Star Trek: Gateways, by Assorted Authors

Let us go and be brilliant, my friend.
-Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane to Lieutenent Nog, both of Deep Space Nine

Have a seat, and get comfortable; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride….

There were a pair of Star Trek episodes-one on the Next Generation, and one on Deep Space Nine-which featured devices from an ancient race known as the Iconians.  Specifically, there were devices called Gateways that could teleport individuals across interstellar distances.  Both the Gateways, for various reasons, ended up as rubble by the end of those episodes.  And now, they’ve inspired a massive Star Trek event, which crosses over all the franchises that have appeared in novelized form (except for Enterprise, for obvious reasons).  From the Original Series to the Next Generation, from Deep Space Nine to Voyager, and even the novel-only New Frontier and Challenger books-they all fall into the grand storyline called Gateways.

So why am I reviewing this all at once, instead of as separate reviews?

The main reason is that some of these books tie pretty close together.  In fact, all of the latter-era books happen at roughly the same time.  One of the best moments in these books is the conference between the leaders of various ships and stations; in the appropriate book, we see the same meeting under different points of view.  While I moderately loathed the method, the event itself was a great scene.  And a minor reason is because all of the books ended on a cliffhanger, with a number of major characters stepping into a Gateway to find “what lay beyond”.  Cute, huh?

So, I am presenting a series of mini-reviews.  I could, I suppose, do full reviews on each, but then I’d be until next year getting these done, and that’s just not happening.

The Original Series:  One Small Step, by Susan Wright

This takes place in the last moments of one of the third season episodes, “That Which Survives”.  One of the events of that show was the fact that the Enterprise had been flung a long, long, long way away.  That serves as the jumping point for this series, as Kirk and company attempt to unravel the mystery of the race of the Kalandans, who apparently all died out.  This seems to be disproved, however, by the arrival of a group of aliens masquerading as the Kalandans.  The truth is that this race is the Petraw, and they seem to be more along the lines of pack rats than any technologically advanced society.  So we get two groups of beings attempting to unlock the secret of the Gateway here.  I rather liked the book on the strength of the fact that this didn’t involve saving any worlds or galaxies, but simply attempting to understand a dead race, and keeping the technology out of the wrong hands.

Challenger:  Chainmail, by Diane Carey

This book is a follow up of the New Earth novels last year.  Commander Nick Keller explores an alien ship that his first mate and bosun ran into and promptly disappeared into.  Diane Carey has always written a good read, in my experience, and she manages to cover the presence of an alien race (or not so alien) on that ship and at their homeworld.  At the same time, though, the political situation between Keller and the allied race of aliens known as the Blood Many takes a bit of a hit.  Keller is so obviously unprepared for being a captain in the Starfleet mold, as he tries to hold together this alliance while staying loyal to his friends and shipmates and trying to figure out the mystery of the ship, its inhabitants, and its cargo.  This was probably one of the stronger books in the Gateways series, and worth picking up for its story alone.

The Next Generation:  Doors into Chaos, by Robert Greenberger

The first of three tightly-interwoven books, it sets up the situation in this era:  the Iconians have seemingly returned, and they have offered their Gateways to the highest bidder.  The bad news is that to prove their intentions, and to sweeten the pot, they’ve opened up all of their Gateways.  This has caused a great deal of problems across Federation space, not to mention the Klingons, the Romulans, et cetera.  The mission of the U. S. S. Enterprise and her crew is to muster up support for a coalition of governments to face the Iconians and to find out the truth behind this offer.  The crew splits up for this, to cover more ground quickly.  I anticipated this book more than any of the others (except for the next one), because the Iconians were of great interest to Jean Luc Picard, and I expected that anything about the Iconians was going to center on the good captain.  All the same, it did feel a little flat to me; probably because there were just too many supporting characters flying around, and it was beginning to get difficult to keep track of them all.  Still, it was a fairly solid book.

