the series thus far, but Swallow is able to take her and place her in a position that is immediately transcendent of her previous experiences – one that they have all prepared her for, and one that her character will be the stronger for.
Resolution and rapprochement is in the air between Dr. Ree and Deanna Troi in the wake of his actions in recent stories, while Pazlar, Tuvok, Ra’haverii, and Keru are given good, substantial parts to play while never detracting from the main storyline.
“Synthesis” itself makes for great science fiction (in fact, probably for greater general sci-fi than Trek) with its exploration of the nature of consciousness and sentience, as the Titan is faced with a culture and (at least to a few on board) a familiar face to engage in the midst of a crisis.
The Sentry culture that Swallow populates the story with is one conceived in the greatest traditions of science fiction, one that forces us to look at ourselves, our prejudices, and our assumptions head on when we encounter those different from ourselves. They are given a unique life all their own, one which is compelling and complex without ever bogging down the book in unnecessary back-story. At the same time, the Sentries are so interesting that one may wish for several more books about them in the future. I know I would be in line to pick one up, though others may find them to be an interesting enough race for one book and be glad to move on.
The most unsatisfying element of “Synthesis” has to be the inclusion and use of Minuet, the holodeck-generated jazz lady from the TNG episode "11001001". In some respects, her appearance is only fitting, considering elements of the Bynar society from the episode and their relation to elements of the Sentry culture in “Synthesis”, but at the same time, her usage as the ‘avatar’ of an important character in the book becomes an occasional roadblock to accepting the evolution of that character on its own terms. Somehow it was difficult to take the concept of Minuet seriously in the role, and others may join me in preferring the selection of a different ‘avatar’.
With a classic sci-fi feel to the Sentries and the Avatar, and a solid, well rounded crew aboard Titan, James Swallow hits himself an unqualified, enjoyable success with “Synthesis”; one that is most definitely worth picking up.
The official release date "Star Trek Titan: Synthesis" is October 27th, but it is already available at some retailers. You can already order it from Amazon.
UP NEXT: New Vanguard
In November Pocket Books returns to 23rd century era and Starbase 47 (aka Vanguard) with David Mack’s "Star Trek Vanguard – Precipice," the fifth novel in the series. "Precipice" promises espionage, intrigue, Klingons and even Carol Marcus. Look for our review next Month.