Ex Machina
Christopher Bennett

reviewed by Randy Landers

This is a dreadful example of what happens when an author tries to write to impress rather than entertain. Some folks get it in their head that they need to write a certain way in order to achieve the admiration of the fans. They'll go out of their way to explain this or that, and they'll throw in some science to let us know how much more intelligent they are than the creators of the series were. They'll put in quotes at the start of every chapter. They'll dredge up aliens and tertiary characters that only detract from the story. And in this novel, there is so much "science versus religion" and "history versus religion" nonsense that the author wants us to feel is relevant to the Middle East conflict (he even calls attention to the fact that had the ideas of one of the people advising him about the novel been enacted, we'd have peace there). Puh-leeze. Someone needs to get a grip on what Star Trek books are supposed to do: entertain. And frankly, this one falls far short of the mark.

The author even changes the obvious interpretation of a scene or character in order to sell his point of view or so that he can contrive the events of the story. For example, at the end of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock indicates that all is well. But guess what? He wasn't telling the truth; he can no longer meditate, and this is done simply to give us some sort of character development that the film had already resolved. In the episode, "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," McCoy falls in love with Natira. We learn in this novel that he wasn't telling the truth. He was simply lying to Natira in order to have one last good lay. I'm not making it up, folks. Hell, Christine Chapel simply stops all the action at one point and tells Spock she's sorry about her unrequited love for him, and that she's grown beyond it. This book is full of this nonsense, and one has to wade through it in order to finish the story.

There's also more of the very anti-Vulcan sentiments that remain one of the most damning observations about Modern Trek in general and Enterprise in particular. The Vulcan member of the Federation observation team is a biased prick who cites the mantra that Vulcans know better and yadda yadda yadda. It's sad that Berman and Braga's anti-Vulcan sentiments are creeping into Classic Trek novels such as this. Frankly, we as fans deserve better.

Some paragraph structures are simply poorly devised, with shifting points of view and dialogue that you're not sure belongs to whom. When one writes, one needs to bear in mind that it must be clear whose point of view we're experiencing while we're writing. This author simply fails at time to understand that, and the result are some scenes which are just jumbled.

Above all, it commits the worst sin: it's boring beyond belief. I had to force myself to read it, and even then it took nearly a week because I simply kept putting it down. There's a plethora of tertiary characters you'll find yourself wondering why they're there. There's plenty of historical passages, pseudo-metaphysical nonsense, and above all, plenty of non-action.

I recommend passing on this one, and give it a rating of one star out of ten.

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