Deep Space Nine:  Demons of Air and Darkness, by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Tying directly into the events of the previous book, and following the events of Section 31-Abyss, we find that there are three major plots rolling here.  One, naturally, is the ongoing question of the Gateways, as none have been spotted anywhere near Bajor.  The second involves an effect of the Gateways, as one appears to be dumping large amounts of theta radiation to an inhabited world (fans of Voyager might have a pretty good clue here, although it’s explicitly pointed out in chapter one).  The third involves Quark, and his negotiation with the Iconians on the behalf of the Orion crime syndicate.  And through it all, a number of subplots from the DS9 series of novels continues to unfold, from Shar’s family problems, to Kira’s attempts to deal with her Attainted status.  It’s close, but I’d have to say that this was the strongest of the Gateways books; in such a close race, I stick with my favorite series.  But as I said, it was a real close call.

Voyager:  No Man’s Land, by Christie Golden

Still locked in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway suddenly finds herself trying to cross a region of space that is decidedly hostile, in a natural sense-asteriods, singularities, and red giant stars.  Then things get really interesting, as a bunch of Gateways start opening all nearby Voyager, including a Hirogen vessel; not all of the vessels are really friendly, and Janeway has her hands full getting various starships to follow her across the “no man’s land” while trying to figure out how to get these people back to their own regions of space.  While I considered this the weakest of the books, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad; a sort of murder mystery takes place during the book, as well as the discovery that one of the races involved are slave-lords.  Still, there are aspects of the book that seemed outright silly to me.  It does make sense with the final book in Gateways, but as a single novel….

New Frontier:  Cold Wars, by Peter David

The Gateways are even a problem in Thallonian space, which requires not one, but two starships to investigate:  the Trident, with Captain Shelby, and the Excalibur, with Captain Calhoun, her husband.  This book kicks off as many of Peter David’s books-someone ends up getting killed.  There are a pair of Gateways on two different worlds, brought by mysterious benefactors; the problem is that the inhabitants of these worlds hate each other, and were engaged in exterminating each other before the former Thallonian Empire separated them by locating them on different worlds.  Starfleet’s goal is to investigate the Gateways in Thallonian space, and at the same time, stop the cycle of violence breaking out between these worlds.  This was the other contender for the best of the bunch; while the cast of characters are beginning to be so many as to be unwieldy (two different starship crews!), David still tells a good story within the framework of this mega-storyline, while still being able to tell a stand-alone tale.  Fans of the original animated series get a special bonus as well in this book.

What Lay Beyond

I can’t really say too much about this book without spilling major beans.  I can say that this is a collection of short stories that finish the cliffhangers for each novel, and each features the assorted captains, commander, and colonel of these books.  Since I can’t go into details, I will at least let you all know my preferences, from least favorite to most (surprisingly, it doesn’t necessarily follow my opinions on the previous books!).  Original Series, Challenger, New Frontier, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Next Generation.  The reason for this order has a lot to do with how these stories followed up on the events that closed the novels.  Some made more sense than others, and some I ranked higher because they made great sense.

Final thoughts:  as far as it goes, it was a pretty decent set of books.  I am, however, extremely annoyed at the fact that I had to pick up a hardcover to finish the books.  It doesn’t really affect me all that much, but than again, I tend to read all these books!  For folks who only follow the Original Series, or Voyager for example, it might be a little upsetting to realize that to get the whole story, you need to buy a hardback (or wait a year until it hits paperback) to finish the story!  I really wish they hadn’t done it that way, because I think it was done mostly as a marketing ploy.  Just my opinion.  But if you decide to pick up these books, with the understanding that they all conclude in What Lay Beyond, and with an intention to read all the books…well, Trek has had worse stories to work with.

(2015 note:  this will likely be the post with the most tags attached.  Whew!)

