Star Trek

Twilight, by David R. George III

mgamma1The two men who led the expedition across the North American continent on Earth, Merriwether Lewis and William Clark, were sent on a mission to explore an expanse of unknown wilderness, to chart the lands they traveled, to seek out what new life there might be, to befriend the peoples they might encounter, to keep a record of their journey, and to bring that knowledge home.  They called themselves the Corps of Discovery.  Let us therefore, on this stardate, rededicate ourselves to that ideal.
-Commander Elias Vaughn, to the crew of the U.S.S. Defiant


In the beginning days of Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko was given two major tasks; he was to do everything possible to get the planet Bajor ready to join the Federation, and he was to explore the wormhole he discovered for Bajor-or more exactly, the space beyond the wormhole, in the Gamma Quadrant.  Unfortunately, the Dominion War derailed both missions, and was forgotten in the following episodes.

But beginning with Twilight, the Mission Gamma storyline brings both of those goals back into the full picture.  While the first third of the book is setup, the rest of the book goes in two different directions.  On the one hand, the Starfleet personnel (Nog, Shar, Vaughn, Dax, Tenmei, and Bashir) are off on a three-month mission to explore new areas in the Gamma Quadrant, now that the Dominion has chosen to (for now) isolate itself to ponder Odo’s experiences.  Then the other hand features the Bajoran front, with Kira, Ro, Quark, and some others as some very influential people in the Federation stop at DS9 for a semi-secret summit, discussing renewing Bajor’s petition to join the Federation.

First, though, the book wraps up some rather loose ends from the Gateways event; primarily the refugees from Europa Nova and the rather ticked-off Jarada who were really hoping for a benefit from the deal Vaughn had made with them.  Then the book goes off into the preparations being made for the Defiant’s flight through the wormhole, and for the arrival of some unexpected guests.  It’s not far into the mission, though, when the crew of the Defiant are called upon to save a world.

To be honest, the basic plot is kind of stock material; what sets the book apart (and a hallmark of the series to date) is the actions of the characters in it.  In the opening third of the book alone, we get:  more revelations of the troubled relationship between Vaughn and Tenmei; more Taran’atar and his attempts to understand this very different environment; lots more on Shar’s, er, romantic life, the intro of another Starfleet admiral, L. J. Akaar (points to people who figure out just who exactly he is right away; it wasn’t until waaay into the book where I finally remembered), and more!

Things get really moving once the mission is underway.  As I said, I found the Defiant segments kind of “the usual”, although it continued to advance the plots of both Vaughn and Dax (who’s taken quite well to her second-in-command duties).  The Bajor front is what really kept my interest, though.  Kira’s a bit on the defensive, still feeling the emotional impact of her Attainder, not sure if the First Minister Shakaar’s playing straight with her, and dealing with suspicious questioning from Admiral Akaar.  Quark and Ro’s relationship continues, as both come to realize that if Bajor is indeed accepted into the Federation, their lives will be turned upside down; Quark also has a new foil of sorts, as the Orion woman Treir proves to be as cunning as he is in running his bar.  Actually, the truth is that Quark undergoes a number of self-revelations in this book, which I’m looking forward to seeing continue.

The continuing subplots of Deep Space Nine continue to make appearances; another mention of the search for Jake Sisko shows that he has not been forgotten; we discover a secondary mission of Taran’atar that makes perfect sense considering who sent him; Kasidy’s pregnancy proceeds as most do, although she gets hints that the Bajoran religion is about to have a little turmoil.  While these don’t get much page time, they do continue to indicate the ongoing plot of the series, which is something that the television show did fairly well.

While there was a couple things that continue to annoy me (does Vaughn absolutely have to be on a first name basis with every single major player in Starfleet history?), there was far more that pleased me.  While Mission Gamma itself hasn’t drawn me in as of yet, the continuing story of Bajor (and a shocking event at the end of this book) made this book more than worth the time to read…and made me want to read the next one that much more.

(2013 note:  obviously, this book has NO relation to a somewhat more notable work called “Twilight”.)

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The Battle of Betazed, by Charlotte Douglas and Susan Kearney

betazed

Who’d you say you got those codes from again?
Fellow I know on DS9.  The guy who fixes my pants.
-Commander William Riker and Chief Miles O’Brien


One of the things that bugged me the most on Deep Space Nine was how the flagship of Starfleet, the U. S. S. Enterprise was never there during the Dominion War.  Never involved.  Not even mentioned once.  You would think that with the biggest war to hit the Federation in the last couple hundred years that the Enterprise would at least put up a token appearance.  Didn’t even show up in the series finale.

But that didn’t mean that the Next Generation didn’t make itself known in other ways.  In one episode, Captain Sisko decided to bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion, even though they were strictly neutral up to that point.  The reason:  Sisko had heard about the fall of the planet Betazed, where Counselor Deanna Troi was born and raised.  As usual, though, there was never any followup-even in a throwaway line.  Which brings us nicely to The Battle of Betazed.

