Friday, February 4, 2011

Harbinger

Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger
© 2005 David Mack
388 pages

Cover Art: Doug Drexler.  

Returning from from the edge of known space and haunted by the memory of having to kill his best friend, Captain James T. Kirk is astonished to find a massive, fully-operational Starfleet base far from the Federation's core worlds. Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard, sits at the entrance to the Taurus Reach, an unexplored area of space that has evidently caught Starfleet's attention -- for reasons unknown to Kirk, and to most of the Vanguard crew, save the four officers briefed by Starfleet Intelligence. Kirk is only too happy to put in for shore leave and enjoy the aminities of the station, but no sooner are his ship's repairs done than does terrible news reach the base: the USS Bombay, attached to Vanguard, has been attacked. Because Vanguard's other ships are away on assignments of their own, the base commander asks Kirk to investigate Bombay's disappearance -- and a mystery involving a 'map written in the stars' begins to unravel.

Star Trek Vanguard is hailed as one of the superior Trek series out there, and I've been curious about for a long while. I almost started the series at its inception in 2005, interested by the space-station setting. Like Deep Space Nine, the Vanguard books will make use of long-running plot arcs, in this case a great mystery hidden inside the Taurus Reach that has the Tholians and Klingons interested to boot. Though Jim Kirk and the Enterprise make a strong showing here, Vanguard isn't their series:  while the Enterprise will move on to the rest of its first-season adventures (the Gary Mitchell episode starting TOS) following Harbinger, Vanguard's robust set of characters will explore the mystery of the Reach and avoid war with their prickly neighbors. In addition to the usual Starfleet folks, Mack introduces a soulful Vulcan woman with a mysterious past who works for Starfleet  Intelligence; a charming rogue with his own cargo ship who sometimes breaks the law, but isn't as big a rascal as Mal Reynolds or Han Solo;  and Tim Pennington,  an enthusiastic reporter whose overactive interest in what Vanguard is up to may get  him in trouble.  The writing is superior, as is to be expected from Mack: particularly in regards to dialogues. He does emotionally difficult speeches and snappy conversation well.  There are plenty of  little references to Trek canon (and lit-canon), which help in reader immersion, and the setting (immediately following "Where No Man Has Gone Before") sees the transition from the pilot sets and uniforms into the TOS era, where command officers wear gold,  operations wear red, and "women wear less".

Excellent start to the Vanguard series: the reader is thrown into the thick of things from the get-go as the Vanguard officers try to keep a lid on their operation in the amidst of alien aggression, tragedy, and a conscientiously nosy reporter. I'm looking forward to what transpires. This series looks to have been planned well from the star: the book even includes diagrams of the station, which was most helpful.

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