This is the second James Swallow Trek novel I've read, as well as the second Titan novel I've read. Like the other Swallow novel, the pacing is measured almost to perfection, the characters are easily distinguished and easily likeable, and there's a crazy big dumb object out there that's going to ruin everything unless our heroes put a stop to it. Like the other Titan novel, this one feels much like classic Star Trek in the sense that the whole plot more or less revolves around a big moral question.
So, Synthesis has a lot going for it, and I think it will satisfy most Trek readers. There were a couple of things about it that I thought were particularly outstanding. First: I felt like the Titan crewmembers that this story focused on were easy to get to know and care about. That's not so easy when the majority of these characters are ones that were not ones known from the TV shows and movies. These were new characters, and establishing equity between them and the ones already established on TV (like Tuvok, Troi, and Riker) must be one of the special challenges of writing media tie-in fiction. Swallow strikes a comfortable balance and maintains it throughout. The other thing I really *really* liked was the "Minuet" character. She's featured on the cover of the novel, and she appears in the holodeck in chapter 1, so that part is not much of a spoiler... I can't say much more, though, without making it spoiler. Suffice it to say that she becomes much, much more than the Minuet we encountered in season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And she becomes incredibly interesting. Not only that, but Swallow deftly weaves her story in with that of Riker/Troi and Choblik (the half-cybernetic engineer from an uplifted species). It's too bad what happened to her at the end -- I can only say I'm disappointed, given the great potential that her existence gives to the future of the Titan series. This last point, I feel, is grave enough that I can subtract a star from the rating, because "Minuet" could have offered so many interesting directions for Titan to take in the future... but the conclusion of this story prevents that.
Despite what I thought about the conclusion of the "Minuet" storyline, Synthesis is a great read for any Trek fan, especially one who's read a Titan book before (or even just the Destiny trilogy). The character work, all around, is outstanding.
*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
Eric is a new narrator for me. From the first sentence Eric had a positive, hopeful sound to his voice for me. I can hear his deep breaths between lines. There is a short (about 3 or 4 words) that didn't follow character tone in the beginning, I caught only because following the book at that time. Eric does do different tones for characters, giving them a sound of age and their own voice. I did pick up on one small repeat, I almost missed it as it was quick.
I just love that first sentence! What a sight that would be. The sentence really drew the picture for me.
We start with Cassius in a big battle in his life on Crius. This battle is one that lingers in Cassius's mind, and what he's trying to escape from. There are sections that are memories, though with this being audio you don't see the italics that indicate it's different than the here and now. It sounds like two conversations happening at the same time. Then Cassius doesn't talk to himself as much and is easier to catch as the book goes on. The book is focused on Cassius and his time on his current ship. The people are also residing on this ship are not who they seem to be.
As we learn these people aren't who they say they are, we see much more in this unstable universe. The different groups in the universe are all working at different angles. Even the people in the organizations have different angles they are working. So much to play with here!
Cassius grows through the book, as he grows to realize he has friends. Cassius is running from who he is. He wants to be someone that's not of the Archduchy to live his life with the guilt he feels. Through what he learns in the events he lives through, and the connections made, Cassius learns of details he didn't know before. I love the moment when Cassius gets a...closure with someone from his past. Cassius confronts feelings he'd been holding in.
Cassius grows attached to people which helps him along in his journeys. We learn a few have rather heavy pasts as well. The crew on the ship he finds himself on has many who are fugitives in their lands or pasts that aren't of the best actions. There are moments that feel drawn out with details of histories of people and descriptions, but the story comes together and the ending is non-stop.
I found that the AI take in this book was very interesting. There is also cloning in this book. Biodroids were a neat creation. I know we haven't heard the last of these. I don't want to give to much on this as it's a big play in the book. You have to read or listen to the book to get the details. We learn details that all come to a head at the end of the book with a special type of AI.
This wouldn't be a fun space story if we didn't get action scenes. We get just that, in space and on planet action. Even among the crew on the ship.
The world feels vast and full with crew that Cassius has acquired. I look forward to continuing with Cassius and what is in store for him next.