The Dominion has built a Cardassian space station around Betazed, which they call Sentok Nor, where Dr. Crell Moset-a Cardassian exobiologist known for his rather…unpleasant…practices is performing experiments that could develop yet another front in the war.  There is a resistance movement (including the rather forceful Lwaxana Troi), but their numbers are thinning thanks to the Jem’Hadar.  But they manage to get a message out to Starfleet containing information about what they consider their last hope.

Enter Elias Vaughn-a covert operative of Starfleet who will one day become very important to Deep Space Nine.  Since the rather conventional methods of retaking Betazed have failed, he has the go-ahead to try something else.  That something else will involve the crew of the Enterprise, with a little helping hand from the crew of the U. S. S. Defiant.  A two pronged strategy-the first to get infiltrators aboard Sentok Nor, find out what they are doing, and blow it up.  The second is to go to a Betazoid colony and retrieve what the Resistance wants-a serial killer who kills with his telepathy, so that he can teach them.

Now, this makes a certain amount of sense-the natives of Betazed have always been established to be empathic at least, and highly telepathic at best.  The Jem’Hadar don’t really have any defenses against this kind of thing.  Of course, Deanna is horrified.  It goes against everything that the Betazoids believe, and is repellent to her.  Even so, however, she agrees to the necessity and agrees to help smooth the way on Darona-especially since she actually tried to treat the killer in question early in her career.

As far as it goes, The Battle of Betazed was an okay book.  To be fair, it had some good concepts; the reasons why the Cardassians stuck a space station around the world made sense, and the plans of Dr. Moset make a great deal of sense as well.  And as far as disabling Sentok Nor, it made sense to have the Federation’s foremost expert on Cardassian space stations involved.  And it made sense to for the Resistance to come up with the idea to find a way to fight that their oppressors couldn’t counter.  I liked it.

But, unfortunately, a good chunk of that enjoyment was fizzled at the resolution of the mess.  The authors kept themselves from opening a can of worms that you really aren’t allowed to do with Star Trek, but at the same time, it seems too deus ex machina for me.  Readers will know what I mean when they get to it.  So, what could have been a very good Star Trek novel becomes simply an okay one.  But at least it was nice seeing that Captain Picard and the Enterprise were at least doing something while the Dominion War raged.

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Best Destiny, by Diane Carey

bestdestinyYou see, Jimmy, I think humanity is all right.  Mankind is cunning and artful, enthusiastic, and ultimately smart.  Oh, we blunder from time to time, sometimes a bit butterfingered while we build on some unclear vision, but we always learn from our blunders and we rarely forget.  And we never, ever…stop trying.
-Captain Robert April, of the U.S.S. Enterprise


It was only a matter of time before I took a look at the most famous captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise:  Captain James T. Kirk.  However, I figured I’d take a look at a book that showed what Kirk might have been like in his youth, before he even dreamed of joining Starfleet.  That’s where Best Destiny comes in.

When I picked up this book, I already had high expectations-one of Carey’s other Trek books, Final Frontier, was a wonderful story detailing an important event in the life of both Starfleet and George Kirk, our esteemed captain’s dad.  I’d enjoyed that book immensely, and this book promised to build on that one.

So:  this is a story of Kirk’s youth.  Pay no attention to the framing plot, which takes place about two minutes after Kirk’s last log entry in Star Trek 6.  That’s not where the meat of the story is.  It’s years earlier, when Jimmy Kirk was the epitome of juvenile delinquency (well, all things considered, nobody should be surprised by that revelation).  In a desperate attempt to try to encourage his son to grow up a bit, George takes Kirk into space aboard the spanking new flagship of Starfleet:  the Enterprise, commanded by George’s old friend, Robert April.

I loved April’s character in Final Frontier, and he hasn’t changed.  If you were to compare him to any of the other Captains in the history of the Trek franchise, I think he’d be the most laid back-and perhaps the most idealistic.  Great rapport with his crew.  Unfortunately, the arrival of Jimmy Kirk puts a bit of a poison pill in the dynamic, but April isn’t fazed one bit.  So he takes the two Kirks to a groundbreaking ceremony to a planet called Faramond…or at least, that was his plan.  What happens next begins the evolution of Jimmy the delinquent to James Kirk, future captain in Starfleet.

In many ways, Carey does a great job detailing the conflicts in this book; it reminded me a great deal of submarine warfare in past times, when nobody was really sure where the enemy was.  There’s all kinds of crises in this book:  physical, in the form of trying to survive where no man has gone before; mental, in dealing with some rather harrowing choices that have no right answer; and emotional, as Jimmy comes to grips with his feelings towards his father and life in general.  This is a story about growing up fast in a harsh environment, and Best Destiny does a pretty good job in detailing that.  Carey also shows off naval knowledge, in applying some maritime laws and traditions to space travel; some of those become key points later in the novel.

I think this book will appeal most to the fans of the Original Series; if you prefer the newer Treks, this may not be your book.  But I expect that any fan of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock will enjoy this peek into the past, in the formative years of the Federation and Starfleet.  So go check out Best Destiny; you won’t be sorry.

