Just like Star Wars, I never got really deep into the hundreds of books written for the various Star Trek series. However, there have been a few that interested me over the years. I recently picked up the Cold Equations Trilogy by David Mack because they were billed as a sequel to a previous novel I really enjoyed, Immortal Coil. All of these books focus on one of my favorite Star Trek characters, Data.
I was very disappointed when Data died in Star Trek: Nemesis, sacrificing his life to save the Enterprise, especially since it was done for silly reasons in a mediocre movie. In-story, there were reasonable ways for Data to get out alive, as David Mack points out in The Persistence of Memory. Out-of-story, Brent Spiner felt that he was getting too old to play the ageless android character of Data and wanted to stop. That’s fair in principle, but the film creates the new android character of B-4, who is also played by Brent Spiner, and besides that, they weren’t planning on making any more movies anyway.
But that tragedy is rectified in Cold Equations, set four years after Star Trek Nemesis. The trilogy begins with The Persistence of Memory, in which Data’s “father”, Noonien Soong, long thought dead, seeks to resurrect his lost son, but in the course of his work, he must face the machinations of the Federation’s latest, greatest rivals, the Breen.
Yet Dr. Soong is successful, and Data returns to life, but all is not well for our favorite android. He seeks the help of the Immortal Akharin (better known to fans as Flint), who is the only man who can resurrect his own android daughter, Lal. But in Silent Weapons, he against runs afoul of the machinations of the Breen, who possess terrifying android resources of their own, and in The Body Electric, he learns that Akharin has been kidnapped by a fanatical wing of the ancient Fellowship of Artificial Intelligences. Meanwhile, a giant intelligent machine has invaded the galaxy and threatens to wipe out all life. Can Data solve both of his problems before it’s too late?
I really enjoyed this series. It was great to see Data on the printed page again, and all the others, too. But beware: Anyone Can Die in this trilogy, and they often do. That soured me on it a little, but not much. I think a bigger problem is that all three books, but especially the second one, suffer from too swift resolutions. Indeed, after the huge buildup for three hundred pages, the answer to the mysteries in Silent Weapons was positively anticlimactic.
Also, if you’re not familiar with the Star Trek novels post-Nemesis, some details may be a bit jarring, such as learning that the Borg nearly wiped out the Federation two years earlier, but were then themselves wiped out by being “assimilated” by their creators, the Caelier.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and a bit of a whirlwind with the plots of the three books being so different from each other. (The overarching plot of Soong’s and then Data’s quest to save their children is a bit weak in the narrative sense.) Despite all that, the stories are well-written and thought-provoking, particularly in exploring the universe from the point of view of artificial intelligence, and they are an excellent addition to the Star Trek universe.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Also, stay tuned for my next review. Cold Equations has a sequel of its own, The Light Fantastic, showing the further adventures of Data and Lal.