Friday, April 21, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Section 31: Control

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Section 31: Control by David Mack. 

The story has two main plot lines. The smaller plot line is set in the 22nd century beginning before Earth's governments unite, and continuing to the aftermath of the Federation's founding. Professor Aaron Ikerson has created Uraei, an AI software which observes any messages sent or other activities using equipment carrying its software, which swiftly becomes pretty much any electronics manufactured on Earth. The idea is that Uraei will identify possible threats and pass the data to humans who will decide what to do regarding the threats, but as the program is secretly spread among humanity's neighboring worlds it adapts and soon begins acting on its own, arranging accidents to eliminate possible threats to its plans and creating an organization to serve its goal of defending humanity and its allies at all costs. This leaves Ikerson and his few allies in a desperate race to stop his creation.

The main story takes place in the late twenty-fourth century. A group of scientists have discovered Uraei, which has spread throughout the Federation and beyond, evolving to the point where it can pretty much manipulate the Federation at will They inform reporter Ozla Graniv. Seeking a way to neutralize Uraei, because she has been warned that trying to reveal its existence while it is active would be futile and probably suicidal, she contacts Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas. They realize that Uraei must be the key to Section 31's power, thus destroying it would be vital to completing their goal of eliminating the rogue organization. The trio sets out for Orion, one of the few local worlds where Uraei has comparatively little influence, to meet with Data. Data agrees to help them but their efforts alert the AI and they and Data's daughter Lal are forced to flee from a Section 31 strike team. They travel to Cardassia Prime where Garek, now leader of the Cardassian government, offers them sanctuary while they plan their next move. But Section 31 follows them and they are again forced to flee with Douglas being captured. Regrouping on a well-hidden rogue planet, the remaining members of the group plot a desperate three-pronged strike to destroy Uraei and bring down Section 31 even as their enemies try to brainwash Douglas and turn her against her allies and her lover Bashir...

I give this book 3 out of 10. There aren't any real problems with the writing I see, but I have a number of issues with the story itself. First and least there was an earlier Star Trek novel which covered the origins of the organization that became Section 31 and this book ignores that completely. Second and by far the biggest complaint I have is that I feel Uraei is a betrayal of everything the Federation and humanity in the Trek future is supposed to represent. I was never entirely happy about the existence of Section 31 but there were so many renegades and rogue groups in Star Trek lore that I consider one long lasting group of well meaning, out of control extremists acceptable. Giving that group the capability to spy constantly on pretty much everyone in the Federation and many in neighboring areas and placing it in the hands of a rogue, killer AI pushes it far past the acceptable limit in my opinion. Finally, I hate the ending with a passion. It is definitely my least favorite ending to a Star Trek novel ever and right now its a solid contender for my least favorite ending in a novel of any kind and is made worse because the authors of future books will have to either write around the ending, deal with the long term effects of the ending, or throw the ending out in favor of what is needed to write their stories.

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