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Section 31: Abyss, by David Weddle and Jeffrey Lang

abyss

A word of advice.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Don’t think for a moment that you’re going to be able to find evidence you can use to expose Thirty-One.  Just go in, do the job, and come home.
-Commander Elias Vaughn, first officer of DS9


One of the more controversial things to hit Star Trek was the introduction of a shadowy organization called Section 31.  It wasn’t that it was another secret-police style organization-it was the fact that it was apparently sanctioned by Starfleet.  Section 31 was empowered to use any and all means necessary to insure the security of the Federation.  It came to light when it attempted to recruit the genetically-engineered chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine, Julian Bashir.  Bashir was outraged at this, and refused.  He has since dealt with the Section on two different occasions:  once when the section discredited a Romulan ally for one more tractable; and once when it was discovered that Section 31 created the plague that was killing all of the Founders of the Dominion at the height of the Dominion War.  Each time, the Section walked away unscathed (although Bashir’s contact man, Luther Sloan, did kill himself in an attempt to keep Bashir from discovering the cure for the plague-he failed in that, at least).

In spite of any controversy, though, the Section seems to have become a rather popular idea to work with; recently, Pocket Books released a set of four books, set in each of the televised shows, centering on the activities of Section 31.  I am not going to go into the first three here, although Trek fans may be interested to see how the Section fared with Kirk, Janeway, and Picard.  I will, however, go into Abyss.

Abyss takes place after the finale of Avatar.  The station is crippled, now lacking even a main power supply.  Luckily, the Ferengi Lieutenent Nog has a brilliant solution (which may seem obvious to folks familiar with the series; I missed it, though).  The repairs require a good portion of the population to leave, including nonessential personnel-such as Bashir and former-counselor Ezri Dax.  They plan to visit Earth, but that plan gets derailed before it even begins by a gentleman named Cole, a member of Section 31.  He wants Bashir to track down a rogue operative named Dr. Ethan Locken, who also happens to be genetically enhanced.  This visit kicks off the story.

Unsurprisingly, Abyss offers a look at Julian Bashir as the man apart; even among his friends, he had led a life of secrecy, since the Federation (Earth in particular) has a dim opinion of genetic enhancement (Khan Noonien Singh comes to mind-as I touch upon in another review).  The only others he’s dealt with who have been enhanced are a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.  Locken can be seen more as an equal; or a dark reflection.

While Bashir is certainly a major portion of this book, the rest of the cast is by no means neglected.  Ro Laren and the Jem’Hadar “observer” get a fair amount of time, and we get a pretty good look at how the observer feels about being sent to the Alpha Quadrant and DS9.  Kira deals with the aftermath of Avatar, both in her personal life and in a professional capacity.  The crew also discovers that Jake Sisko didn’t exactly go to Earth as advertised.

For the most part, I liked Abyss.  Bashir has been a favorite character of mine from the series even before he was revealed to have been enhanced; while he was irritating early in the series, the arrogance he portrayed faded and he became more likable.  On the other hand, there are some disturbing trends in this book:  Vaughn is getting annoying in that he seems to know lots more than he should, even as a commander in Starfleet for over half a century.  I hope this gets explained sometime, because I think the character has loads of potential.

As a final note, I have noticed some people mention on the ‘net that they didn’t like the fact that there were things that seemed to be happening outside the novel; that it isn’t fully self contained.  I, personally, enjoy this fact.  Of course, I like the New Frontier series as well for the same reason.  Abyss is just another episode of DS9; it picks up from a past “episode”, and lays the groundwork for the next one.  And fans of the movies, take note:  we get a little surprise from “Insurrection” in the book too, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

I’m rather looking forward to the next book in this “series”, which (unfortunately) will be a part of yet another multiseries story.  But Abyss has helped insure that my interest remains intact.

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The Left Hand of Destiny, Book Two, by J. G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang

Sirella, I have survived countless battles, both in space and on alien worlds.  I was held prisoner by the Dominion for two years and forced to fight Jem’Hadar in order that they could learn how to kill Klingons.  And now I am facing vicious attacks from my mad son and his mad mother.  Despite all these things, nothing in the universe inspires as much dread in me as the words ‘We need to talk, my husband’.
-Martok


The Klingon Empire is now in the hands of Morjod.  But the fate of the Empire is far from settled-still free from his control is the rightful chancellor, Martok, as well as a number of select allies-Worf and his son, Alexander; Martok’s wife Sirella and his gin’tak, Darok; the clone of the ancient emperor, Kahless; the Ferengi Pharh; and a recent recruit, Ezri Dax of Deep Space Nine (one of the more sane members of this assemblage).  As one might imagine, though, the fight for the future of the Klingon Empire is coming up.  But first, everyone needs a little background-and that kicks off the second part of The Left Hand of Destiny.

