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Star Trek: Force and Motion

Almost twenty years after the events of the fourth-season Next Gen episode “The Wounded,” (one of my very favorite episodes of Trek), Jeffrey Lang’s terrific novel Force and Motion catches up with the disgraced Benjamin Maxwell, former Starfleet Captain now working as little more than a janitor on an old, falling-apart space station in the middle of nowhere.  Captain Maxwell’s old comrade Chief Miles O’Brien decides to pay his former captain a visit, with Engineer Nog tagging along.  Of course, since perilous adventures seem to happen whenever the Chief leaves DS9, as soon as he and Nog set foot on board the station where Maxwell lives and works, many bad things start occurring in short succession.

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Force and Motion is a terrific novel.  It’s a wonderful idea to follow up on Captain Maxwell.  I’m actually somewhat surprised that it’s taken this long for a Trek writer to do so!  “The Wounded” was such a terrific episode, one of the first to really spotlight Miles O’Brien.  With the episode’s spotlight on O’Brien and the Cardassians (“The Wounded” was actually the Trek episode that introduced the Cardassians!), and also with it’s dark, ambiguous ending, “The Wounded” feels in many ways like a classic Deep Space Nine episode, and that’s a compliment.  Bub Gunton was incredibly memorable as Captain Maxwell, O’Brien’s former C.O., and so I was thrilled that this novel finally brought the character back and shed light on what happened to him after being removed from his command at the end of that Next Gen episode.

I also loved that Force and Motion brought Chief O’Brien back to the center stage.  Chief O’Brien has been mostly overlooked by the past decade of DS9 novels.  You’d really have to look back to the 2004 “Worlds of Deep Space Nine” novella The Lotus Flower, by Una McCormack, for the last time that O’Brien got a spotlight.  The post-finale DS9 books at first respected the plot point from the DS9 finale, “What You Leave Behind,” in which O’Brien revealed that he’d decided to leave the station, with his family, to return to Earth.  But after the destruction of DS9 in David R. George III’s fabulous DS9 duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Mr. George brought O’Brien back into the fold as the Chief returned to oversee the construction of the new station.  Still, for the past few years worth of new Trek novels, O’Brien hasn’t been given much to do.  (We never even really got to see how he reacted to his friend Julian Bashir’s decision to abandon Starfleet in David Mack’s novel A Ceremony of Losses.)

I also enjoyed that this novel gave some attention to Nog, as well.  Though here is where Force and Motion starts to feel a little weird, because David R. George III’s string of Ds9 novels from the past few years, most recently Sacraments of Fire and Ascendance, left several Nog-centric story-lines unfinished, such as Nog’s attempt to repair Vic Fontaine’s damaged holo-program and his burgeoning flirtation with a mysterious new waitress at Quark’s.  I’d gotten the feeling over the past few years that David R. George III had been given primary control over new DS9-centric stories, and reading Force and Motion that appears to be the case, as this novel doesn’t mention any of those story-lines begun in Mr. George’s last books (and that will presumably be continued in his next one).

The result is that Force and Motion feels somewhat outside of the main continuing Trek story-lines, even as it deals with several major Trek characters and features some interesting developments for several of them.  But Mr. Lang’s wonderful story and deft focus on characterization, most particularly for O’Brien and Nog, as well as for Ben Maxwell, makes the novel hugely enjoyable and gives it an essential feeling, even if the actual plot events of this novel don’t wind up having much influence on the continuing DS9 stories as the novel series goes on.

I love the way Mr. Lang structured the story, with the novel constantly jumping all around in time.  As the main story — which all takes place during a single crazy day on board the bizarre, independently-run space station where Maxwell now lives and works — unfolds, we constantly shift all around in time, allowing us to learn important backstory to the events happening in the present day.  This structure keeps the story extremely interesting, and the accretion of vignettes is a wonderful device to develop the characters and, most importantly, to give us important background to Ben Maxwell’s actions that we didn’t see in “The Wounded,” and to fill us in on what has befallen him in the two decades since.  Force and Motion moves from the death of Maxwell’s family years prior to “The Wounded”, to the events immediately after Maxwell was taken into custody on board the Enterprise, through his years of incarceration and therapy in a Federation facility, to his time spent tying to find something to due with the rest of his life after he is finally released.  (The novel begins with one of the most heartbreaking of all the vignettes, set during the events of the Borg invasion from David Mack’s Destiny trilogy, in which Maxwell’s pleas to be allowed to serve again and help defend the Federation are denied by Starfleet.)

The novel is fronted by another great Doug Drexler cover.  I really love Mr. Drexler’s cover art on these Trek novels!!  Any new Trek novel without a Doug Drexler cover is always disappointing to me.

Really my only main complaint about Force and Motion is its somewhat meaningless title.  I’d have preferred something that I felt connected more strongly to Ben Maxwell’s story.  Oh well!

Force and Motion is another terrific new Trek adventure.  This first wave of post-“The Fall” novels have been great.  Armageddon’s Arrow was a terrific Next Gen adventure on board the Enterprise E, while this novel was a great DS9 story.  The next novel, which focuses on Admiral Riker and the Titan, is also very solid.  I’ll be back here soon to talk about that one.

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body ElectricThe Light Fantastic, Takedown, Armageddon’s Arrow

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending SacrificePlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Section 31: Disavowed, The Missing, Sacraments of Fire, Ascendance

Star Trek: Voyager – Full CircleUnworthyChildren of the StormThe Eternal TideProtectors

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the StormRise of the Federation: A Choice of FuturesRise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesUnder a Torrent SeaSynthesisFallen Gods, Absent Enemies (e-book)

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of Disharmony, The Struggle Within (e-book), Plagues of Night and Raise the DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and DustBook 2: The Crimson ShadowBook 3: A Ceremony of LossesBook 4: The Poisoned ChaliceBook 5: Peaceable Kingdoms

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)The Buried Age (2355-2364)One Constant Star (2319)

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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