BOOK REVIEW: Zero Sum Game, by David Mack

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zero sum game.jpg

Era: Post-Nemesis

Series: Typhon Pact (#1)

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 2010

Verdict: 4/5

 

Agents of the Typhon Pact have stolen schematics for the quantum slipstream drive, Starfleet’s only technological advantage. To reclaim this stolen technology, Starfleet send Julian Bashir on a deadly undercover mission to the unknown worlds of the Breen Confederacy . . .

Zero Sum Game kicks off the Typhon Pact series with a bang. Again, it draws on Deep space Nine storylines I don’t know, but is less reliant on them than the previous offering. Most of the important details are either from the show itself, or are swiftly recapped in the opening chapters. If there’s one thing David Mack has proven, it’s that no one is quite as good at bringing things together. I dare say that so long as you know who Bashir is, you’d be fine reading this book without any prior knowledge. You might miss out on a handful of connections, but Zero Sum Game tells a complete and compelling tale in its own right.

The story here is relatively simple. Much more of a straight space adventure than a lot of my recent Star Trek reading has provided. Bashir’s love of spy fiction plays into it, but he’s very much on unfamiliar ground with this mission. travelling alongside him is Sarina Douglas, one of the ‘Jack Pack’ of genetically engineered individuals featured in Deep Space Nine. The romance between this two has a touch of predictability about it, but it’s played straight and isn’t the focus of the story. That falls to the spywork itself. And by spywork, we’re talking about explosions and shootouts of the James Bond variety. Subtle infiltration, this is not.

In a second thread we see Captain Ezri Dax battling to stay one step ahead of a Typhon Pact fleet. I love a good bit of space naval engagement, and Mack offers a fine piece of action. With only one ship against an unknown horde, it turns to tactical thinking rather than pure firepower to win the day. Mack pulls on tricks used in the TV shows a well as a few ideas of his own, creating a tense series of chapters that will have you guessing until the very end. As with Destiny, it’s nice to see Ezri coming into her own. Once again the Litverse novels have given a second lease of life to a character under-utilised on screen.

Something else given new life here is the Breen Confederacy. The enigmatic suited figures from Deep Space Nine are finally fleshed out in full with Zero Sum Game. Playing on the notion that they are extremely secretive, Mack creates a society so internally paranoid that not even the Breen know much about each other. The uniformity of their outfits, far from being a budgetary restraint, is in fact a key part of their culture. It’s fascinating to see the Breen used as a counterpoint to the Federation’s own egalitarian utopia. Both seek to eliminate social division, yet while the Federation celebrates diversity, the Breen stamp out any hint of it. And yet, while the methods are far from perfect, the intent is admirable. The Breen are not simply another species of evil warmongers, they simply have a different idea of how to achieve piece.

Fast and thrilling, Zero Sum Game is a spy thriller with more depth than first meets the eye.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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