The book opens with a general meeting with the protagonists-a shock, really, when one remembers that Klingons aren’t all much for meetings-especially if they are the warriors and starship captains.  But it proves to be important, as it outlines just what Gothmara has been up to, and just how Martok came to know her-and also get some explanation as to how she’s managed to bamboozle just about every Klingon she’s come across (and it’s always interesting to see that there are some lines that Klingons won’t cross as a general rule for victory), as well as the rather gruesome origins of the Hur’q.  That explanation points to a rather obvious target for a strike against Morjod and Gothmarra; and Worf has a secondary plan to add to it, which falls into his own idea that Martok is-very likely-the leader of destiny to lead the Klingons into a new age.  But no plan survives contact, and this plan hasn’t even gotten off the ground before disaster strikes.  And as Martok demonstrated in the last book, he’s perfectly willing to do some things on his own.

A minor mystery is also unveiled involving Martok’s father; Kahless has discovered in his travels that Martok’s father was given a mysterious title-a title whose origins become a bit more clear in a vision.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this mystery crops up again later on in the book.  And it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that any victory does not come without cost-and in more than one manner.  The authors certainly aren’t shying away from upping the ante on Martok at every turn.

Hertzler and Lang continue to do a wonderful job with the characters.  Ezri is still dealing with a set of mixed emotions about the Klingons-a part of her (Curzon and Jadzia) feeling obligated to help them in any way possible, and the other part (Ezri herself) feeling that the Empire has been heading in this kind of direction for some time.  Worf demonstrates a fine sense of what the Klingons need right now-moreso than almost anyone-and knows that Martok is the best man to lead the Klingons, and that he also needs a potent symbol to aid him.  Kahless…well, if I’m comparing this to the Arthurian model, he’d almost have to be Merlin to Martok’s Arthur.  Pharh remains one of the rare examples of common sense-well, rare among Klingons, anyway; he’s also another example of an atypical Ferengi.  There’s also a set of characters that I have mixed feelings about; it makes sense that this grouping might exist where they are found, but it seems so…un-Klingon like.  In some ways, though, that’s the point.

On the whole, I found the book to be a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in the last book; the Klingons may-or-may not be heading towards a new era, but it isn’t because of any lack of quality in The Left Hand of Destiny.

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To Reign In Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh, by Greg Cox

With time on my hands, and my future on hold, it is the past that occupies my thoughts.  Old decisions, and new regrets, haunt me, compelling me to embark on a solemn pilgrimage to the site of what may have been one of my greatest mistakes…..
-From the personal logs of Captain James T. Kirk


With the two books that chronicled the past of Khan Noonien Singh chronicled in The Eugenics Wars, the reader was left with one more major portion of Khan’s life left untold-the time spent between the episode of “Space Seed”, and the coming of the U. S. S. Reliant in “The Wrath of Khan”.  Well, the author of those books has written the untold story of Khan’s exile on Ceti Alpha Five.  To Reign in Hell is a very appropriate title, given Khan’s classical leanings (and more so given how the exile turned out).

This story, like that in The Eugenics Wars, has a framing story, taking place between the movies “The Voyage Home” and “The Final Frontier”.  While Mr. Scott is busy making sure that the U. S. S. Enterprise-A is ready for space flight, Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Sulu head for Ceti Alpha V to see if they can piece together just what exactly happened on this world that Captain Kirk marooned Khan and his followers on after their encounter in “Space Seed”.  Kirk wonders if he could have predicted what disasters would befall the doomed world of Ceti Alpha VI, and hopes to discover what drove Khan to his single-minded quest to see Kirk dead.  Fortunately, Khan has more than enough ego to record a journal for posterity.

When Khan and his followers-including Starfleet Lieutenant Marla McGivers, who had fallen in love with him-are marooned on Ceti Alpha V, he envisions building a new empire.  Even though Khan’s people have only rudimentary equipment (by Trek standards, anyway), he believes it’s only a matter of time before he successfully builds what he calls a superior society.  Of course, there’s a number of tiny issues that might interfere-such as the fact that some of his followers are thinking that Khan’s time as a leader is past, or the fact that some of them think that McGivers doesn’t belong with the rest of them, or the fact that the planet has a few predators that even genetically enhanced humans can’t withstand-including the infamous Ceti eels.

And all that is before Ceti Alpha VI explodes….

When I picked up this book, I had high expectations; that’s what Greg Cox gets for doing such a good job with the first two books chronicling the rise and fall of Khan back in the 20th century.  With To Reign In Hell, I’d say that Cox does a good job in meeting those expectations.  There’s a good supporting cast involved-such as Joaquin Weiss, who doesn’t speak much, but is very much a constant presence by Khan’s side; Zuleika Walker, who quickly makes it clear she isn’t fond of Khan’s choice of girlfriends, and Harulf Ericsson, who thinks that he would very much be the best leader for a new world.

