Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons
Oi oi my fellow Trek bookworms! The Christmas season is bearing luminously upon us and Turkey’s everywhere are too busy mourning the Great Thanksgiving Massacre of November to see the ovens already warming for December 25th. Still we must all calm ourselves my friends, because before we all go back to base I have one last review for you to check out and perhaps some inspiration for those lists to Santa. The second book in David Mack’s new trilogy, Cold Equations: Silent Weapons!
Some of you who read my David Mack: A Countdown of Awesome may remember that his first projects were screenplays. Indeed it was what Mack was trained to do initially and no doubt some of the reason his books tend to feel more like blockbuster movies than anything else. Again Silent Weapons was no exception. With a ridiculously exciting pace, danger around every corner and some high stakes political drama this book seriously felt like it could have been a season of 24.
The Breen return to play the enemy and once again they’re fantastically devious. After escaping with a small army of Soong Androids in Book One, our favourite mumbling scoobies are plotting and scheming again, this time hoping to use the deadly machines on a mission that it could completely change the balance of power in the galaxy, propelling the Breen to not only leaders of the Typhon Pact, but the quadrant itself.
From the opening pages Mack lays down a mystery of countless layers that leads the reader down a dozen roads of peril and excitement, truly teasing us all the way with lies wrapped in truths, misleading perspectives and enough red herrings and traps to shame Agatha Christie.
It’s an army of almost indestructible Android spies and assassins. Its presidents and kings in the firing line. It’s the hard choices between love and loyalty, the cold truth amidst comfortable and deceptive lies… it’s Sci-Fi ownage!
Besides the action there’s another great feeling of being truly in the midst of another real Next Generation adventure, and even more a real and solid development of those characters we adore. Worf is certainly building to some life changing event, quite surely Picard’s epic story is climaxing, and indeed new stories are growing around La Forge and our beloved resurrected Data.
Not to mention there’s some wonderful development of the new Enterprise crew with great service being played to the new chief of security Lieutenant Smrhova (if anyone knows how to pronounce that one feel free to let me know by the way!) and my new favourite character of 2012 the Cardassian exchange officer Glynn Dygan.
I truly couldn’t say how Mack could eclipse the heartfelt power and intensity of Book One, and again I’m reminded that the trick is in diversity. A completely different kind of story every time that still belongs to this trilogy, that develops arcs even as it changes everything else and I have to say I‘m totally loving it.
More than Just a Green Lady to sleep with…
One of my favourite aspects of Silent Weapons has been the setting. Mack has a wonderful command of the adjective and creates real landscapes for the reader to follow the protagonists through. Once again we’re back to the world of Orion. Home to the pirates and seductresses of the Alpha Quadrant, and though I was surprised by this locations return in book two I have to say it worked really well.
Where once the Orions may have been little more than the two dimensional pirates we called upon when we couldn’t afford Nausican make-up, or green ladies for Kirk to ‘explore strange new worlds’ with, Mack really develops these old favourites into a people with a deeper and far more interesting culture than they had before.
Most significantly Mack explains just how such a race can exist at all. Let’s face it, an entire species of pirates, brigands and siren like prostitutes is a fairly useful and painless story telling tool, but has it really ever made sense? That an entire people would just be naturally and completely predisposed to crime and piracy? Not very likely to be sure, and truth be told the Orions have demanded a measure of dispelling disbelief from me for the sake of the story in the past.
In however Mack lays down real reasons for a society to develop into the Orions we know and love. It’s by no means the focus of the book either, but as the story unfolds Mack casually reshapes the way we look at the Orions even as they play a back ground role to the whole affair.
Orion it seems is not obsessed only with crime, but rather with liberty to the extreme. A world where the privacy and freedom of the individual is so important it disregards securities like video surveillance and personal identifications. A world where the rights of the individual outweigh all other concerns, and on the face of it doesn’t that sound like a paradise?
So why are they all criminals?
You may think it’s just because in that kind of setting it’s so easy to get away with everything and anything you’d be a fool not to be committing crimes daily, but the truth is revealed as something much deeper and compelling. Mack shows us that amidst this libertarian Utopia is another powerful agenda; Survival of the Fittest. It’s every man for himself when it comes to success in a way that is quite reminiscent of some present day states today. That any man can come to this land and achieve anything, protected by laws of liberty, but as with our green friends it is undeniably every man for himself. The winners exalted, the losers abandoned to get lost in their failures and in this world of such freedoms and liberties crime is certainly the easiest way to achieve.
