Book Review: “Paths of Disharmony” by Dayton Ward

Boy, does it suck when everything goes horribly wrong. For 200 years, these dudes have been our friends, ever since we helped them make peace with these other dudes who were our friends even longer. But now they’re all pissed at us. So let’s send our most awesome dude to their house and hold a giant party, inviting everyone. That’ll totally work! Until the few asshats who kind-of-sort-of know these friendly dudes’ roommate call in all their asshat friends and start throwing down.

That’s pretty much the entire plot of Star Trek: Typhon Pact #4: Paths of Disharmony. Also known as the one with Captain Picard and the dreadlocked Andorian on the front cover.

In all honesty, this is quite possibly the best of the Typhon Pact novels so far, and I’m not really surprised at that. It’s the most popular ship and crew in Star Trek, plus a race that has really gotten kind of short shrift in televised Trek (Enterprise notwithstanding), plus a classic Trek “let’s go to a planet and solve a problem” episode. It’s written by Dayton Ward, who has done some really great Trek writing over the years. And, of all the Trek tie-ins written since the end of Voyager, this one brings together the largest amount of the most popular crew (four-sevenths of the central TNG cast).

Paths begins with the Enterprise being sent to Andor, a staunch Federation member for more than 200 years, because their people are up in arms that genetic research is being done to help them find ways to reproduce that don’t involve four distinct sexes. Lieutenant Thirishar ch’Thane, late of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, is a part of that team. Support on Andor is turning against the Federation, and the Andorian presider hopes a scientific conference will be the answer. Like I said, pretty standard TNG at this point.

Aboard the Enterprise, we find Picard, Beverly, their son Rene (who is now one year old), Worf, and Geordi. Added to their number are science officer Elfiki, contact specialist (and somewhat annoyingly Mary-Sue-ish*) T’Ryssa Chen, security chief (and Worf-squeeze) Jasminder Choudhury, assistant chief engineer Taurik, and ship’s counselor Hegol Den. Picard is mentally battling with himself as to whether or not he should take a promotion to Admiral (or even Ambassador), and he and Beverly are definitely looking to make things a little more stable for their son. Geordi is having love issues (a common theme for him). And everyone is worried about the Typhon Pact.

Upon arrival at Andor, the crew splits up into their traditional small groups — Picard does some diplomacy and is enticed to visit an archaelogical dig; Beverly works with the genetic scientist who caused all this trouble; Geordi builds a power station; Choudhury has to secure the conference building; and up on the ship, Worf is left in charge. Through all of this we meet many secondary Andorian characters, as well as a lot of enterprising young men (and women) — mostly in security. About 40 percent into the book, a rebel group of Andorians strikes at the Federation personnel, but it’s not until halfway through — the traditional cliffhanger point — that we see who’s really behind all of this anti-Federation settlement.

As one would expect, after the Typhon Pact drops a bombshell that shakes the Andorian people’s trust in the Federation, the true villains make a series of attacks somewhat reminiscent of the Picard-on-the-surface-Riker-on-the-ship that we saw in Insurrection. Our heroes must stop these terrorists.

You can guess how that turns out.

In exactly the same way that Rough Beasts of Empire didn’t, Paths of Disharmony manages to make me care about all the secondary (and even the minor) characters enough that I didn’t get lost when we jumped from place to place. With the exception of a huge digression (Picard’s archaeological trip, which seemed to me to be an excuse to tie in Enterprise), the writing is well-paced and the action is gripping.

I know there are at least two more Typhon Pact books in the offing, but they’ll be hard-pressed to top this one. Definitely worth it, for both casual and die-hard Star Trek fans who are looking for the next chapter in the lives of our Next Generation friends.

* I don’t blame Ward; he didn’t invent the character, and he actually gives her some respectable things to do in this episode.