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Admiral Harmon

Beneath the Raptor's Wing Review

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Onwards I plunge, wrapping up the third of the Romulan War arc. And let me start off by saying.....as much as I liked it (and I did quiet a bit) it's a mess!

Book 3 of the Romulan War arc covers the first year of the conflict. It's a book that looks at the war from all sides and perspectives and tries to deliver the true scope of the war. We get Starfleets, the Andorian Imperial Guard, the Tellarite Star Force, the Vulcan Defense Forces and the Romulan Star Empire's military. Diplomats, new journalists, soldiers, civilians, they all get represented.

We should acknowledge that it is a massive undertaking. As an author myself with real world books Just a sample of what I've written, I understand the true scope of trying to undertake complicated stories. Especially one with such expectations behind it as any dealing with the Romulan War.

Now........with that said.....Michael A. Martin should not have been allowed to write this book on his own. The two prior books were cowritten by Andy Mangles, and there is a definite difference in the quality of the two books. In many ways, I feel that Mangles kept Martin on task. But, before I dive into it, which is actually pretty bad, let's start with the good.

The Good

If there is one thing to give Martin props for, it is managing the massive cast of characters and actually remembering who is who and what they are doing. And when I mean massive.....I.Mean.MASSIVE. And when I mean cast of characters, I mean POV characters, characters that were given their own sections and chapters to see things through their eyes. 

Let me give you a glimpse of it. Vulcans: 2 Vulcan Captains, T'Pol, two V'Shar agents and Sovol. Tellarites: 1 Tellarite captain and the delegate to the Coalition Council. Romulans: Admiral Valdore from the Romulan Remote Control drone episodes, 3 officers, an assassin and a engineer-scientist. Andorians: Shran and a captain. Humans: A Martian Representative, the Prime Minister of the United Earth Government, Captains Archer and Hernandez, two other NX captains, three journalists, three MACOs, about a dozen other starfleet officers, Hosi Sato, Travis Mayweather.

And that's just the ones I remember! 42 POV characters. Martin remembers the what's and wheres of each character which is extraordinary.

His writing style is good when he decides to give us scenes. A few of the battles are well done. When he puts effort into giving us the story, it's well done.

Nor can you find any fault in many of his ideas for the book. Romulan remote hijacking, which was started in the last book, is used pretty effectively in this book. The use of Vulcan mind melds to suppress real memories and implant false ones is actually pretty sick (in a good way). His grasp of characters is also used just as effectively as his Romulan hijacking.

The Bad

If there are three words to describe this book, they are as follows. Repetitive. Forgetful. Convoluted.

There is a saying in my religion. "Why do the scriptures say the exact same thing over and over? Because we learn by repetition." While it might work in the theological setting, it is a hindernace to this book.

However, there was four scenes where the Romulans hijack different ships of different races. And they all have the exact same outcome. They are so identical, that all you'd need have done is change the names, and you wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. And this isn't just a singular problem of repetition. He also loves shooting down NX ships. They are all done in almost the exact same fashion. In fact, there is two scenes involving Travis and death to NX ships. The first time, he writes the ship gets nuked (you only see the flash of white) and next thing, he is in an escape pod. Nearing the end, he's on another NX ship that has been damaged and beginning to go down and they have to abandon ship. You could have literally added both scenes together in sequence, changed a few names and you wouldn't have noticed the difference.

There was five chapters in which different characters are trying to talk the leader of Vulcan, T'Pau, back into the war. They are almost word for word the same arguments, there is the exact same reactions to each character to the arguments. There is news sections which almost read exactly the same. I blame a ton of this on the second word.

Forgetfulness. It's a problem that I immediately picked up on as a writer myself. Remember the 42+ POV characters? That's 42 storylines he's trying to tie in (the convoluted part) and it creates several bad things. One is Martin seemed to continually hit on ideas he thought was good. Storylines he wanted to explore. But the need to have so many different POVs and storylines pushed many of them to side. Then, ten, fifteen chapters later, he seems to remember he had started a plot thread but instead of trying to salvage it, he adds a line of "We tried multiple times to do this and it failed". While I agree that we don't need every little thing told to us, the author seemed unwilling to fully explore any storyline.

Convoluted is definitely a problem here. I have learned as an author that the maximum number of POV characters to allow good story flow is no more than about six. Anything more, and you risk it becoming cumbersome and unwieldy. You could have gotten the results he wanted (each side represented) without the need to have so many people involved. Maybe two Romulans at most. One news reporter. One politician. Archer and maybe three of the crew. Maybe the very occasional random POV character. But 42+? There was no need for so many characters, especially since it took time away from the main story. Much more could have been added by having less people trying to juggle around with.

 

In summary, the writing was good and there was interesting stuff done. However, the author sacrificed quality for quanitity. He seemed too afraid to let the story be told through the eyes of only a few, as if he felt it was robbing us. However, we the reader didn't need a million voices to understand the whole of the conflict. And it's a shame because the book had a ton of potential.

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