Behind the Lines: The Persistence of Memory

Hello again and welcome to Behind the Lines, Priority One’s home for the Trek bookworm!

Last time we spoke I went on at length about the awesome writing skills of David Mack. Insisting loudly that his new trilogy Cold Equations would be an unmissable read of Trek Lit awesomeness, and now the book is finally out and in my grubby little paws at last I can happily tell you; I was not wrong!

So let’s get into it once again with the First book in the Cold Equations Trilogy-The Persistence of Memory!

DeJa Vu is a Planet for Androids… 

As I greedily took in the first few pages of this book I instantly had the strangest feeling of Déjà vu that I couldn’t quite place. The Enterprise called out on an emergency to the Daystrom Institute on Galor IV? Bruce Maddox? Something felt oddly familiar here…felt oddly like another book I’d read before…

In a move that truly knocked me sideways with surprise I quickly began to realise The Persistence of Memory wasn’t just the opening of a new Trilogy, it was actually a sequel too. A sequel to a book from back in 2002 by Jeffery Lang called ‘Immortal Coil’.

To say I was shocked by this move on the part of Mack was an understatement and at first I’ll admit I completely panicked! What the hell was Mack doing with this new Trilogy! Writing a sequel to Immortal Coil! Is he being lazy or has he gone six-star crazy? I’ve been waiting for this book since the moment they announced it like a child waiting for Christmas and suddenly I was terrified that I was about to be disappointed. That the box under the tree wasn’t going to be a PlayStation at all, but instead a big bag of socks, jumpers and brown underpants! Because how in the name of all that is holy can this be a good idea? Yes Immortal Coil was a cracking read, but I certainly wouldn’t have asked for a sequel and it wasn’t at all what I wanted…

To my great relief five minutes later I’d forgotten I’d ever cared at all. I couldn’t be worried because every single page was kicking major ass on every level! Even more as the adventure unfolded I was literally in awe of how what I would have thought of as such a terrible idea was actually allowing Mack to tell a truly excellent and new story in a way I would never have imagined! It wasn’t a PlayStation under the tree; it was a trip to Disney World AND a PlayStation!

Surprise, surprise!

Seriously my friends it is so difficult to write this review without spoilers everywhere! I want to tell you about the dozens of brilliant surprises, not because I want to ruin the experience but because I’m bursting to talk about them to anyone! Trust me there are some ‘I am your Father’ shockers here and more twists, turns and backflips in the plot than an hour long Jackie Chan fight scene, but as always I’m resisting the urge because truthfully I really want you to read this story and feel the same childish joy at each unexpected surprise as I did. That being said there are a few I can tell you about to whet the appetite of those who haven’t yet read this yet without taking that moment…

For one the story itself is separated into three parts. Opening at the Daystrom Institute, we discover that someone has broken into the labs of Dr Maddox and stolen not only B4 but all the Soong type androids stored there from Lal to the remains of Lore! From that ‘brazen heist’ Mack takes us on a gripping manhunt across the planet that is wonderfully reminiscent of his ‘A Time to Kill/A Time to Heal’ and sucked me in beyond any ability to put this book down with an insane pace and mysteries I instantly had to find out the answers too! Finally, at the end of the chase Mack wickedly leads us to all our answers and in doing so instantly creates even more intrigue, because our answers were the last thing we expected…

Then, with new questions burning us up in excitement, Mack slams on the breaks and throws us back in time to another story! A story about Noonian Soong (The cover spoiled that one so we’re dealing with it!) the creator of Data and the other androids encountered in TNG, that spans a life we never knew he had after he was supposed to have died all those years ago! So again I’m reeling. This isn’t just a sequel to Immortal Coil; it’s a sequel to the TNG episode Brothers and something wholly different from either of them!

Then finally, when Mack returns us to our Enterprise crew where he left them dumbfounded in the middle of a dangerous and unpredictable mission he ramps up the pace once again into a furious final act that is full of even more unexpected surprises and intense action! Wrapping up solidly and yet laying down more loose threads to excite me wholeheartedly for book Two!

