Posts Tagged With: Dean Wesley Smith

By the Book, by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Everything about first contact seemed so clear when we left Earth.  Now nothing does.
-Captain Jonathan Archer of the starship Enterprise


The final frontier had to start somewhere….

In the days before the Federation was born, humanity finally got its act together enough (with perhaps a little Vulcan help…very little) to build a starship to meet their galactic neighbors.  That’s pretty much all you need to know about Enterprise.  The latest Star Trek franchise, it’s got a great premise-even Kirk had a Federation to defend, and knew of many alien races already.  Enterprise is a bit more pure in the fact that everything is new:  the technology, the aliens, and the crew.

By the Book is the first Enterprise original novel.  Knowing this, I will attempt to be kind.

Early in their maiden voyage (probably just after the second episode, although it isn’t explicitly stated, for those interested in continuity), Captain Jonathan Archer and his crew come upon a planet that has just managed to send up something with warp technology-which is a criteria that Vulcans have been known to use to open communications with a world.  Captain Archer, always interested in a new experience, is eager to initiate first contact with the race that sent up their test flight, the Fazi.  His science officer, the Vulcan T’Pol, advises against it, mainly because she feels that their incredibly structured society isn’t really up for handling an unexpected appearance by aliens.  Not surprisingly, Archer ignores the advice; the results are kind of predictable (hey, the back cover tells us it’s disastrous!  How blatant can they get?).

Complicating the issue is the existence of a second alien race also living on the planet, completely isolated from the Fazi; and considering the damage Archer’s already done with his first contact, he finds himself a little bit of a loss as to how to repair that damage, and find out more about the other race.

Okay:  the things I liked about this book.  While it might not jive completely with series continuity, I enjoyed seeing Archer begin to see that maybe the Vulcans had a point with their hesitance in aiding Earth get out into space and contacting strange new worlds.  I loved the use of the minor characters who have appeared in the series so far as well, and I hope other authors follow up on that concept (as I recall, there are plans with Pocket Books to go a step further with the Original Series sometime later this year or early next year).  I also liked the problems that the crew had in dealing with the Fazi and the other race; they haven’t exactly got a lot of experience at this, and seeing Archer flub things-while perhaps a little cruel-was rather fun.

Things I didn’t like:  I can sum this one up pretty easily.  A major, major portion of the book consists of the minor characters playing a role-playing game.  Now, I don’t have a problem with role-playing; I’ve done it in the past, and I have some rather amusing memories from doing so.  The problem is that it doesn’t translate well into fiction.  No, this isn’t a slam on role-playing game novels-they don’t go into the mechanics, and this one does.  Basically, it reads exactly like a session.  While I understand the reasoning about it in the book-it allows the participants to let off some steam-I think it took up way too much of the book, and when that kind of thing happens, I begin to think that it’s been included to pad the book.

By the Book is a decent first book, but not as good as others.  It beats Ghost Ship for the Next Generation, but it doesn’t come anywhere near The Siege for DS9.  The authors admittedly probably didn’t have much to work with, this early in a series, but even so, I feel that this book could’ve been better.

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Have Tech, Will Travel, by Assorted Authors

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.

Categories: S.C.E., Star Trek | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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