Categories: Deep Space Nine, New Frontier, Star Trek, The Next Generation, The Original Series, Voyager | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Homecoming, by Christie Golden

You said that we needed to talk about my mother, and that it is a matter of some urgency.  What happened to her?
First, how much do you know about your mother’s recent activities?
How the hell should I know anything?  I’ve been lost in the Delta Quadrant for seven years!
-Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres of the U.S.S. Voyager and Commander Loght of the Klingon Empire

Okay.  I’ll admit it.  Of all the shows that have had “Star Trek” on the header, I liked Voyager the least.  I didn’t have a problem with the captain; I’ve never had a problem with a woman in command of a starship.  I didn’t have a problem with the concept; stuck 70+ years away from the nearest friendly port had a lot of potential to it.  But as the seasons rolled on, I got less enthused by the show; it seemed there was little in the way of consequence from episode to episode.  Perhaps I was spoiled by the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine; DS9 of course had the ongoing Dominion War, and actions in previous episodes could have consequences in the next; and even the Next Generation crew evolved (Worf being the obvious example, but there were other great touches such as Picard’s attitude towards the Borg after being assimilated).  But in Voyager, after the first couple of seasons….  I realize I’m probably being unfair; there were episodes that carried over consequences, so I can’t point to that as my major problem; I also had trouble with the fact that the Borg had become just another evil-species-of-the-week, or with how Seven of Nine came to dominate much of the show.  Or maybe I’ve become old and set in my ways.  Even the novels hadn’t inspired me all that much.

But in the present day, it seems that the Star Trek books have become more impressive, and none more so than the Deep Space Nine relaunch, set after that series ended.  I expect it had much to do with the fact that the authors had a great deal of freedom to write without fear of a movie contradicting them later on.  But because of the successful relaunch, it encouraged me when I heard that there was a Voyager relaunch waiting in the wings taking place after the crew returned home.  And that brings us to the novel Homecoming, the kick-off of the Voyager relaunch, and it starts up roughly ten minutes after the series finale.  And I’ll say up front-Christie Golden has set up no shortage of subplots to work with!  Let me go a step further; to date, I’d say this is the best Voyager book I’ve read (although, granted, this could be considered faint praise).

The crew of the U. S. S. Voyager return to a very different quadrant than they’d left behind, seven years ago; while they’ve been gone, a war had started and ended which had caused a great deal of damage to the worlds of the Federation; the Borg had taken another good hard crack at assimilating planet Earth; the Maquis, a group of fighters in the Cardassian DMZ, had been effectively exterminated as an organization in the war; as a result, the return of Voyager doesn’t quite rate the level of celebration they had received in the alternate future of Admiral Janeway.  Worse, there are some in Starfleet who look upon the crew with suspicion-after all, Admiral Janeway busted the Temporal Prime Directive to bits with her actions-and her futuristic technology is still a part of Voyager.

So, what does the future hold for this crew?  Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has seen the movie “Nemesis” that a promotion gets kicked through; I’ll reserve my comments on this promotion for a future review, since there may be Star Trek fans who haven’t actually seen it.  As for the others….  Well, on this, I have to give Golden a lot of credit-remember what I said about the show and consequences?  Well, she picks up a few selected loose ends and tosses them at the Voyager crew, one person at a time.  The Doctor and B’Elanna bear the brunt of two, but one whopping loose end comes to affect the entire crew (and I spoil nothing by saying that resisting it might be futile; when the back of the book flat out tells you….).  There’s also some great moments as Tom Paris is reunited with his dad-and has to introduce him to his wife and new child; Chakotay dealing with his feelings for Seven of Nine, who becomes somewhat notorious herself because of being a live (albeit former) Borg on a world that just escaped assimilation twice; and Harry Kim, who gets what he deserves on the one hand, and becomes an object of unusual scrutiny on the other.

This was a terrific start to the relaunch; while I don’t think it was quite as strong as the DS9 relaunch’s start, it’s a vast improvement over previous Voyager novels.  And the continuing storyline that is starting is following one of the big loose ends from one of the bigger shows in the series (presuming I guess right; it seems obvious to me, but authors have surprised me quite often).  If you enjoyed Voyager on T.V., you will love this book.  If you didn’t…well, you may be a little lost with some of the references, but I think you’ll find it’s at least worth checking out.

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