That’s not hot chocolate, is it? ‘Cause you know what happens when you order hot chocolate.
-A friendly warning to Commander Sonya Gomez
The oddest thing about this book is its origins.
This book began life as a series of E-books. I never read ’em; didn’t have the motivation to shell out dollars for something to read on my screen; it’s also why it never appeared on my site here, since I made a deliberate decision early on to stick with the print media. E-books and audiobooks need not apply. Apparently, though, the editors at Pocket Books-eager to make more money, I expect-decided to release the first four stories in paperback form.
That brings us to the present: Have Tech, Will Travel is the story of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, an organization that lives for all the technobabble that you’ve seen before in books and television (and occasionally movies). They aren’t out to seek out new life and new civilizations; they are out to play with alien technology and fix problems that are way too big for a standard starship crew. To borrow a phrase from the book, “If anything in the galaxy needed to be built, rebuilt, programmed, reprogrammed, assembled, reassembled, or just understood, the S.C.E. was who you called in”.
In this case, it means if there’s a massive starship that mysteriously attacks the U.S.S. Enterprise, or if there’s a worldwide computer system on the fritz, or other equally interesting problems, the starship U.S.S. da Vinci is sent to investigate. The captain of the ship is David Gold, a contemporary of Captain Jean-Luc Picard; however, the commander of the crack S.C.E. team is Sonya Gomez, who was formerly assigned under Geordi La Forge. Other notable team members are the bonded Bynar pair 110 and 111 (they’re great with computers), Domenica Corsi, the chief of security for the S.C.E. (and with a nickname like “Core Breach”, you just know what can happen!), and Dr. Lense, who joined the S.C.E. to get away from doing combat medicine (which may have proven to be a big whoopsie).
This book has four stories, so I’ll get right to it. The first story, written by Dean Wesley Smith, is “The Belly of the Beast”. The U.S.S. Enterprise has just finished defeating a mysterious, huge starship, and Captain Scott (of the original series) sends the da Vinci to figure out why it attacked an agricultural colony. We get our first look at the dynamics of the crew, which I found to be a little easier to believe than most of the other crews that have been put together solely for books.
The second story is “Fatal Error”, by Keith R. A. DeCandido. In this offering, the S.C.E. is asked by the planetary computer of Eerlik for aid, as it is beginning to experience malfunctions that its caretakers are unable to handle. What they find is that the situation is considerably more complicated than that (par for the course for Star Trek). This one also begins to delve into the various personalities of the members of the team, and introduce a couple more. One of the things I enjoyed about Have Tech, Will Travel is the slow revelation of who’s on the team.
The third is “Hard Crash”, by Christie Golden. It wraps up a couple of subplots begun in the first story, and hits the world of Intar, as an alien craft crash lands in the capital city, and becomes a problem very quickly. The discovery of its pilot leads the crew to a rather frightening possibility for the S.C.E., as they wonder if they’ve run into a threat far too big for them to handle. We get the first look at the da Vinci’s EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram), which seems considerably more stable than the one on Voyager (or, for that matter, the one that was on one of its episodes being hyped as the Mark II). I sincerely hope it’s not overused.
The final story in this book is “Interphase, Book One”. I know-not another cliffhanger! But from what I understand, the second book will not be long in coming (although readers of the E-books undoubtedly are chuckling behind my back as I write this). It involves a mysterious ship suddenly appearing in Tholian space, which instantly gets Captain Scott’s attention-especially since it’s a Starfleet ship. But there are those who don’t want the starship recovered…. This one was written by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.
Amazingly enough, I rather enjoyed all four stories. All were fairly complete, and had solid plots; perhaps stories averaging slightly under a hundred pages removes the need to fill a Star Trek book with fluff. I also like the concept of the S.C.E. They aren’t out to do the big things, like save planets or galaxies or entire civilizations; they aren’t out to fight the Dominion or the Borg or the Romulans. They’re out to fix and understand things, and it’s nice to have a break from the Big Ideas. While this book hasn’t changed my stance on E-books (sorry Pocket Books!), I will be more than happy to keep purchasing paperback collections if they’re of the same quality as Have Tech, Will Travel.