Star Trek: Vanguard: Storming Heaven
“I WAS THERE UNTILTHE END, MATE. THE BITTER, BLOODY END.”
Vanguard is under siege. Surrounded by enemies, Admiral Nogura sends the scout ship Sagittarius to find an ancient weapon that might be the Federation’s only hope of stopping the alien threat known as the Shedai . . . Qo’noS is wracked by scandal. Councillor Gorkon fights to expose a Romulan plot to corrupt members of the Klingon High Council, only to learn the hard way that crusaders have few allies, and even fewer friends . . . Tholia teeters on the brink of madness. To prevent Starfleet from wielding theShedai’s power as its own, the Tholians deploy an armada with one mission: Kill the Shedai—by destroying Vanguard.
For those of you who may not know, I am a rather huge Star Trek nerd. I have two costumes in the closet. Not one, but two. I also have a phaser, a tricorder, and a combadge that all make noise and do things. So you’d think I’d like this book…
My love of the Star Trek franchise is mostly for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The others are good, but not as good. This series, Vanguard, is set in the original series era, concurrent with the original televised episodes… so I admittedly have a personal bias against it.
This entry in the Vanguard series, the final volume, was an okay end to a mediocre series. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of that era of Star Trek, but this series left me confused and lost. This limited series started off with an intriguing mystery–a metagenome is found on an unexplored planet, with untold wonders encoded into the enormous length of DNA contained within this metagenome. There is a mystery there and untold discoveries. Tampering with the metagenome and exploring its potential wakes up the Shedai, an ancient race and apparent mastermind behind the metagenome… and the Shedai are angry.
My main concern with the Vanguard series is its lack of focus. It starts off as a scientific series and then morphs into an action-based thriller. But the middle novels are a bit muddled in what they are intending to be. I think I could enjoy this morph if it had been handled a little better. The series flipped between David Mack (writer of this entry) and the team of Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. It’s an odd combination of writers. Mack writes clean and fast-paced books that are action heavy, whereas I find the Ward/Dilmore team slow-moving and ponderous and totally not my style. Ward/Dilmore are big writers in the Star Trek universe, but I’ve never felt their vibe. Maybe its because they seem to like the original series the best, which is my least favourite, so we’ve got a divergence of interests here.
Anyway, back to this entry. One of the interesting parts of this book is that Vanguard is brought to a definite end. So many series are left open-ended and could be continued and, because of this, often don’t reach a satisfying conclusion. This one, though, ended concretely and so it is much stronger for that.
For this plot, I get that there is a cataclysmic battle coming, what with the Federation, Shedai, Tholians, Romulans, and Klingons all wanting something out of the region, but I have to say I felt a bit cheated. The Shedai are the big threat of the series, yet about two-thirds of the way through the book they are successfully contained within an array the Federation discovered on a planet. It happened quite easily. So… without any struggle, really, the greatest threat to the known universe is safely contained and is never again a threat? That took a LOT of the tension out. The Tholians are still a threat, but it’s not as potentially disastrous as the Shedai. The whole series has been leading up to this final clash of powers — given the weight attributed to the Shedai threat, it should have been either harder to contain or the containment should have been a collective goal of all powers. I just felt it got a bit off-track here.
I also found this series (especially this entry) to be full of fan-wank (throwing little tidbits at knowledgeable readers, to connect dots that don’t need connecting). Mack laid the foundation for a couple of the Star Trek movies and added extra explanation to some of the episodes of the original series. All of these, I thought, were unnecessary and took me out of the experience of the book.
I will say this about David Mack though… for all the issues I have with this book and this series, he never fails to write a DAMN GOOD cataclysmic end to a book. He always does this — the readers have come to expect it — and he does an amazing job at it. Though I was approaching the end rather disappointed, Mack sucked me in with the demise of the Vanguard station. He jumps from POV to POV to bring intimate and relatable snippets from this showdown featuring thousands of individuals. And, like always, there is a pile of bodies, killed off by the author. Mack always makes the experience a thrilling one.
So… I wasn’t a fan of the series, and I had some issues with this book in specific, but Mack sure knows how to bring it home.