Library Computer: Review Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game

It is time for TrekMovie to catch up on its reading list. This edition of the Library Computer opens up our look at the four book Typhon Pact mini-series which began in late 2010 and continues into 2011. With the first book we start with Julian Bashir discovering that girl trouble is the least of his concerns in David Mack’s “Zero Sum Game”.


REVIEW: Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game (Chapter 1)
by David Mack

There are certain universal truths, and one of them is that no matter how disastrous things are, nothing can truly stop the political enterprise. And so it is that, in the wake of the destruction visited upon the Alpha and Beta Quadrants during the recent Borg invasion, a new conflict is brewing – one that will run the risk of hitting a boiling point in the lap of Julian Bashir, Ezri Dax, and Nanietta Bacco.

When the plans for the Federation’s super-secret slipstream drive are stolen (with malice) from the Utopia Planitia construction yards, the Federation calls upon Julian Bashir to enter the fray, dangling before him an irresistible carrot in the form of Sarina Douglas. Douglas, a fellow genetically modified human being, was liberated from a catatonic state by Bashir years before, but left DS9 and the doctor behind as a romantic relationship appeared to be on the horizon.

Now, having forsaken scientific research, Douglas has taken on the role of deep cover operative and is heading for what is believed to be a Breen-run shipyard on a small planetoid known as Salavat. Responding as much with a sense of personal obligation to Douglas as any sense of duty to the Federation, Bashir agrees to join the mission – one which is guaranteed to cause him a high degree of personal angst as he discovers yet again that playing secret agent in the holosuite is a far cry from living out the dream in real life. Ezri Dax attempts to pound said message into Bashir during their journey to the mission’s staging point, but Julian will have none of it.

As Dax and her crew aboard the USS Aventine struggle with maintaining position as the mission’s rescue party, she finds herself facing her own problems, and playing a bit of politics herself.

Throughout the story, Federation president Nanietta Bacco weaves in and out of the action, authorizing missions, working diplomatic contacts for support, and pondering her own future as the chief executive of the Federation.

As the mission heats up on Salavat, Bashir and Douglas make contacts within Breen society that reveal some long-hidden truths about the masked species, and about what is really going on behind the scenes of their society. What Bashir and Douglas never fully discover, however, is the reality behind the Typhon Pact… a reality that the Breen’s slipstream prototype designer, Thot Keer, is all to maddeningly aware of. Keer is under the gun, both from his own government, and from the leadership of allied nations, to get a prototype slipstream starship out of the building slips and into service… and to turn the technology over for the entire Pact to exploit. But Keer is a patriot, and walks a very delicate line all the way through the story – one of loyalty, personal pride, and national ambition; a line that will lead to confrontations that will ultimately determine the outcome of his work, and the legacy
that he will establish for himself.

As always, David Mack demonstrates an ability to generate amazingly vibrant worlds – creating them out of whole cloth. His development of the Breen is one of the most outstanding examples of world-building in recent memory. It’s detailed enough to be completely engaging, and yet vague enough to leave room for further exploration. He is equally adept at bringing to life Thot Keer and other Breen leaders – even those who make what are essentially perfunctory appearances in order to move the story along. Each and every character in “Zero Sum Game” has a sense of fullness about them, even when their presence could be dismissed as trivial.

Of course, Mack nails Bashir in every respect. He balances well the doctor’s insecurities, idealism, sense of romance and adventure, and his ultimate commitment to his profession. At the same time, the game is entirely changed on Bashir in the process, and he never even suspects the true depth of the subversion.

Sarina Douglas, who admittedly comes off at first as a cheap lure for the good doctor finds a true place for herself in the course of the book, one that ensures that you actually do care about her when critical events unfold around her. She has a far deeper role to play in “Zero Sum Game” than one might initially feel – so hold out a chapter or two after her first appearance if you have qualms… as they will be quickly swept away.

