Saturday, April 4, 2015

Uncertain Logic

Star Trek: Enterprise
Rise of the Federation
Uncertain Logic by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: March 24th 2015
Read March 30th 2015


Previous book (Enterprise): Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Next book (Enterprise): Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code



Spoilers ahead for Uncertain Logic and Rise of the Federation!

From the back cover:
Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discov­ery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real master­mind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth. 
Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat reemerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

My thoughts:

Christopher L. Bennett brings a lot to the table when he writes a Star Trek novel. For one thing, and as I have mentioned many times before while reviewing his books, he is extremely adept at incorporating disparate pieces of continuity into a cohesive whole. Perhaps the greatest example of this is his first Department of Temporal Investigations novel, Watching the Clock. However, Bennett also excels at something that Star Trek has long been known for: depicting fictional scenarios that act as parables or metaphors for current issues facing our society, and Uncertain Logic showcases this talent admirably.

For example, early in the story we get a plot designed to discredit Vulcan First Minister Kuvak as a human impostor, posing as a native-born Vulcan, echoing the ridiculous "birther" movement that purports that U.S. president Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is not qualified to hold the presidency. Other issues, such as concerns over immigration, xenophobia, partisan politics, and fundamentalism are explored in this novel.

As with the two previous Rise of the Federation novels, Uncertain Logic follows a number of different storylines. Archer, T'Pol, and the Endeavour deal with an unfolding crisis on Vulcan as the Kir'shara, Surak's original writings discovered in the "Awakening" three-parter in Enterprise's fourth season, is discovered to have been replaced by an imperfect replica. This discovery calls into question the veracity of the Kir'shara, and may possibly de-legitimize the Syrranite-led government.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer under Captain Reed takes on the "Ware," the highly-advanced automated technology first seen in the episode "Dead Stop." This story showcases another of Bennett's talents: taking a plot point and extrapolating it to its logical ends. The Ware station in "Dead Stop" was a fascinating antagonist, but in Uncertain Logic, we see the true extent of the effects such a technology would have on civilizations.

The "Ware," autonomous machines that work technological marvels first seen in Enterprise's "Dead Stop," are explored in Uncertain Logic.

Finally, there is a third story featuring the U.S.S. Essex under the command of Captain Shumar (see TNG's "Power Play"). In this story, the dangers of the early days of Federation exploration are revealed as contact with the Deltans (see Lt. Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture) proves to be extremely hazardous to the crew of the Essex. Bennett's presentation of the Deltan people is very beautiful to read, and I was really very moved by his exploration of empathy and sexuality throughout their story. I also really enjoy these stories showcasing the very real dangers of exploration in the Federation's early days, a theme that Enterprise never really did justice to.

In this novel, the U.S.S. Essex visits Delta. I rather like the crew of this ship, and I hope the Essex continues to make regular appearances in future Rise of the Federation novels.

As good as each of these stories were, the most meaningful story to me was that of the crisis on Vulcan. Uncertain Logic does an excellent job of presenting a side of the Vulcans that makes them seem more real than I've ever felt them to be. We are used to seeing them as a generally flawlessly logical people, but individual Vulcans are just as unique in their application of logic as humans are in their beliefs and philosophies. Even moreso than in the "Vulcan reformation" episodes of Enterprise, I felt that the soul of Vulcan was laid bare and that we were truly seeing a rift forming in Vulcan society. The aforementioned episodes showed us a huge change in Vulcan's government, but we never really got a feel for what the common Vulcan citizen experienced. In Uncertain Logic, I felt that we were given that perspective, and it was very welcome.

V'las's legacy casts a long shadow over Vulcan.

Final thoughts:

I have long been a fan of Christopher L. Bennett's Trek work, and Uncertain Logic did not disappoint. In fact, as much as I loved the previous two Rise of the Federation novels, this one seems to me to be the strongest. Here we truly experience the growing pains of a nascent Federation, with one of the founding members going through an existential crisis that may tear the fledgling coalition apart. Although I really enjoy Star Trek episodes and stories that focus on one ship and crew and their weekly adventures, I truly love stories that examine the "big picture," and Rise of the Federation as a whole and Uncertain Logic in particular do that job admirably, making this novel my favorite Trek novel of 2015 thus far.

Further resources:

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

My next read:

Next week, book three of the Slings and Arrows e-novella series: The Insolence of Office by William Leisner.