‘Fallen Gods’, penned by Michael A. Martin (who wrote the last outing, ‘Seize the Fire’), picks up two months after the events of the last novel and continues a couple of the plot threads.
With the Federation still recovering from the final Borg invasion, Captain Riker and his crew look to find another remnant of the terraforming technology they found (and subsequently had to destroy) in ‘Seize the Fire’ in the hopes of helping the scarred worlds back at home.
When a lead brings them dangerously close to the Vela Pulsar, Riker not only has to contend with sending his away team on a potentially fatal mission, but a directive from Starfleet ordering the re-assignment of the Andorian crew members.
‘Star Trek: Titan’ is my favorite of the various Trek book ranges. It has been described as ‘The Original Series in the Next Generation time frame’. It hearkens back to the core tenants of ‘Star Trek’: going out boldly, seeking out new life and new civilizations. Titan’s mission has always been one of deep space exploration, and finding interesting races and situations that mix hard science with strong storytelling and an emphasis on characterization. ‘Fallen Gods’ tries to check off these boxes, but ultimately falls short.
The basic problem with ‘Fallen Gods’ is that it is so painfully average. The problems begin right at the start, with an opening chapter that almost puts you off from continuing to read the novel. I understand that alien races shouldn’t have regular sounding names, but Martin’s choice for naming these races almost puts you out of the novel because you are trying to think just how to pronounce them.
Also off-putting is the flat and cliched nature of the conflict between two groups (one is a group of luddite zealots and the other protect the ancient technology as revered artifacts). Sound familiar? We’ve seen it done a number of times before elsewhere, and done in a much more engaging manner.
Characterization has taken a step backwards. Why is Titan’s chief engineer Ra-Havreii still fretting about a disaster he was involved in years prior? This was a character arc early on in the series, but 10+ books later (and almost 3 year in-series time), I would expect this to be a non-issue. It hadn’t come up recently in the books but it feels like Martin dialed back the character’s progression.
I didn’t care for how the Andorians were portrayed; for a species that were a founding member of the Federation and its core ideals, they sort of dropped all of that pretty fast since seceding from the Federation. And I understand that they as a race are facing extinction (an ongoing storyline in the Trek novels for the past decade), but there’s not one ounce of emotional depth from the Therin’s crew. As one of the key antagonists in the novel, I kept waiting for their commander to start laughing with a maniacal ‘MUHAHAHAHAHA!’. It might have even made the novel score a little higher.
The Ta’ithan species were also cardboard representations, like the Hranrarii species from ‘Seize the Fire’. The world-building that Titan has been known for has been extremely watered down over these past two novels (which is a shame, considering their excellent predecessor, ‘Synthesis’, among other novels in the series). SecondGen White-Blue, a recently added character who barely had enough time to be developed and whom I really liked, sacrifices himself off-screen with just Tuvok to fill in the details. It feels like that’s the sort of thing that should have been addressed directly instead of being an afterthought.
I’ll say this: ‘Fallen Gods’ was better than ‘Seize the Fire’, but only just. It’s not an awful novel (even if the prologue is rough to get through), and it provides some interesting developments in the wake of the ongoing Typhon Pact storyline. Riker provides an interesting solution to the Andorian crew situation (which was one of the better pieces of the novel, since the solution perfectly aligns with his character). But the prose is flat and at times stilted.
‘Titan’ as a series has, for the most part, contained a ‘wow factor’ that connected with the very essence of what made me love ‘Star Trek’. That ‘wow factor’ has been absent these past two novels. Martin is a capable writer but has been lackluster on his last two ‘Titan’ outings, his only solo work I have read since he parted ways with long-time co-writer Andy Mangels. Maybe it’s time to get the band back together.
‘Fallen Gods’ is an okay entry in the series, but there are much better selections to read.