Pocket Books, out now
In the Taurus Reach, the crew of the USS Sagittarius encounter a race whose life cycle has some very nasty twists…
David Mack kicks off this new Star Trek literary spin-off series with a multi-layered tale of exploration and discovery – both for the crew of the Sagittarius and the Tomol, the inhabitants of a verdant planet who commit suicide around the time they turn eighteen to prevent suffering “the Change”. When one of them decides she is not going to follow age-old tradition, it has severe consequences for her community and for the visiting Starfleet officers… as well as a Klingon landing party, whose mission is decidedly risky.
As ever, Mack handles questions of morality, decisions regarding the prime directive and action scenes with equal aplomb, and demonstrates some nice sleight of hand to misdirect the reader from time to time. I may be reading too much into this, but there do appear to be a few little salvoes fired at the opening sequence of Star Trek Into Darkness: the landing party would no doubt like the Sagittarius to be sitting conveniently at the bottom of the ocean waiting for them as they run through the jungle, pursued by natives, but Mack points out the fallacy of that idea earlier in the story.
The author’s Rush obsession continues with the title of the novel, which fits the story extremely well (for reasons that would be spoilers to reveal). It’s definitely the first part of a two-part story – concluded in Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore’s Point of Divergence next month – but you don’t have that feel of being cheated that you can sometimes get from such books: Mack sets up the situation, and uses the tale to show the strengths and weaknesses of the crew of the Sagittarius.
Although the book clearly indicates it’s the first of the series (the huge number 1 on the cover and the spine are a bit of a clue), it isn’t really; this is very much a continuation of the Vanguard saga, and if you haven’t met the characters in those stories, you may be a little lost initially. (Which of course means you should read the Vanguard series as well, one of the strongest sets of spin-off fiction in the Star Trek literary universe.) However, this shouldn’t be seen as a major problem: Mack grabs you and draws you into his tale quickly.
Verdict: An enjoyable start with some familiar faces from both the screen and printed Star Trek universe making a reappearance. 8/10