Friday, February 11, 2011

Summon the Thunder

Star Trek Vanguard: Summon the Thunder (#2)
© 2006 Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
420 pages

Cover art created by Doug Drexler, depicting Vanguard Station and the USS Lovell, a Daedalus-class still in service after over a century. 

Something ancient and malevolent is stirring in the mysterious systems of the Taurus Reach, a foreboding area of space that managed to defy exploration and colonizations until recently, despite being at the crossroads between three great powers. Starfleet is compelled to explore the area by hints of a great scientific discovery waiting in the wings, and the abundance of still-functioning remains speak to the existence of a long-dead, but vastly powerful interstellar society. The Tholians regard the area with dread fear, and  their responses to Klingon and Starfleet activity within the area threaten to turn it into a warzone.  The greatest danger to the peace may not be the powers themselves, but the fact that the ancient civilization isn't quite dead. On Vanguard station, Starfleet officers, diplomats, spies,  pirates, and a reporter try to keep the peace and their lives intact, all the while wondering -- just what does the Reach hide?  

David Mack's Harbinger provided a superb explanation to the Vanguard series, relying on an excellent cast that continues to impress here under the direction of Ward and Dilmore. They expand it by focusing part of the story on the crew of the USS Endeavor, led by  a newly-minted captain who is struggling to live up to the success of her recently deceased XO, who died in the course of Starfleet's work in this region , whose mysterious death emphasizes Starfleet's need to understand the nature of the artifacts and hidden installations they've unearthed. Vanguard's ensemble started out strong and continues to mature:  none of the viewpoint characters like nuance, and some of them are particularly conflicted. I especially appreciated the development of Starfleet's rivals: I especially looked forward to seeing the Romulans, which was unexpected given that, despite their pretty ships, I tend to find Romulans predictable and boring.  We get it, Romulans, you are oh-so-sneaky and superior to everyone else.  While most of the characters are involved in political intrigue or scientific enterprise,  the authors also treat the reader to the adventures of Quinn and Pennington, a charming rogue and disgraced reporter who have managed to become the playthings of both an Orion gangster and intelligent agent T'Prynn, easily one of the series' more interesting characters. Though she's not in charge of the Vanguard Project,  she clearly knows more than Commodore Reyes -- and I'm given to wondering if it's not Starfleet Intelligence she works for, but a more ominous organization. All of the interesting adventures and pursuits of these characters are woven into one rich story by book's end,  and I'm thinking rather than buying the Terok Nor trilogy,  I'll go ahead and buy the rest of the Vanguard books.  

Vanguard started out strong indeed and hasn't yet diminished -- and considering that Mack returns in the third book, I don't expect it to. 


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