A few months ago I wrote about some of the exciting Star Trek fiction that Pocket Books has released over the past several years, picking up story-lines left hanging by the now off-the-air 24th century Trek series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager). The over-all quality of these books has been terrific, and I have really been enjoying the sense of a coherent, connected universe that the novels have created. Story-lines from one novel lead into the next, characters are growing and changing in ways they seldom did on the TV shows that needed to preserve the status quo from week-to-week, and there’s been a strong sense of the over-all narrative moving forward towards something really exciting.
That something exciting is Star Trek: Destiny, the three-novel series by David Mack that serves as a sort-of “season finale” for all of the Trek novels released recently. Multiple characters from all of the Trek series, as well as a variety of new characters that have been introduced and developed in the novels, converge in this enormous storyline.
Half a decade after the end of the Dominion War, Captain Dax of the U.S.S. Aventine has discovered in the Gamma Quadrant the wreckage of Earth’s second Warp 5 starship, the U.S.S. Columbia NX-02, lost for centuries. (The Columbia and its Captain, Erika Hernandez, were a big part of the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.) Meanwhile, the moment the Federation has long dreaded has arrived: The Borg have launched a full-scale invasion of Federation territory, with hundreds of cubes. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise attempt to lead the remains of Starfleet in a last-ditch effort to protect the core systems and somehow halt the Borg advance, but as world after world falls, their struggle becomes increasingly hopeless.
Destiny is an ambitious, far-reaching story that tells several (interconnected) tales simultaneously. We follow Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as they fight to find some way to defeat the Borg, as they have so many times in the past. Meanwhile, far outside of Federation space on a mission of deep-space exploration, the hopelessness of Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan at being too far away to help their friends and family is compounded when they find themselves in an impossible situation, trapped by the highly advanced species called the Caeliar. This long-lived race is connected to the mystery of the Columbia, which Dax and the Aventine are investigating in the Gamma Quadrant. (And, not surprising, both stories are connected to the Borg’s invasion of the Federation — although what IS surprising is the remarkable nature of the ultimately-discovered revelations about the Borg.) We also follow events on the political side of the Federation — President Nan Bacco (from the novel Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido) as she struggles to hold together the surviving members of the Federation, as well as several of their former enemies, in some sort of coalition in the face of annihilation by the Borg. Finally, there is the sad tale of the terrible fate of Captain Hernandez and the crew of the Columbia, whose story slowly unfolds over the course of the trilogy and is connected in surprising ways to all of the terrible events unfolding.
Mack tells a ripping yarn, no question. The trilogy follows the stories of scores of characters (each starship featured has a host of major and minor characters, all of whom get face-time over the course of the story), and it is to his credit that there were only one or two times when I had any confusion over who exactly was where. Mack is able to give each character his or her own distinctive voice, which brings life to the tale and also helps the reader keep everyone straight.
I have waxed poetic before, and I will certainly do so again, about the terrific continuity between the recent Trek novels. It has been very exciting to see the familiar Trek TV characters grow and change over the course of the recent series (Picard and Crusher finally moving forward with their long-simmering relationship which had been hinted at ever since the very first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — and same goes for Riker and Troi). It’s also been neat seeing all of the new characters introduced in the novels become integrated into the over-all story-line — characters like Sam Bowers (Dax’s executive officer on the Aventine), Christine Vale (Riker’s second on the Titan), Federation President Nan Bacco, and many others. The novels have also been great at bringing back and breathing life into obscure characters from the various TV shows, characters like Melora Pazlar (the woman from an extremely low-gravity planet featured in one early episode of Deep Space Nine) and Simon Tarses (the young Enterprise officer put through the wringer in the Next Gen episode “The Drumhead”), all of whom are now important members of the over-all ensemble.
Freed from the constraints of having to leave their toys in exactly the same place that they found them, recent Trek authors have made some dramatic changes to the characters and to the status quo — but none more-so than Mack, who really turns over the apple cart with this trilogy. It’s safe to say that our heroes aren’t all annihilated at the end, but the Federation suffers some shocking defeats over the course of the story, and there’s no magic reset button at the end to set everything back to normal. In addition to some enormous changes to the galactic situation, many of the characters go through some pretty interesting personal journeys over the course of the story, and find themselves in very different places at its end than they were at its beginning.
I wish they were making huge, epic Star Trek stories like this for TV or the movies!! Failing that, though, I couldn’t be happier with the recent Trek fiction by Pocket Books, and David Mack’s Destiny trilogy is a major achievement. I cannot wait for the next novel!! (That’d be Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Singular Destiny, charged with picking up some of the pieces left by Mack’s epic. I’ll let you know how it is…)