The real gems, though, are Marla McGivers and Khan himself.  Marla is faced with a hostile group of super-humans, but is sustained by her love for Khan-a love that he returns; she proves herself to Khan to be a “superior woman”, even though she isn’t genetically gifted (well, not designed, anyway).  That isn’t to say that there aren’t some significant bumps.  She also demonstrates that her sense of ethics is still strong enough to make choices that she feels are right-even in the face of the wrath of Khan.  As far as Khan himself…well, would you believe I was actually rooting for him?  Okay, that might be putting it a little too far, but the challenge of taming Ceti Alpha V was something he was certainly rising to.  And although he maintains the harsh discipline he was known for, one has to admire how he was able to get his people to the point where they might have thrived-if not for that inconvenient explosion.  I did also find it rather interesting that on a number of occasions, Khan would wonder just when Kirk or Starfleet was going to look in on them to see what was going on; as time goes on, the silence from the stars has an effect on Khan, and it isn’t nice.

When Ceti Alpha VI explodes, things start going downhill; a large number of conflicts start reaching their climax, with both man versus man, man versus nature, and perhaps man versus himself.

As far as the framing story goes…naaah, we don’t really care too much about that, do we?  It’s a means to an end.  I will concede, however, that Cox does a credible job on explaining a few of the little details you’d think would’ve been accounted for in “The Wrath of Khan”  (such as, how the heck to you mislay an entire planet on a scouting mission).  All the same, To Reign In Hell is all about Khan, and is a fitting conclusion to his story and his legacy in Star Trek.  Fans of Khan and original series aficionados would do well to pick up this book.

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The Farther Shore, by Christie Golden

The Borg are so familiar to us, they’re like old friends.  Perhaps more like old enemies.  We know them in a way Starfleet, indeed no one who wasn’t on Voyager, can understand.  We’ve lost a lot of our fear of them out of necessity.  I think we’ve forgotten how terrifying they are.
-Admiral Kathryn Janeway, late of the U.S.S. Voyager


Things looked as if they were going to be all right.  The U.S.S. Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and although it wasn’t as celebratory as they may have expected, the crew was at least glad to at least be home.  But things started going bad.  Admiral Montgomery was distinctly hostile to the crew, and seemed obsessed with the futuristic technology still on board Voyager.  Holograms based on the EMH Mark One have begun to go on strike-and worse, their leading advocate, Oliver Baines, has killed on their behalf.  B’Elanna Torres has gone on a Klingon spirit quest in order to find her mother-if she still lives.  And, to top off everything else, people on Earth are beginning to mysteriously transform themselves into Borg.

The Farther Shore opens with Seven of Nine, Icheb, and the Doctor imprisoned; unsurprisingly, Janeway doesn’t take to kindly to this, and as longtime viewers of the series know, it doesn’t pay to mess with her.  She’s on a bit of a deadline, though-Montgomery wants to delete all but the most essential programs from the Doctor’s to serve as an example to the other holograms, and he’s content to keep Icheb and Seven out of regeneration chambers, which will lead to their deaths.  On a different front, Libby Webber, Harry Kim’s old flame (and quickly becoming current) and secret member of Starfleet Intelligence, is tracking down a lead concerning corruption in Starfleet, but quickly leads to something far, far worse-something known as the Royal Protocol.  Corruption is the least of Libby’s problems at that point.

This secret, as well as other bits of uncovered information, causes Janeway to make one of her famous alliances of convenience to make a breakout in a fashion eerily similar to that of another famous Trek breakout.  The methods involved in the breakout are substantially different, though; it also helps that Doctor Kaz, who works under Admiral Montgomery, is highly sympathetic to Seven and Icheb’s danger.  Meanwhile, B’Elanna manages to continue to survive the wilderness of Boreth.  On another front, the rights of the Doctor are also explored, by the one being in the Federation who has had to fight for those rights himself before-Commander Data, of the Enterprise.  The Commander also proves useful in other activity as well.

As for my own impressions:  I was only somewhat surprised to see that my guess concerning the source of the Borg virus was off.    I’d really expected a “Dark Frontier” explanation, but I can tolerate the explanation given in this book.  The entire B’Elanna arc felt like the B-story of an episode of Voyager, and ultimately had nothing at all to do with the main plot of the book.  The same can also be said of a short subplot involving Baines’s holograms, as he puts the shoe on the other foot for some Starfleet personnel.  Neither one of these subplots really did much for me; the book would have been okay without them.  (As an aside, I don’t have a problem with the B’Elanna and her mother subplot; it’s just that it would’ve been nice if it tied in to the story, somehow.  I realize that real life isn’t that neat, either)

Ultimately, The Farther Shore was an okay read; it was certainly better than a large number of the show’s episodes, but it wasn’t as deep and as enjoyable a read as the DS9 Avatar books.  Then again, Voyager didn’t tend to be as deep as DS9 (hm, that bias of mine is showing again).  Still, for fans of the Voyager series, I believe they’ll find little wrong with the conclusion of the Homecoming storyline; there aren’t as many loose ends to tie up, but the series shows some promise, and will be worth following for at least a while longer.

