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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-17 20:55
Star Trek: S. C. E.: #23 & #24 Wildfire by David Mack
Wildfire Book 2 - David Mack
Wildfire Book 1 - David Mack

Why did it take 20 parts until SCE finally picked up speed, to actually get to the heart of it?!? What KRAD began in War Stories, is continued here: the SCE finally gets a living and breathing soul.

 

The daVinci is called for a rescue mission. The USS Orion launched a testrun of a device called "Wildfire" in the atmosphere of a gas giant which could change the fate of star (like the Genesis device did for planets), but something went wrong, and the Orion no longer replies to calls. At least the Wildfire-device should be salvaged since it could be used for more devious purposes. The team find the Orion derelict in the gas giant's atmosphere, and the Wildfire device primed for detonation - but before it can be disarmed, pretty much everything in the salvage operation goes wrong... and the daVinci itself faces destruction, and the crew certain death.

 

This was Mack's first solo work in Star Trek - and possibly, this is what he had envisioned for "Starship Down", the episode he wrote for DS9 and that this story is frequently referring to... and even back as a novice TrekLit-writer he knew how to shake up a series (although he went on to greater dimensions in later works). Interestingly, whereas he concentrates on the action later on, here he focuses on the personal stories, relationships, courage & heroism, and duty & self-reflection, which works astonishingly well. And I have to admit that I got a lump in my throat in part 2, quite a few times actually, yet it's strange that Gomez's reaction didn't move me half as much as Stevens's. But maybe that's going to change once I've read the aftermath-stories to come - and there's no doubt, that I'll continue with this series now. I simply can't stop here, hanging on the edge of grief and despair, without any of the emotional gratification of a good "what happens next". Well done, Mack.

 

I also appreciated the fact that the main character's death in this novel is a final one. We have a body that's been declared dead - so I'll expect consequences in the next stories (that have already been hinted at here).

 

Just a couple of factual nitpicks (which threw me out of the very emotional last chapter just a tiny bit):

 

A victim dying of suffocation due to CO2 intoxication without any outward pressure like strangulation etc. won't show any petechial bleedings on the face/sclera - simply because petechia are caused by the venous flow being interrupted while the arterial flow's still pumping blood into the tissue. And if there's no blockage in the venous system, there won't be any petechia.

 

And modern CPR uses a 30:2 rhythm (compression:breathing) regardless of the cause of the cardiac arrest, not 8:1 like it was described here - though, of course, since this was a case of CPR given pro forma, let's not be too strict about that.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-09 21:08
Star Trek: The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack
A Ceremony of Losses (Star Trek: The Fall) - David Mack

Shar asks Bashir for help when studying the Meta-Genome provided by the Tholians leaves the Andorians stumped in their search for a cure for their fertility crisis. Bashir obtains a whole copy of the Meta-Genome and invites fellow-geneticistis to Bajor to come up with a cure. And they are successful, but not everyone actually wants to help the Andorians. And so Bashir risks everything to reach Andor himself.

 

I have to admit, I actually detest the way Bashir's kind of flaunting his superior intellect around and, of course, comes up with an ingenious cure. But, in this case, my anger and disbelief rather rests with the rest of the Starfleet officers we know, since at least Bashir's motivation is true and heartfelt. I emphasize that because there always are those who just obey without question - but the characters we know, we saw develop over 25 years, should be above mere obedience. And I realize that in a military hierarchy you can't just question orders left and right, but sometimes when things are as obvious as here, there can't be any doubt or hesitation. So, especially Ezri with her 9 lifetimes worth of experience didn't really endear herself to me.

 

And so, we have a president pro tem of the Federation after Bacco's assassination who's using the Andorian secession to build his own base of power, practically using the Andorians as example for what is to come if ever any other member of the Federation should even contemplate an exit (blockade, misinformation, even covert military action, keeping a cure from a species on the verge of extinction). We have the Andorian government who are also withholding strands of the genome to the scientists because the ruling party wants to have a tighter hold on the rule first (fighting the progressives who'd arguably benefit from a cure which consists of rewriting the genetic code of the whole species). And we have the Typhon Pact who are trying to entice the Andorians into joining by giving them bits of the genome. All around, it's bad to be an Andorian right now.

