Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blind Man's Bluff

Star Trek: New Frontier: Blind Man's Bluff
Published April 2011
Read May 19th, 2011

Previous book (New Frontier): Treason

Next book (New Frontier): The Returned, Part 1


Click the cover to purchase Blind Man's Bluff at Amazon.com!




Spoilers ahead for Blind Man's Bluff and other books in the New Frontier series, as well as the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy!


From the back cover:
Captain MacKenzie Calhoun has faced incredible odds before, but nothing he has ever experienced could prepare him for the simultaneous threats from two of the most destructive forces he’s ever encountered. The first is the D’myurj—a mysterious and powerful alien race bent on either the complete domination of humanity or its destruction . . . a potentially massive risk to the very foundations of Starfleet, one that goes so deep it’s impossible to determine whom to trust. The second is even more alarming: Morgan Primus, once a living creature with a soul and a conscience, now an incredibly sophisticated computer simulation taking up residence within the very core of the U.S.S. Excalibur . . . and quickly becoming a growing menace for the Federation. MacKenzie Calhoun is playing a dangerous game as he attempts to outwit and outmaneuver these new enemies, with the fate of the Excalibur crew members and potentially the lives of billions at stake. . . .


About the book:
Blind Man’s Bluff, the latest installment of Peter David’s popular New Frontier series, chronicles the continuation of the story from the last novel, Treason.  The D’myurj continue their campaign to control the United Federation of Planets, and in particular, their goal to kill Captain Calhoun.  Also, we see Captain Calhoun’s attempts to destroy the computer entity that Morgan Primus has become.  However, Morgan has plans of her own, and before Calhoun cat act himself, Morgan strands him on Xenex with an army of The Brethren who systematically attack the Xenexians to root out Calhoun.  Meanwhile, Soleta, Seven of Nine and The Doctor all enact a plan to destroy Morgan, who has taken the USS Excalibur on a mission of vengeance to New Thallon.

My thoughts:
I am a huge fan of Peter David.  As I said in my review of Vendetta, I've always had high expectations picking up one of his novels.  Q-Squared remains one of my favorite reads of all time.  Held up to this standard, Blind Man’s Bluff was a bit of a disappointment.  In this latest installment, the characters seem to have become flatter, less real.  New Frontier has always been about the strangeness and quirkiness of the characters, and I always enjoyed that.  However, Blind Man’s Bluff seems to portray this “quirkiness” as mere ridiculousness.  The self-referential stuff gets a little tiresome.  For example, when talking about Tobias’ abilities to have premonitial feelings, one of the characters says something along the lines of “guess we can’t have a helmsman who’s not strange.”  Yes, we get it.  Excalibur attracts strange crewman.  Can’t you merely show us this rather than telling us every other page?  “Look at this character trait.  Isn’t it STRANGE???”  Yeesh, give me a break.

I also didn’t appreciate inserting bits of “cute” dialog into the novel that didn’t make sense for the character speaking it.  At one point, Seven of Nine is speaking with a small child about the dangerousness of space.  She says to her, “It's not safe out there.  It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it's not for the timid.”  Sound familiar?  It should.  The monologue is lifted almost wholesale from Q’s appearance in TNG’s “Q Who.”  Instead of “Oh cool, that’s what Q said that one time!,” my reaction was to hear John deLancie’s voice saying it in my head as I read it.  I couldn’t picture those words coming from Seven, and it really took me out of the novel.  The number of moments such as this which made me kind of shake my head while reading was a little distressing.  Even a small reference to the Borg “eating Pluto” from Before Dishonor was enough to make me cringe.

One thing that was kind of cool was the pop culture references, including this reference to Doctor Who: “’This is the Doctor,’ Seven said by way of explanation.  Soleta looked momentarily confused.  ‘The Doctor? I met a man called the Doctor once.  Wore a long brown coat and a blue suit.  Very odd person.  This isn't him.’
  There was also a very subtle reference to the situational comedy How I Met Your Mother; kudos to anyone who is able to find it!

Continuity Issues:
It is difficult to pin down exactly when Blind Man’s Bluff takes place.  In a number of places, the novel refers to events from the Destiny trilogy, particularly in regards to Seven of Nine, who seems to have been completely transformed into a human by this point.  This novel is very difficult to reconcile with the other novels in the larger continuity, especially due to the death of the imposter Admiral Nechayev.  Since she appears in a later novel, has the real admiral since been rescued?  Also, following the events of Destiny, Admiral Jellico retires as CinC of Starfleet.  Yet here, he is seen as a regular line admiral.  I suppose it is possible that he retires as CinC to step down to a lower position, but dialog in other novels points to an outright resignation from Starfleet.  Finally, according to the Voyager relaunch novels, following Seven of Nine’s transformation, she undergoes a nearly paralyzing period of identity crisis, which is resolved in Kirsten Beyer’s Unworthy.  However, she appears normal here.  The solution, of course, is to treat New Frontier as a separate continuity altogether.  It is understood that the novels do not have to follow the same continuity, but it was nice to have them mesh together over the past few years.  I suppose as readers of Trek fiction, we have become spoiled in expecting things to track properly across all of the novel series.


Final thoughts:
As I stated earlier, I love Peter David's work, but felt a little let down with this latest installment.  I feel as though this novel would have benefited from a more rigorous editorial process.  The continuity issues could have been avoided completely with only a few very minor changes, and the other issues are minor enough to be overlooked.  I feel bad giving Blind Man's Bluff a low score, but the high expectations I have for Peter David's work force me to be more critical of this latest effort.  I have to give Blind Man's Bluff a 5.5/10.  I enjoyed the continuation of the story, but the novel as a whole feels rough, and could have used a couple more polishes before being published.

More about Blind Man's Bluff:

Also by Peter David:

Next Review:
Margaret Wander Bonanno's story about Saavik, Unspoken Truth.  Until next time, LLAP!