The Art of the Ret-Con…

For those that have never heard the term ‘Ret-Con’ it is geek short hand for a story device known as ‘Retroactive continuity’. The Ret Con is heavily used in Trek Lit and is indeed one of my favourite aspects of it, with writers often ‘fixing’ continuity mistakes by writing a back story for things that allow them to make sense now. Enterprise fans will remember what had to be the biggest Ret Con of Trek when they did a three part episode explaining why Kirk era Klingons look suspiciously like humans with a penchant for whimsical facial hair, and the Klingons of their time and indeed the movies onward look like the ridged hulking Viking face tumours they became.

Here however Mack is not simply fixing a kink in the story with his Ret Con, he’s using it as a truly brilliant story telling device. Mack actually invents a continuity issue here (the presence of a still living Noonian Soong when we all saw him die in the TNG episode ‘Brothers’) just so he can Ret Con it himself in the same book with a second story no one expected! It’s stupidly brave and deliciously evil in its cleverness.

Think about it!

How difficult do you think it is to write for a Universe like Star Trek?

With its millions of rules, almost half a century of lore and thousands of back stories, writing Trek Lit already hinders and demands of its authors far more than most fiction ever could. To tell original and compelling stories at all in this kind of setting is impressive and we’re lucky to have so many capable talents on the current roster. But still, to have a writer who is skilled enough to bend all that universe to his will, tear open holes in it and fill them with something that both enriches and inspires it…damn people, Trek couldn’t ask for better here than Mack. This is an example of both first grade penmanship and indeed Science Fiction mastery. I really couldn’t believe not only that he did this at all with the Soong story when I started reading, but as I continued, just how fantastic it was.

Feels Like Home…

If there is a single thing I could say I enjoyed above all others in The Persistence of Memory it’s that this truly felt like a five star Next Generation adventure. The Enterprise and her crew have featured in many books over the past five years, most recently helping the Aventine tackle the Tzenkethi in Brinkmanship and even exploring the Gamma Quadrant alongside the Romulans in the David R George III’s Plagues of Night, but neither of those or many of the others right back to ‘Destiny’ truly felt like a Next Gen story. This is nothing but that, and I have to say I really needed it. The Persistence of Memory is a true indulgence in all that is TNG, full of its lore, conventions and conviction, feeling no different in its sense of warm fuzzy comfort that I got watching the episodes growing up. The characters are wonderfully presented and fell like my old friends from the ‘big D ‘ in a way that really reminded me just how much I missed them.  Easily the best TNG story since, ironically, Immortal Coil itself…

The Bottom Line…

With a title inspired by the famous ‘melting clocks’ painting by Salvador Dali I already had a good feeling about this one. That it would be something special and I was not disappointed. Honestly if I had heard the pitch for this one I would have probably had major reservations. A sequel to a book that came out ten years ago? Half the book in first person? Truly I couldn’t imagine how that could work, but regardless Mack has destroyed expectations again and absolutely scored a massive win for risk taking and original thinking when it comes to writing Star Trek books. There’s everything in this from a trade mark Mack fiasco in a Gas giant, Breen skulduggery and some ‘next level’ Next Generation character development.  Cold Equations book One is a devastatingly good read and ticked boxes I didn’t even know were there.

It’s too hard to properly rate this book out of ten since it is only the beginning of a Trilogy and such things have to be considered as a whole, but should book two ‘Silent Weapons’ and book Three ‘The Body Electric’ keep up the same level of pace, intensity and pure Next Gen goodness I have no doubt the whole thing will score an easy ten in anyone’s book!

A powerful and bold start that left me both in awe of Mack’s ability and ravenously hungry for more!

Book Two hit stores and Kindles on Tuesday and from the rumours is anticipated to be the best of the series. Believe me boys and girls YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS!

And lastly…

Until then I have to leave you with two things.

The first is an apology for how late this article is. November furnished me with a very nasty and hard shifted infection of Norovirus and sadly kept my brain quite seriously off world. Thank you to the patience of my readers.

The second is that while Behind the Lines would normally feature an interview with the Author (One which David Mack has already quite happily agreed to provide!) because Cold Equations is a trilogy I am waiting until it’s fully released. This way we can cover the whole story in its entirety in a special interview with David! In the meantime you can satisfy your need for Author time by listening to this wonderful Podcast from The Chronic Rift, which features David talking about the new Trilogy. Certainly worth a listen!

Also don’t forget to check out my report from this year’s fantastic Star Trek London to find out why no one has great ideas quite like our very own Queen of England!

Until next time!

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