“Zero Sum Game” is one of the few truly single-sitting books out there. It takes on a life of its own, with a frenetic pace that refuses to let go. Rarely have I seen a book make such effective use of scene and chapter breaks, and all of them simply serve to add fuel to the desire to finish the book immediately.

With strong writing, excellent characters, a new culture to explore, and a little bit of James Bond thrown in, “Zero Sum Game” is highly recommended, and a fitting introduction to the Typhon Pact series.

Cover for Zero Sum Game

3 more Typhon books

Zero Sum Game was followed by a "Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire" by Michael A. Martin , "Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire" by David R. George III. Coming next will be "Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony" by Dayton Ward. TrekMovie will have full reviews of all of these over the coming weeks.

Pocket Books provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Sarina connection felt a bit forced at times, but still a very entertaining read. I wish we could have seen a tv show in this universe.

I’m still waiting for this book to be released on Apple’s iBooks. Books 2 & 3 of the series are available in iBooks already. Not sure what the hold up is a book 1 is available via Kindle.

Just about to finish up Seize the Fire now…this has been an excellent series so far.

I’m really on the fence about this one. David Mack is consistently the man, but I didn’t enjoy the last few books I’ve read by the other Typhon authors. And I really don’t want to abandon a promising story arc after one book… :(

Well, it ended on a cliff-hanger–so I’m wondering, does Dave Mack have plans to pick up this particular plot after the Typhon Pact novels? Or is it planned to play out elsewhere?

‘Bout a quarter of a way through Rough Beasts of Empire. I still have no idea where it’s going, it’s all over the place, but I’ve been interested all along the way.

And I loved Seize the Fire: everything you wanted to know about the Gorn! It’s high time. Martin nails the details, as usual.

the USS Aventine is a cool ship.

Here’s to hoping that Cryptic ends up revamping space travel in STO, giving all ships the “Quantum Slipstream Drive” with a max velocity of Warp 20 (currently limited to Vice Admiral as an ability).

Where’s the effin’ ENT: Romulan War sequel?? Is it dead in space, lost like the NX Columbia with no warp capabilities far from home?

This book is terrible. I feel like I’m reading a third grade level junior adventures book that barely resembles star trek. I can not believe that this book came from the same mind that spawned vanguard… Which was apparently put on hold to start this series.

The story itself is completely absurd. Basically two spies are caught behind enemy lines by the only person with the will and means to supply them with everything they need. BORING!

I’m about 2/3 of the way through this book and ithas taken me three weeks to get this far. There’s no suspense, no intrigue, and very little action. Avoid this book at all costs.

To David Mack, I’ve seen you do much better. Thanks for wasting my eight bucks.

The blurb posted in prevously in another article is by far the best written and action filled part of the book. But it literally dies off after this section. I’m not exaggerating.

It’s as if the first chapter was written by the David Mack we have seen before, then passed on to a fifth grader to finish… in a week. It’s that bad. Please do not be fooled.

Why the vemenince . If you dislike the book fine, but don’t right messages that sound like a personal attack of the author. Can we talk such small things with a sense of civility people. Let’s see if I can give it a try

I have heard great things about David Mack, but I am one of those that no matter how individualistic each book is, if its couched as a series I have to read the whole thing. All that is to say, that I may not end up reading the series because I have not been impressed with Dayton Wards writing. It is fair enough for the Trek universe, but I enjoy books not because they are Trek, but because they are well written. And, I’m just not wild about his writing style and his story development. My prefrence, not neccesarily yours. So, again, I may end up soured on the whole series.

See, there you go. I hope that fit my own criteria for bashing but not bashing on an author.

By the way, would anybody out there let me know what they consider required reading before I jump into this TYPHOON series. I hate not having read the actual links in a chain of events in a series of novels.

I really enjoyed this one as well. It reads like a James Bond novel with Dr. Bashir as Bond. Sort of like his holodeck fantasies come to life.