 

In the end, the cure is delivered, it works, Andor is reapplying for membership in the Federation and the leader of the Progressives announces her candidacy for President fo the Federation, opposing the president pro tem. Maybe another nitpick here: the Typhon Pact and the government (before it's voted out of office) are awfully impassive, considering they have major stakes in the game. But by then, the book focuses more on Bashir than on the whole political situation on a larger scheme.

 

Bashir himself faces a life-sentence for treason in using the meta-genome.

 

The novel itself is, as per usual for Mack, well written, suspenseful and fast-paced. Since I haven't read the earlier novels depicting the Andorian crisis and secession, the background here is a bit missing. Another unheard plea to the publishers to include a "previously on"-section... Just one thing, though: if it needs 4 people to conceive one child, small wonder that the process is prone to flaws. Just one little aberration, and the whole balance is off.

 

Overall: engaging.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-15 23:01
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions by David Mack
Rise Like Lions (Star Trek: Mirror Universe) - David Mack

It's almost 100 years since the Terran Republic was conquered by the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance - and all that Spock's been working for went underground. The rebellion is adrift, without a leader, fighting too many battles on too many fronts, but it only needs a figurehead to unite the factions, to point them in the right direction and to rebuild the world into the vision Spock gained by melding with McCoy back in "Mirror, Mirror".

Rise like Lions isn't the direct successor of Sorrows of Empire, unfortunately. There have been a few books in the DS9-relaunch that play into it, that set up the stage (such as Iliana Ghemor's role on Bajor which kind of jumpstarts the action here, or Kes), so that's a bit of a downside if you come directly from Sorrows. Again, I question the choice by the editors not to include a short "previously on"-section (or at least a list of books you should read previously) because not everyone read every book, and within the narrative, especially here, events remain a bit unclear.

Nevertheless, it's the small details that make this book rather enjoyable: Like Calhoun and Jellico getting on (albeit they did so after the big hiatus in NF as well), Luther Sloan being part of the Terok Nor-rebellion, Picard's insecurity and natural ability to lead, Duras being a good guy here etc. But actually, what happened to Jadzia that she wasn't there? I remember her in the MU-episodes, so there was a Jadzia. Did she die?

Overall the question of the end justifying the means continues here. This time the Alliance comits genocide on the Vulcan slaves, they wipe out whole solar systems to make a point. And the rebellion considers replying in kind... but finally, they don't, they realize that in order to change the world into something better, they can't found that change on terror and destruction. Interestingly, it's O'Brien, backed up by Ghemor, who makes that point, not the Memory Omega people left behind by Spock and led by Saavik.

But the one premise that bothers me most in the MU is the fact that all the people we know actually exist there despite the MU having a hugely different past. And still the same people had the same children, and those children actually turn up at the same locations? Yes, it's fun, but it really asks you to disregard probabilities... especially considering that humankind and the Vulcans have been enslaved and conquered peoples.

If there's one thing I'd wish for it is to see a continuation, because as we witness every day, the transition from rebellion to revolution to democracy isn't an easy one. Does the newly built "federation" actually work (especially backed up with the threat of a genesis device)? Because right now, while Spock didn't lose his centuries-lasting game of chess, did he actually win it? Only time will tell.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-23 17:24
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
Star Trek Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire - David Mack

This novel is set entirely in the Mirror Universe, introduced in TOS's "Mirror, Mirror", and depicts the aftermath of said episode, Spock's rise to power and his trying to change the fate of his universe.

 

The overall theme is whether the ends justify the means: Spock's definitely not hesitant about using the Tantalus field to get rid of opponents (no matter how close they are to home), he's exterminating entire species, he's inciting wars, all in the name of bringing peace to the Terran Empire - albeit a delayed peace because he thinks that the Terran Empire can only thrive out of the fire of opression. It first has to be destroyed, the territory and peoples enslaved in order to rise again as a democracy. And why? Because people in power don't want to relinquish it, and the people enslaved don't know any better. Again quite an interesting spin on modern history. But where's the line? Is it justified to throw whole generations into turmoil so that future generations experience a peaceful collaboration and democracy? Spock gives his own answer, well aware of what he's doing.

 

As usual Mack poses interesting questions, his prose is easy to read and get into. But one point of criticism remains: He's an author best suited to action, to wreak havoc over the whole galaxy, but the little moments, the ones that give you real insight into the characters, the ones that make me empathize, the ones that engage me, that cause me to be invested in a story on a deeper, emotional level... I kind of miss those in his books.