If the Ferengi were a commentary on Capitalism then the Orions are certainly an indulgence in the worst results of liberties best intentions. A great little gem hiding between the overlapping arcs and really my favourite highlight of Silent Weapons…
The Angel of Death…
It’s widely known that throughout his career Mack has never been shy of bloodshed. Indeed, his penchant for killing off characters both Canon and Soft Canon in almost every book he’s written has even earned him the title The Angel of Death! Dozens have been slain under his pen over the years from Kieran Duffy to Owen Paris and anyone else who wandered into his sights between, and you learn to be afraid for everyone’s life expectancy when Mack’s involved.
The problem with earning a cool Slayer-would-be-proud nickname like that however is the risk of being predictable. If we know Mack is going to kill someone off every time surely the shock factor is hardly worth the effort? Right?
Perhaps not it would seem. Reading Cold Equations I cannot help but feel that not only does Mack know thoroughly that we are on to him, but he is using it against us to build suspense now. With Book One I was almost convinced the bullet was never coming. If anything Mack was writing a book about life and rebirth, and the kind of merciless death Mack excels at hardly seemed on the agenda. I was totally convinced that everyone was safe too…right up until the point the Breen wasted Choudhury in a cold heartbeat!
And in there is the mastery. I know, KNOW, Mack is a killer, but still he manages to surprise me.
In Book Two however he’s playing a different game. With the memory of Choudary too fresh for us to be duped again by any warm glow of security, Mack instead misdirects, insinuates and swings the cross hairs around so much it felt like anyone could die at any time, and I was biting my nails by the end of it see who would go. Even more as old and treasured favourite characters started to appear in the story the tension only went up and up.
It was like a murder mystery only the deed has yet to be done, and along with all the other rich atmosphere and dramas involved in Silent Weapons, it really did add a subtle flavour of extra tension just to push me over the edge. The cherry on top of the paranoia cake as it were, and I absolutely gobbled down as I simultaneously prayed no one I loved was about to go up in a plume of smoke!
The Bottom Line…
Ok, so I’m starting to get kind of annoyed with how good this guy is. Partly because of good old fashioned writer’s jealousy, but mainly because as a reviewer it’s nice to have something to rip apart. Something to get good and riled up over and denounce with fantastic vocabulary and witty remarks, but again it’s just impossible. 2012 has been one of the best years for Star Trek books in a long time and it’s quite clear that Mack is not letting up as we slip into the calendars final month. Silent Weapons is everything we were promised and so much more. It’s pace and mystery is where it slays hardest and as promised by Mack there is a great sense that not only does this belong to a trilogy, but also that it’s a standalone story in itself. You could read this book without having read the first or any other for that matter. You’d be a FOOL to miss out on the awesome back story, A TOTAL FOOL! But you’d be happily fulfilled by this outing regardless.
A stunning second chapter that has me literally foaming at the mouth for Book 3, The Body Electric, and simultaneously terrified because quite simply; I don’t know how Mack can top this. I’m going on record now and saying that if he does, if he knocks it out of the park and steps it up even more with Book 3 then this Trilogy could potentially be even better than Destiny. It’s a bold statement and I’m sure many of you are boiling with hate and anger at the thought. Blasphemy surely?! Profanity! Maybe, let’s see what happens with The Body Electric out the end of this month. If we can agree on anything until then though I think it’s this; if anyone can top Destiny, it has to be David Mack.
A beast of a book. If you haven’t got it get those letters written to Santa boys and girls. If you’ve been good at all and have an ounce of good taste it’s sure to be in your stocking!
Enjoy the season my friends. I’ll see you next year to talk Book 3 ‘The Body Electric’ and take a look back at the highs and lows of 2012.
Much love from the library. Merry Christmas!
Looking for a copy of the Cold Equations series? Check these links out: ([amazon_link id=”1451650728″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Book One[/amazon_link]) ([amazon_link id=”1451650736″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Book Two[/amazon_link])
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