Series: Typhon Pact (#3)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2011
Benjamin Sisko is no longer the Emissary. In the wake of the Borg invasion, he returns to his duty as a Starfleet captain. Meanwhile in the divided Romulan Star Empire, Praetor Tal’Aura turns to an unlikely source for aid, prompting a return to public life for Ambassador Spock . . .
First of all, yes I am aware that I am starting the Typhon Pact series with book three. In my current readthrough I’m taking a chronological approach, and for some reason book three takes place before books one and two. In fact, it starts during the climax of the Destiny trilogy, and takes place over the course of about a year. I don’t know why the books were released in this order, but Rough Beasts of Empire is a good place to start with the series even if you haven’t read the others. As the presence of Sisko suggests, this is a Deep Space Nine-focused book, which brings with it the usual disclaimers that I have not kept up with the DS9 relaunch novels and am therefore missing out on a fair bit of context. Now that we’ve got the preamble out of the way, on with the review.
Rough Beasts of Empire is a book in which I like the content more than the presentation. There are two stories at work here. The first is the personal journey of Benjamin Sisko. As I’ve said above, I don’t know what he got up to in the years between ‘What You Leave Behind’ and here, though David R. George III’s frequent recaps do help fill in some of the more important gaps in my knowledge. Starting with the Borg invasion, going through a rough patch with his family, and then into his renewed career, Sisko is generally quite miserable for much of this book. This isn’t the man who hosted holodeck baseball matches, or even the man who enables the assassination of a Romulan VIP. Instead we get a man who just sits there and quietly does his job. It’s a quite flat portrayal of the man, and though there is an arc to be had, it’s a very low curve indeed. Strangest of all is the fact that his story barely matters to the other.
That other story is the ongoing Romulan situation. Praetor Tal’Aura has joined the Typhon Pact, while Empress Donatra of the breakaway Imperial Romulan State has not. There’s a lot of tension to be had here, and it’s prime breeding ground for political intrigue. Oddly, most of that intrigue happens off the page. We get glimpses of the dealings, but that is all. Even Spock, who at first appears to be taking a more active role in the story, is ultimately being moved around like a pawn on a chessboard. And that’s my real problem with Rough Beasts of Empire. We rarely see people doing anything. Everyone sits by passively while things happen in the background.
The odd passivity aside, I generally like the writing in this book. Yes, there are two flashbacks that occur in the middle and are not marked as such, to the extent that I wasn’t sure they were flashbacks at all. But this is my favourite David R. George III book so far. He may not be my favourite Trek tie-in writer, but once you get used to his style, the story is a good one.
Rough Beasts of Empire is less than the sum of its parts, but it’s a stable foundation for the Typhon Pact series to build on going forward. This series may be a reread for me, but it’s just as interesting the second time around.