–This review contains spoilers. Proceed with caution–
Series: Rise of the Federation (#4)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2016
Hunting for the origins of the alien technology known as the Ware, Captain Reed and the Pioneer crew find themselves in territory claimed by the Partnership, an alliance of worlds for whom the Ware is not a threat, but their only means of survival . . .
Carrying on almost directly from Uncertain Logic, Live by the Code continues to explore the early years and struggles of the Federation. More specifically, it follows through on the previous book’s teasing of the full extent of the Ware crisis. And this is where the spoilers begin.
I noted in my last review that the Ware have a few similarities with the Borg, and indeed Archer himself makes this comparison, albeit limited by the 22nd century’s limited Borg contact. However, this book shows just how different the two threats are, for all their similarities. Whereas the Borg are akin to locusts – a swarming, faceless threat that strips away everything – the Ware are a uniquely science fictional idea. You see, they’re not actually as malicious as first appears. Yes they are dangerous, and require organic components to function, but they are not actively evil. The revelation of their origins as mere consumer technology is wonderfully done. These are machines that exist to serve, and have simply followed their programming to its logical conclusion. It’s hard to say if they have any real intelligence, but its certainly one of my favourite takes on artificial intelligence, particularly in Star Trek canon.
Seeing how the Partnership has formed a symbiotic relationship with the Ware provides the perfect moral dilemma. Let it continue, and the Ware expand to threaten others. But end the relationship, and the Partnership worlds will be left without any technology at all. It’s the perfect needs of the many versus needs of the few situation, with a healthy dose of do the ends justify the means thrown in for good measure. Particularly admirable is the way that Bennett shows the messy resolution for what it is, continuing Enterprise‘s tradition of allowing its heroes to make the wrong choices, and for successes to come at a price.
Sadly, the other plotlines can’t quite bring the same level of interest. Phlox finally gets some strong material of his own, and it’s nice to see Denobula in all its soggy glory, but much of the book is taken up by Klingon politics. This is a field that has been ploughed time and again on page and on screens both small and large. To be honest, I’m not sure there’s much left growing in it at this point. It’s not actively bad, but there are only so many times I can read ‘honour’ and ‘glory’ before tuning out. There’s definitely an audience for the Klingon sections, but I am not it.
Nevertheless, Live by the Code is worth reading for the Ware alone, which is a worthy addition to the Star trek universe.