 

The novel ends with the Empire (or rather the short-lived Republic) conquered by a Klingon-Cardassian Alliance and Spock executed, Spock's legacy remaining hidden within a few asteroids...

 

... to be continued in "Rise like Lions".

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-01-24 14:14
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations: The Body Electric by David Mack
The Body Electric - David Mack

Plot:

Wesley, now a Traveler in his own right, discovers a terrifying machine at the galaxy's core, a machine which creates random wormholes and pulls entire star systems through it to feed a massive black hole. Neither the other Travelers nor Q can offer a solution, so he asks Picard for help in this crisis which could change, and destroy in the longterm, the whole galaxy.

Meanwhile, Data is faced with a terrible choice in his quest to resurrect his daughter.

Review:

I expected a bit more of this final part, to be honest. Again, it was a page-turner, but it wasn't as emotionally engaging as I had hoped.

The main adversary wasn't really terrifying to me in an emotional sense because, even with his record, Mack wouldn't destroy subspace and thus render any further stories moot. To me, the impact of the destroyed worlds got a bit reduced by the multitude of death and destruction in Destiny. So, the only question was who he'd sacrifice to sacrifice the situation. Somehow I feared it would be Data, but fortunately it wasn't. *g* But I wouldn't have put it passed him to shock us readers by such a move. The rest of the machine-plot contained a bit too much technobabble for my taste, and I'm just happy that there wasn't some kind of deus-ex-machina solution, i.e. Wesley hyper-warping the thing to another galaxy or into the blackhole etc. but a solutions that satisfied both sides.

I enjoyed seeing Wesley again, and I loved the scene with Q, but I was a bit perplexed by the crew's nonchalant reaction to him. I mean it's not every day a being like a Traveller pops in unannounced. Of course, I don't know if he made any appearance in another relaunch novel, but I got the impression that no one has seen him since that Riker/Troi-wedding visit-fiasco. So I'd have loved to see a scene with him being introduced to Rene and dealing with Picard being his stepfather. And it kind of bothered me that the rest of the crew called him Wesley or Wes (Smrhova), despite their knowing him for little more than a day (at least, that was my take on the timetable in this book after Wes warps the E-E to the machine). It's a bit the same issue I had with the crew and Data's interaction in Silent Weapons.

On to Data whose part was to me the most interesting one - small wonder, since I only picked up this trilogy because of what the cover for part 1 suggested would happen. Was there really any question as to whom he would sacrifice, given the choice between Rhea and Vaslovik (sorry, he'll always be Vaslovik to me *g*)? Of course, I'd have loved to see them be together, after all Data deserves a loving partner as much as anyone. But this was his chance to bring his daughter back to life - and maybe prevent any future offspring from suffering from the same flaws. And I think any parent would choose like that. I was surprised, though, that Vaslovik found it within himself to still help Data. What a loss it would have been if sacrificing Rhea had also robbed Data of his most heartfelt wish.

As emotional and heart-wrenching as this situation was, I feel kind of cheated that Lal's return's just got dealt with in the epilogue. As I said, to me Data and his mission were the glue that held this trilogy together - so I'd have loved to see this reunion in more detail. And actually I'd have loved if this had happened on the Enterprise with Data and Lal being among friends happy for them.

As for Data torturing Vaslovik... Even if it was apparently mainly for show (though, what kind of "secrets" did Vaslovik reveal?), he still inflicted injuries and submitted to being blackmailed - though, he must have known that doing so doesn't necessarily save Rhea. Or did this play into his hand in questioning Vaslovik after all?

On another note: Didn't Picard and Beverly agree on 3 or 4 more years at maximum on the Enterprise in Silent Weapons? Then why does Picard tell Worf that the wait for Picard to leave the Enterprise (and therefore to Worf's own command) could be a long one? OTOH, I definitely didn't get that "ready to settle down"-vibe from Picard any more which is kind of strange shift when it was so strong still in Silent Weapons.

Finally, I'm looking forward to what's in store next for especially Data and Lal. But it's kind of funny that all 3 most senior officers of the TV-series now have children. I can already see the next generation of Enterprise officers forming. *g*

As for this trilogy, to me the highlight definitely was Soong's sacrificing himself for Data. Unfortunately, the following parts didn't quite live up to the emotional impact of this moment. But Mack at least accomplished something: He got me interested in TNG-novels again, especially by leaving Data's future open.

 

~~

 

review originally written in 2012

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