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The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One, by J. G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang

Afterward, if you find yourself in a position to tell anyone about me, exaggerate nothing.  Don’t make me bigger than life.
But, General, you are bigger than life.
I’m not a general.
All right, Chancellor.
Or that.
Than what are you?
Just a Klingon.  Just a man.
-Martok and Pharh


Of the various alien species that have populated the universe of Star Trek, none have evoked the same fascination with the fans as the Klingons.  In the original series, they were the enemy, wishing nothing more than to conquer the United Federation of Planets.  By the time of the Next Generation, time had made them allies; we were exposed to their culture, their sense of honor and their love of battle to prove that honor.  They briefly became enemies again during Deep Space Nine, but the rift between allies was healed when the Dominion made their bid for the Alpha Quadrant.  It was that series which introduced General Martok-a character who started out as a minor one kicking off the temporary tiff between allies, but evolved into a Klingon unlike the others in Star Trek.  Where Worf was a Klingon raised by humans in the Klingon fashion and applied Federation morality to his Klingon side, and where most of the other Klingons were all “battle, glory, and honor” (or were underhanded weasels), Martok turned out to be quite different-a Klingon who loved the same things as most, but allowed his reasoning to rule his instincts.  By the time the series ended, Martok had ended up named as Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.

Which is where The Left Hand of Destiny begins.

Martok is aboard his flagship, arriving at Qo’noS, to be officially acknowledged as Chancellor at the Great Hall by the members of the Klingon High Council.  While Martok has some reservations, he seems to be in much more improved morale…right up to the moment the Great Hall is wiped out, with all the council members in it.  A Klingon named Morjod takes credit for it-and speaking as a “freedom fighter”, declares that the Klingons have lost their way, become a servitor race to the Federation, and vows to lead the Klingons back to greatness (read:  conquerors).  He has creatures from Klingon myth at his side; and he has a handy scapegoat for all the problems of the Klingon Empire-Worf!  And, naturally, since you need to get rid of a Chancellor to become a Chancellor….!

As Martok tries to get a handle on events, on the surface, Worf’s son-Alexander-is dealing with the fallout of the attack on the Hall; unsurprisingly, he feels as if he’s got a target on his back, being the big traitor’s son and everything.  Alexander also makes the acquaintance of a rather interesting Ferengi named Pharh, who is as unique an individual as Rom and Nog from DS9.  In the meantime, Martok’s wife, Sirella, is also in dire straits, as she recognizes that her home and family are likely to come under attack as well.  What she doesn’t know, however, is that Morjod isn’t exactly alone, and a major motivation for the coming events has everything to do with her and Martok.  And there’s a mysterious Klingon wandering around the edges, who isn’t happy about this turn of events one little bit.

For the most part, I’ve been impressed with books with former Trek actors as at least co-writers.  A Stitch in Time was a great book, and I had liked the early Shatner books (before they started looking the same).  This one is no exception, written in part by the actor who had played Martok.  It also helps that Lang had previously impressed the hell outta me with Immortal Coil.  As a team, Hertzler and Lang have put together a fine start to this two-part story.  I could draw some comparisons with some older, more famous stories-parts of the book had a King Arthur kind of feel to it (and not the action sequences); others put me in mind of Robin Hood (especially the last action sequence!).  I also loved a couple minor homages to one of the best (if not the best) Klingon books written (before Next Generation came along and revamped everything; kai the authors!).

New characters in the book stand out as well, both major and minor.  Pharh, as I’ve already mentioned, is a unique Ferengi-he actually wants to see the universe and keep as much of space between himself and his family as possible.  He also manages to rub shoulders with just about every major player in the story (at least the ones on the side of the angels).  Morjod starts out looking like a fairly charismatic Klingon (perhaps more than he should be), but later sections show that there is more to his story than is apparent to the Klingons in the Empire.  And then there’s Darok, gin’tak of the House of Martok; he’s a fairly minor character so far, but I absolutely loved his opinions about his mother, and just what her position in Sto-Vo-Kor (the Klingon afterlife) must be.

I can’t wrap the review of Book One without mentioning the main character-and that’s Martok.  Martok was more or less pushed into taking the title of Chancellor, and he’s still uncertain as to whether or not it really suits him.  It’s something that weighs on him as he infiltrates the Emperor’s Palace, and prompts him to make a telling set of statements at the end of Book One (which I won’t go into, because I think it has a much greater impact when read for the first time).  The book closes at a turning point for Martok, and I am eagerly looking forward to see just where the story goes from here in Book Two.

And to think:  when the books were first announced, I was saying “oh, no, not another Klingon book”.  Thanks for proving me wrong, guys.

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The Brave and the Bold, by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Nice speech.
Thank you.
I especially liked all the dramatic pauses.
-Commodore Matt Decker of the U.S.S. Constellation and Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise


Isn’t it interesting whenever there’s something really, really bad going on in the galaxy, the only ships that can get to them are ones named Enterprise, Defiant, or Voyager?

