Top positive review
Better than I expected (contains spoilers)
on 29 September 2013
So, we now reach the conclusion of David Mack's trilogy with 'The Body Electric'. Now, I won't lie; I did not have high expectations of this book (read my reviews of the previous two books and you'll see why) and when I realised we were going to be dealing with Wesley Crusher (by far my least favourite Star Trek character ever) I could feel the bar lowering. But, I persevered (Dad always taught me 'you don't know you don't like something unless you try it') and got the book. When the first words of Chapter 1 were "Wesley Crusher...", there was a very loud voice in my head screaming at me to run and never look back; but with Dad's words echoing in my ears, I shrugged off the little devil on my shoulder and read on... and I am very glad I did.
Plot in a nutshell; Wesley encounters the Machine (a giant space killing thing that sucks in and destroys entire star systems), his fellow Travellers decide that it is above their pay-grade and bravely run like hell, so Wesley goes to seek help from... you guessed it, the crew of the good ship Enterprise, another ship of androids throws a spanner or two in the works, Picard and the crew come up with an 11th hour plan that inevitably saves the day and indeed the whole galaxy. Oh, and Data (if anyone actually still cares at this point) is still searching for the scientist who can help revive Lal who is conveniently on the android ship.
Don't ask me how he did it, but David Mack has actually managed to make Wesley Crusher tolerable in this book. I still don't like the character (Mack's good but he's not a miracle worker), but he doesn't annoy the hell out me the way in did in the past. This whole book feels much more complete than the previous two offerings; it is well paced and (even though the plot twists weren't entirely unexpected) the book held my interest throughout. As the 'villain' of the piece, it would have been all too easy to turn the Machine into a cheap Borg-esque rip off. Instead, they go down a different route with it and you end up with while no means a sympathetic antagonist, certainly one whose point of view you can see (once you get passed the mass murder and destruction) The androids, on the other hand, I got pretty sick of them pretty quickly. I can see why they were there, but they didn't comes across as all that pivotal; I could see ways Mack could have worked without them to get where he needed to go. This book also has little throw-away details that I liked that, while not necessary to the plot overall, just made my inner-fanboy smile; details like Worf being offered the chance of promotion or Q's cameo appearance. Once again, Mack nails the characterisation of the Next Gen crew that we all know.
But, I'm afraid the damage is already done. As far as I'm concerned 'Cold Equations' falls flat as a trilogy. If it was absolutely necessary to bring Data back from the dead, most of the material you needed was in Book 1 and could have been convincingly stretched out to fill out a trilogy in itself. Book 1 should have ended with the discover that Data's creator was now an android, Book 2 could have ended with the death of Lt. Choudhury (if it was felt absolutely necessary) and then Book 3 should have been when Data was resurrected. The Machine could still have been used as the impending threat that (from the story's POV) made Data's resurrection not just a dream but a necessity. Instead, we are left with 3 books that don't really hang together that well as a trilogy (one of which really belonging in a different set of books altogether).
'The Body Electric' is, in my humble opinion, the best of the three (not perfect, but it's merits outweigh it's flaws). But I am left with one small niggle (hardly worth mentioning, but it bugs me so why not); it is not a Worf-driven story... so why is he on the cover? That's a bit of a tease.