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Don't bother Braving the Storm
on 25 November 2011
It is with a heavy heart I have to say this was probably one of the worst and most disappointing novels I have ever read, and this is from someone who will occasionally by a book because the cover is shiny. There's is very little to recommend it on other than to say that it didn't take me long to read and at least it completes the story arc begun in the previous books of this series.
The main reason for the `worst' opinion is I'm not entirely sure one could class it as a novel in the conventional sense. It's structured like the storyboard to a novel, the notes an author might leave for his more talented co-writer to flesh out. I have a strong suspicion this series was meant to be far larger, as nothing else would justify the release was is essentially the cliff notes for potential books one would send to an editor or at least stick to an 'ideas' board in an office. There's nothing one normally associates with a novel, no character development, few action sequences, no overriding central plot (apart a vague "we're at war") and indeed no real feeling of the context (a gritty interstellar war) within whith the book is set. There are hints of such things, Archer dealing with his reputation following the events of "Kobayashi Maru", loss of various colonies and battles etc, but these are not elaborated on in-text. Any development happens `off screen' as it were, with the reader being rather clumsily informed about them through pieces of dialogue. I was disappointed with the previous books as Martin seems to avoid writing action sequences; for this book he has included coherent plots and character development to his aversions.
The book is also perhaps even more disappointing as a piece of Star Trek canon. It goes without saying I bought this as I am a Star Trek fan and anyone reading this review has, I'd imagine, searched for this book for the same reason. The Romulan War and the birth of the Federation have been massive parts of ST history that until now have been left untouched and... That's it?. For example, The Battle of Cheron (oft mentioned, never elaborated) should have been an epic confrontation that explains Romulan animosity even 200 years later, and that's the best Martin could do? To say why would give away spoilers but, while I know all fans have their own vision of "how things should have been done", I don't think I've been more disappointed since Darth Vader was revealed to be a whiney emo kid with mother issues.
Again, much of this stems from the structure. I doubt it will give anything away to say the Federation is founded at the end of the book, but this sentence is about as many words as Martin devotes to explaining how it came about. Given the "earth stands alone" nature of the past few novels, a little more detail would have been nice. As for the war itself, the Romulans we know are careful and manipulative, but such Machiavellian plans are impossible to develop with such a disjointed narrative. Martin therefore relies on increasingly insane super villain-esque events to inject the story with a bit of drama and tension, yet given all these threats are introduced and resolved in a half dozen pages, they fail to do even this. While it is no doubt hard to write a compelling story that can fit seamlessly into a detailed existing universe, many authors have done so without resorting to events so extreme others (in universe that is) would definitely have mentioned at some point when referencing the war.
To Brave the Storm is disappointing as both a Star Trek book and a general piece of science fiction. I would advise buying this only if you think that vague sense of closure that comes from seeing something to the end is worth the £4 price tag.