Well, that’s not always true.  Sometimes, there happen to be other Starfleet ships nearby, and we get a glimpse of what things are like under other captains, and other crews.  Sometimes (well, actually almost always), they are drawn as a contrast with the crews we know, but we never really get a chance to know them all that well-after all, the Star Trek shows are about the main characters, not the guest stars; sometimes we also get the impression that these captains are either seriously unbalanced or incompetent.  That’s always bothered me a bit, as you would think that the folks serving on a starship would be better than that.  (Don’t get me started on some of the novel spin-offs like Challenger, Stargazer, or New Frontier)

Ever wonder what the stories were behind some of them?  Well, that’s the drive behind The Brave and The Bold-we get to see the characters of the Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager in a different light.  We see them through the eyes of other crews, other captains (some of whom aren’t even Starfleet).  I have to admit that I was looking forward to these books, just to see the team-ups shown on the covers.

The Brave and The Bold is actually not a single story, or even a two parter; rather, it’s a quartet of short stories, with a prologue involving another ship called Enterprise, and linked together by a common thread.  In this case, the thread is the existence of a quartet of artifacts from an ancient alien civilization.  Those artifacts, unfortunately, were created on the behalf of a power-mad tyrant named Malkus the Mighty, to give him the power over life and death, the power to overcome any enemy, power over the elements, and power over the mind.  The stuff of fantasy, maybe-but someone made them a reality.  This discovery prompts Starfleet to issue a General Order to confiscate these artifacts should they actually be found-because they are far to dangerous to leave laying around.

Does it really need to be said that certain crews become involved?

In the days of Kirk’s Enterprise, Commodore Matt Decker gets a distress call from Alpha Proxima II, and his ship-the Constellation-answers the call, along with the Enterprise.  The planet seems to be undergoing the effects of plague, although the plague seems curiously targeted-while there seems to be no means of transmission, it has conveniently wiped out the government as well as other apparently random locations.  Kirk and Decker find themselves in the unusual situation of having to deal with the problem without much in the way of local support.  It quickly becomes apparent (thanks to certain emissions) that the cause is one of the Malkus artifacts-which means they not only have to find a way to stop the plague, but they need to find the artifact-and the person using it.  While we get to see a lot of Kirk and Decker (who isn’t really sure about Kirk at first), we also get to see the two ships’ doctors and science officers work together a bit (while Dr. Rosenhaus seemed way too similar to Dr. Bashir in his early years-as in, full of ego-I really enjoyed Lt. Masada’s interactions with Spock).

In the early years of Starfleet’s administration of Deep Space Nine, Captain Keogh of the Odyssey comes to Deep Space Nine to meet with Captain Sisko; Keogh’s assignment is to aid in converting a portion of one of Bajor’s moons into farmland, transport some Bajorans to farm it, transport some supplies to the colony of New Bajor in the Gamma Quadrant, and do a bit of patrolling of the Cardassian border, especially as the Maquis are beginning to become active.  The mission sounds so simple; the problem is that one of the folks coming home to farm is a Bajoran named Orta (I don’t recall seeing if there was more to his name, but memory may simply be escaping me at the moment)-a man who was more of a terrorist than a freedom fighter.  Unfortunately, Orta’s got a new toy, and big plans for it….  Keogh struck me as “cranky”; he doesn’t really get along with anyone, especially Jadzia Dax (who just loves pushing his buttons, naturally); actually, the phrase “stuffed shirt” comes to mind.  A more interesting character is his first officer, Commander Shabablala; he’s recently lost a captain, and isn’t interested in losing another.  And of course, I’m always happy to see Chief O’Brien, Constable Odo, and Commander Sisko again.

The second book opens with the answer to the question, “Just how did Tuvok, a Vulcan in Starfleet Security, manage to infiltrate the Maquis?”.  The answer-partially by accident, and partially Starfleet’s very careful planning.  This story has a bunch of “captains”:  we get Captain Janeway (but she’s mostly a cameo role in this one); there’s also Captain DeSoto of the Hood, who’s been mentioned a few time in Next Generation; but we also get a pair of Maquis captains-Chakotay and Cal Hudson (who appeared in the earliest appearance of the Maquis).  It’s the Maquis who gets into trouble this time, as one of their own discovers one of the artifacts-and he sees it as the perfect weapon to use against the Cardassians.  To be honest, the Maquis get most of the page count on this one, since they’re the ones on-site; the story doesn’t suffer one bit, though; watching them try to figure out why Tuvok’s defecting is one of the high points of these books.

The final story features Picard’s crew and Enterprise-E, as well as a number of guest stars (which I won’t go into detail on, for reasons that the reader will figure out fairly quickly); it also features the return of some of DeCandido’s old friends-Captain Klag and the crew of the I.K.S. Gorkon, last seen in Diplomatic Implausibility.  Klag’s responsible for transporting a famous Federation doctor to a speaking engagement to the Klingon homeworld to point out some of the obvious benefits of medicine to a species notorious for preferring to keep debilitating wounds as a matter of honor; unfortunately, the doctor’s shuttle is lost in transit.  Other disappearances across the quadrant lead Klag to join with Picard to find out where the missing went, and the two end up where the last artifact can be found.  The best moment in this story comes from a “meeting of the minds” between two characters who you’d never suspect as being so much alike in their past experiences.

