Series: Titan (#3)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2006
Titan‘s journey takes it into the breeding grounds of the star-jellies first encountered at Farpoint Station. But where there are animals, there are hunters, and Riker soon finds himself torn between preserving an alien way of life, and preserving life itself . . .
The great strength of Star Trek has always been diversity, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. One of the unique things about this universe is the number of hands involved in its design. Yes, there were show-runners like Rodenberry, Berman, and now Alex Kurtzman, but dozen of directors, editors, and screenwriters had their time in the sun. In the literary realm, this is still the case. Back in the early days, famed authors such as James Blish and Joe Haldeman penned stories. In more recent years, the Litverse has cultivated a community of familiar names. While some series, most notable the Voyager relaunch, were helmed by a single author, Titan followed in the Star Trek tradition by opening its doors to many different writers. With Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin having kicked off the series, this third volume welcomes Trek stalwart Christopher L. Bennett to the fold. Followers of this blog will recognise Bennett from his stellar Enterprise: Rise of the Federation novels, and we’ll be seeing more of him in the months to come.
One thing Bennett has always excelled at is bringing together scattered parts of Trek history to create a more cohesive whole. This time around, his focus is on the cosmozoans, a term I believe he invented in this novel. Put simply, a cosmozoan is one of many various species of giant, space-faring life form. The star-jellies are a key part of this novel, but Bennett also works in the Crystalline Entity from The Next Generation, and numerous encounters in the Delta Quadrant from Voyager, putting Tuvok’s prior experience to good use. Bennett takes all these one-off space monsters and creates a thriving interstellar ecosystem. The delving into science behind such behemoths is easily the bets part of the book, and that’s before you get to moral quandaries over the rights of such creatures.
However, much as I enjoyed the content of Orion’s Hounds, I felt like the prose pulls the book down. I generally like Bennett’s work, but here the writing feels sluggish. Some of this is the change of pace brought on by a new author driving the same characters, but this feels like a book weighed down by its delivery. And while it didn’t bother me too much, readers looking for crew interaction may be disappointed. Here the focus is very much on the science problem of the week that Bennett handles so well. There are some fun moments with the crew, but not as much as in previous books. That said, the carnivorous Ree plays an important role, and his development is rapidly becoming one of the best character arcs in the series, even if it is early days yet.
With a lot of science and a side helping of character work, Orion’s Hounds is a pleasant little slice of Star Trek that will leave you wanting more. Happily, both Bennett and Titan are ready to provide.