Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Body Electric

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations: The Body Electric by David Mack
Release date: December 
26th 2012
Read December 26th 2012

Previous book (The Next Generation): Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons
Next book (The Next Generation): The Stuff of Dreams (ebook only)


Click to purchase The Body Electric from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for The Body Electric and the rest of the Cold Equations trilogy!

From the back cover:
At the center of the Galaxy, a planet-sized Machine of terrifying power and unfathomable purpose hurls entire star systems into a supermassive black hole. Wesley Crusher, now a full-fledged Traveler, knows the machine must be stopped ... but he has no idea how. He enlists the help of Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew, who also fail to halt the unstoppable alien juggernaut's destructive labors. But they soon divine the Machine's true purpose, which threatens to exterminate all life in the Milky Way Galaxy. With time running out, Picard realizes he knows of only one person who might be able to stop the Machine in time to avert a galactic catastrophe--but he has no idea how to find him.

Notable Quote:

"I do not believe you have met my fellow prisoner. This is Akharin, a six-thousand-year-old immortal human from Earth. Akharin, this is Wesley Crusher, a human who has evolved into an extradimensional being known as a Traveler."
- Data introduces Wesley and Akharin, highlighting the absurdity of the situation in a way only the galaxy's best straight-man can.

My thoughts:

Here it is, the third and final book in the Cold Equations trilogy by David Mack. A bittersweet ending, to be sure. This has been a fun rollercoaster of a series. Very different from his last trilogy, Cold Equations isn't a big, interconnected, galaxy-changing event like Destiny was. That is, until this installment, The Body Electric.

Wesley Crusher seeks out
his former shipmates to
assist in defeating a threat
to the galaxy.
This novel does in fact feature a foe that may potentially wipe out the Milky Way galaxy: a massive artificial construct whose purpose seems to be to destroy star systems one at a time by hurling them into a massive black hole. Wesley Crusher witnesses the destruction of an entire civilization he had come to know and love, and realizes that trillions of sentient beings will share their fate unless something is able to be done. Abandoned by his fellow Travelers, Wesley seeks out the only people he knows who might be able to stop it in time by following Q's advice: "Go bother Picard."

The secondary plot of this novel follows Data's attempts to find "Akharin," formerly known as the immortal Flint, among other names. He had been kidnapped by the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligences in the previous novel, Silent Weapons. Data, who knows that Akharin was able to revive Juliana Tainer after a cascade failure, is seeking him out in order to learn how to do the same for his late daughter, Lal (see: "The Offspring").

The same AI civilization that repaired and upgraded V'Ger
is responsible for the massive machine at the center of the galaxy.
The Body Electric attempts to bring a "hard sci-fi" sensibility to Star Trek, and for the most part I think it works. The origins and motivations of "The Body Electric" are certainly fascinating, and it was a treat to get some more insight into the origins of V'Ger and the AI civilization that created it. However, there were times when I felt that the crisis was almost too much to wrap my head around. I expected to feel a little more concerned about the fate of the galaxy from the threat of The Body Electric, but the stakes were just too high for me to really feel anything about, if that makes sense. The eventual solution to the problem, however, is beautiful in both its simplicity and huge scope and scale.

Akharin (formerly: Flint, Brack, DaVinci,
Methuselah, Merlin, et al) features a
great deal in The Body Electric.
It should be noted that The Body Electric contained a multitude of positives. It was an immense pleasure to see the return of a few great characters from Trek's past. Most obviously, Wesley's return was fun, and the exploration of how he fits in with Picard and Crusher's new family dynamic was interesting. It was also great to follow the exploits of "The Immortal" once again, at various times known as Brack, Flint, Vaslovik, etc. And finally, the return of Rhea McAdams was very much welcome! Her chemistry and relationship with Data was something the fascinated me in Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang, and I was hoping we'd see her again.

If the overarching existential threat to the galaxy was too much, the decision facing Data and the very personal cost to him at the end is just enough to really rend the heartstrings. One particular line in chapter 26 had me swearing out loud at the unfairness of the situation. In addition, the epilogue of the novel nearly had me in tears. David Mack is good at writing galaxy-changing events, but he is equally adept at tender character moments that really pack an emotional punch.

Final thoughts:

The Body Electric was a satisfying conclusion to the Cold Equations trilogy. Each entry in this trilogy almost represents a different "genre" of novel. The first, The Persistence of Memory, is a black-ops thriller with a bit of personal memoir thrown in. Book two, Silent Weapons, is more of a political/action thriller, while The Body Electric brings a hard sci-fi element to the story. My favourite entry in the series was Silent Weapons, as I'm a sucker for the political stuff. But The Body Electric was a highly compelling and well-told novel that had me guessing until the end.

One question that has been raised and I want to know the answer to: has Data been reunited with Spot? Some pet owner!

More about The Body Electric:


Also by David Mack:


My next read:

Working on finishing up some reviews from last year! First up is Kevin Ryan's Star Trek: Errand of Fury, Book 1: Seeds of Rage