When planning this review, I wanted to be a little cautious; I’m generally inclined to like DeCandido’s work, as he’s consistently gotten characters written right in every franchise I’ve read, from Star Trek to Marvel Comics to Farscape, so I figured I’d need to fight that instinct.  After reading The Brave and The Bold, I gave up; I can’t really help that I like his writing!  The only characters that seemed a little off were the ones in the prologue, but they haven’t been around all that long, and I haven’t really gotten a handle on them either.  Also of note is the fact that DeCandido is making use of info that’s been sprinkled throughout the DS9 relaunch books, primarily info concerning Andorians, although one of the DS9 relaunch characters also has a very brief cameo.

I found these books to be fun reads; the first one primarily because of the chance to see famous crews seen through the eyes of others; the second one primarily because of plot situations (Tuvok and Captain Klag’s crew).  The thread binding the four stories together works for me, given all the things we’ve seen in Trek lore, and the length of time taken between the findings of the artifacts makes sense given the size of the quadrant, and the fact that it gets smaller every year.  So go ahead and pick up The Brave and The Bold.  It’s like reading extra episodes of Star Trek in all its incarnations.

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The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume Two, by Greg Cox

Khan cursed himself for failing to think three-dimensionally.
-Khan demonstrates a flaw in his tactical reasoning…not for the last time


We left off with the last volume with the Klingons having sabotaged the protective dome at Paragon Colony, leaving it to Kirk and McCoy to….

Heh.  That’s not what you want to hear about.  We wanna know about Khan.  So scrap the framing story out of your heads, and let’s get back to the real plot of this book.  We left them off with Khan finally ready to start his effort to conquer the world, ruled by himself and his chosen subordinates-all products of the Chrysalis Project.  He’s gotten a bunch of useful information from Gary Seven’s computer, and has used that information to build a weapon unlike any other-a satellite that rips holes in the Earth’s ozone layer.  Really, really big holes.  As he’s no dummy, though, he uses it much like the U. S. uses nuclear weapons-a deterrent against military conquest against him.

Of course, Khan still has a couple of irritants to deal with.  Seven and his ally Roberta Lincoln are still working against him-although only rarely coming into direct conflict.  As annoying as they are, however, they pale to the threat posed by a small number of other genetically enhanced people-whose agendas clash with Khan’s.  Each has a somewhat different outlook, from the Amazonian, to the militant American, to the fellow who believes it’s all foreordained by the “starfathers”.

In the meantime, while Seven and Roberta play their chess-like game against Khan’s ambitions, and Khan busies himself with getting ready to take over the world and surviving attacks by his brethren, a small group of people who have unwittingly (and in most cases, unknowingly) had contact with the future get together to design what will become the most advanced spacecraft of this time.  Characters who have shown up in episodes of the original Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager all are represented here (I don’t think anyone was in Next Generation, but I can’t prove a thing).

This book really took me by surprise.  Volume Two, I’d expected, would be somewhat apocalyptic, far more overt than it actually turned out to be.  In many ways, I found it far better than my expectations; as with Volume One, it takes a very significant number of real life events and ties them to the war between Khan, his compatriots and Seven.  And make no mistake-while the warfare is not open, there are definitely large amounts of casualties justifying the antipathy Earth holds for the genetically enhanced even in the time of the Next Generation.

Khan is written totally in character…shifting between gentility and raw fury with equal ease, and every bit the master strategist you’d expect (except, naturally, for a minor tactical flaw as mentioned in the quote above).  His associates, Ament and Joaquin, balance him quite nicely-one a voice of reason, and the other the fanatic bodyguard who really hates it when his master puts himself in harm’s way.  Seven doesn’t get too much time in this one, as he’s gotten significantly older, and so plays the part of Roberta’s mentor more than before.  Roberta’s finally gotten out of some of her more annoying habits, which was a relief to me.

Aside from a very important plot point I figured out by chapter two (and most readers will probably catch it too), I found the journey of getting to Khan’s final destiny to be rather enjoyable.  Greg Cox is to be highly commended for putting together a pair of books that only peripherally touch on Star Trek as a whole; if you switched some names and removed the framing story, it’d stand out quite nicely as a science fiction novel on its own merits.  The fact that it is a Star Trek book, though, allows it to hit some rather nice touches that it couldn’t have done otherwise.  I highly recommend The Eugenics Wars to any fan of Star Trek, and especially to those who loved the original episode “Space Seed” and the movie “The Wrath of Khan”.

(Side note:  Cox once again includes a handy afterword with historic references…enough to make me wonder if Khan’s legacy isn’t still with us)

(Another side note:  I wonder if we can find a way to get Cox to write up the third world war mentioned a couple times in Trek…after this one, I think he’d be a natural)

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