I also enjoyed the world-building aspect depicting life in the Breen Confederacy. The Breen were a race full of mystery and contradictions in DS9, and it always frustrated me that they never paid any of that off. They were mysterious just for the sake of being mysterious.

The explanations postulated in this book actually make a lot of sense, or at least they were fun! :)

@Tyrone Alfonso: I have to agree with you. There was some spark missing from _Zero Sum Game_: it felt like a generic spy thriller fitted out with Trek terminology.

The best parts were the characters: Bashir’s angst (real spycraft is not like a holosuite game), President Bacco’s frustration, etc. But it needs more than characters to be Trek, and the problem IMHO with the post-TV books is the dilution of the cast. Too many third-tier characters who had never been clearly defined on TV; too many characters, period, to build up for readers. Trek is drowning beneath its history, like a comic book. (The “Titan” books avoid this because they’re able to focus on one crew, instead of every passing Alpha Quadrant political storm.)

Bashir is supposed to be smart, but most of the time plods behind Sarina. “Why did you do that?” “Because …” I suspect this is meant to exhibit their cleverness to not-so-clever readers, but the better way to do so is this: She does something, Bashir immediately realizes why, and reflects on it to himself — thereby explaining to us.

Starfleet makes some bonehead mistakes. A spy gets hired at Utopia Planitia by listing a fake species; they’re uncertain of Breen tech, but infiltrate him with only one type of data rod and no just-in-case adapters.

The Aventine’s transporter range is only 40,000 km? That was the number from early TNG. Surely it’s been improved since then? Regardless, the ship would need to violate Breen space to extract Bashir and Sarina, but it feels like slavish devotion to the tech references. (Is there a Pocket story editor who coordinates the milieu?)

Reviewer Lyons writes: “[Mack] generate[s] amazingly vibrant worlds … His development of the Breen is one of the most outstanding examples of world-building in recent memory.”

I strongly disagree. Once we find out who the Breen are behind those masks, they become just another Trek civilization with human-parallel social structures; they have exactly one (spoiler!) distinguishing trait (two if you count where their cities are located). Trek has never excelled in this respect — non-franchise written SF has much more exotic aliens and, FTM, future humans — but it’s still disappointing. And what Mack does write is short on description; “vibrant” overstates the result.

I’m a HUGE trek novel fan and I’m sorry to say that I agree with a lot of the poor sentiment here regarding the entire Typhon Pact series. Maybe I set the bar too high after last year’s Destiny crossover…. Anyway, I think it’s really lame that the only element of this crossover so far (I’m almost through Rough Beasts of Empire) is the fact that the “bad guys” are all members of the Typhon Pact. Big whoop. It’s not like they’re actively engaged in a single plan or anything. At this point, they’re all doing their own thing, so even the fact that they’re all “united” is a pretty lame connection. If the fourth and final novel of the event is just as much on it’s own as the first three were, I’ll be really disappointed. When they’re all basically stand-alone books, please don’t label it like a crossover series. The only saving grace thus far is that at least the Titan book (book 2) moved the Titan story along a tiny bit.

I’m so disappointed by the latest novels and with the contiunity in them now we are stuck with all these stuff. I seriously consider to quite reading them. I’d love to read some new self contained stories (about exploration with my favorite characters as I remebered them and not as they’ve become now in the newest novels). Like it used to be in the 90s. If you didn’t like a storyline you didn’t read it, that storyline didn’t carrie in the next novels.

I still can’t accept the fact that they made Couselor Ezri Dax a captain, let alone before they make Wof, Laforge, Data. That’s bad fanfiction. She was an ensign when Wof was the first officer of the defiant and carried dangerous missions behind the enemy lines. Ver bad writing!

This is why I gave up on the star trek novels: the latest books feels nothing like Star Trek. I think it’s time to go back to the 80’s and 90’s style. More books taking place during the series and be about our favorite characters from the series. Nowdays all my favorite crews are changed and none of the new characters has capture my attention.

Ezri sucked. Why would the writers even think to give her her own ship is beyond me.