Series: Titan (#5)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Social SF
Publication Date: 2009
As the Federation rebuilds in the wake of the devastating Borg invasion, Captain William Riker and the Titan crew are tasked with renewed exploration of deep space. Here they find Droplet, a world without land. But perhaps not without civilisation . . .
The fifth Titan novel picks up where the Destiny trilogy left off, with a traumatised Starfleet determined to get back to its exploratory roots. Over A Torrent Sea does a solid job of balancing those two aspects of the developing Litverse, mixing an intriguing science fiction element with some deft character development.
Let’s start by talking about that trauma. In particular, Tuvok’s trauma. In Destiny, Tuvok lost his eldest son to the Borg invasion, and that loss continues to have ramifications. Using the emotionally reserved Vulcan to talk about grief is a smart choice. Grief s emotional, but it is also logical. Tuvok, Troi, and T’Pel (and people whose names don’t begin with T) all get to weigh in on the discussion. Tuvok is an interesting case due to his years on Voyager. Yes, that essentially means we know him better than the other characters, but Bennett uses those seven years as a resource, analysing the other times Tuvok has been emotionally compromised. Any story that gives a continuity to the events of Voyager is going to score big points with me.
As for that science fiction element, Droplet is a planet that could only be done in literary form. It’s an ocean world, inhabited by an array of diverse oceangoing creatures. As such, much of the action takes place underwater. It’s the sort of truly alien environment that could never be done justice on the screen, perhaps not even with today’s mega-budgets. What makes this side of the story a great piece of Star Trek is that it’s not about conflict in the traditional sense. There are no warmongering fish aliens, for example. The danger comes from miscommunications and a lack of mutual understanding. We’ve had the Borg invasion, we’ve had the all guns blazing action scenes. Over A Torrent Sea offers something quieter. A meditation on shared grief, and the dawning of a new understanding of both unfamiliar species and ourselves.
There is, however, a weak link in this otherwise sturdy chain. The third plot of this book involves Troi’s pregnancy. Now, everything has to be dramatic. that’s the rule of storytelling. But just once I’d like a pregnancy to happen in the background and be resolved without any issue. What we get in this book is a bizarre diversion in which Troi is kidnapped and taken to another planet. What ensues is a sideshow to the main story that feels like half a book in its own right, but just doesn’t sit well with the rest of this one. It’s almost as though Bennett had to turn two manuscripts into one at a late stage. Thematically, it all works well enough, but in terms of narrative it’s jarring diversion from the events on Droplet.
Subplot aside, Over A Torrent Sea showcases so much of what Titan does best. It’s got science, it’s got character work, and it shows what we can expect from a post-Destiny world.