Posts Tagged With: Jeffrey Lang

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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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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Immortal Coil, by Jeffrey Lang

Intuition.  Data has developed intuition.
-A realization reached by Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E


One of the things that always baffled me about the Next Generation was the way people treated Commander Data.  It wasn’t that everyone seemed so surprised when they learned he was an android; that much I could understand.  What always threw me was how so many people in Starfleet seemed to consider it nearly impossible to create androids, when the Original Series had androids show up on it several times.  I didn’t really consider it something to bother me, but the thought has lingered there on and off over the years.

Well, Immortal Coil does a fair job in closing the gaps.  The time frame is deep in the Dominion War, which really doesn’t matter at all to the plot.  News comes to the Enterprise that Commander Bruce Maddox, a fellow who once wanted to take Data apart to see what made him tick, is working on a new project-one that will revolutionize artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, some apparently doesn’t like it, and tries to blow him up.  The Enterprise is called to investigate.

In the meantime, Data’s “mother”, a Soong-style android named Juliana Tainer, based on Soong’s late wife and programmed to believe herself to be the real thing, has “died”, and Data experiences the emotions of despair, thanks to his emotion chip.  He comes to realize that barring fatal accidents, he will see each and every friend he has die of old age-if he’s lucky-and will likely feel the same emotions each time.  The distraction of dealing with the question of what Maddox was doing is a welcome one-as is an attraction to the latest security chief, Lieutenant Rhea McAdams-an attraction that is returned.

In the course of this book, Data will face certain truths about his own origins, and his ties to artificial intelligence in the Star Trek universe.  And there are portions of those origins that are bound and determined to stay mysterious.

I’m a sucker for Star Trek books that delve into the rich history that Trek has created-and there’s a lot to be had.  I really wish I could go into detail on one aspect, but it would really ruin one of the big moments of the book, and I can’t do that!  I will say, however, that it preserves the fact of Dr. Soong’s genius while making sense that certain events and individuals may have guided his steps-even if only slightly.  In addition, Immortal Coil is a pretty decent mystery, as the crew of the Enterprise tries to find out why Maddox’s work was blown up, and who was behind it.

But the best part of the book is the continuing evolution of Commander Data.  He’s dealt with death and love and everything in between before, but those were in days before he had his emotion chip installed.  Now, he’s experiencing them in a new light, because he’s feeling those emotions instead of simply understanding them.  And as the quote above indicates, he’s beginning to make decisions that are not totally based on facts.

Oh:  another part of the book that was enjoyable.  There are short portions between parts of the book detailing the journeys of Dr. Soong and a couple of associates, which ties into the events of this book-but I’ll leave that to the readers to discover.  All in all, Immortal Coil turns in a good performance, and is probably one of the better Next Generation books out there.  Definitely read this if you are a fan of Commander Data, or a Star Trek Chronology buff.

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