Saturday, May 17, 2014

Trek Novels - Star Trek: New Frontier - House of Cards

Now this is something I haven’t done in a while. One reason I haven’t reviewed any novels here lately is because I’ve been reading some novels instead of talking about them. There is one series of books that I’ve recently gotten into and I think it’s time to talk about it. I was going to hold this off until the end of the month, but I might as well get this first book out of the way. Star Trek: New Frontier is a series of novels that was started in 1997 by Pocket Books. From what I’ve read, the series takes place in Trek canon and uses its own created characters and other lesser known characters from Trek lore.

The concepts were put together by writers Peter David and John Ordover. Peter David is the author of the first book and  he pretty much writes the whole series. Not only is he an accomplished author, he’s also an accomplished comic book writer who’s worked on books like The Incredible Hulk, X-Factor, Spider-Man, and Star Trek. I got into his well-received Incredible Hulk run through a podcast called PADSmash: an Incredible Hulk Podcast. I also heard New Frontier get a good word on another podcast, so I looked for the series at McKay’s. The books were really cheap, so I bought the first 8-10 books. So, let me see how this first book fares.

Star Trek: New Frontier – House of Cards
Author: Peter David

QUICK BLURB: The Federation must put a new crew together when the Thallonian Empire falls. We also get flashbacks on some of the main characters.

About a quarter of the book is full of flashbacks that center on three crew members: Mackenzie Calhoun, Soleta, and Dr. Selar. The rest  of the book takes place in present day.

Mackenzie Calhoun’s flashback takes place about 20 years ago on his home planet of Xennex. On his planet, he was  known as  Mk'k'n'zy of Calhoun. He led a rebellion that fought against the Danteri, a race that occupied their planet years ago. We see him fight some of Danterian soldiers and we also find out how he got that scar on his face. His life changes when the Federation sends the Stargazer to end the conflict. Mk’k'n’zy meets a younger Jean-Luc Picard and Jake Crusher. After the negotiations take place, Captain Picard suggests that Mk’k’n’zy join Starfleet someday after all the conflict ends.

Soleta’s (half-Vulcan, half-_______) flashback occurs about 10 years ago when she is on Thallon, the head planet of the Thallonion Empire. She’s on the planet doing research which isn’t necessarily good since the Thallonians aren’t a part of the Federation. When she is captured by the ruling family, she is locked in jail. She then gets another cellmate: a disguised Spock who was trying to get a look at the empire’s status. She and Spock escape but get caught by Si Cwan, a member of the ruling family. Si Cwan decides to let them go since their escape will tick off another family member. Selar’s (Vulcan) flashback takes place 2 years ago. She is on Vulcan going through the pon’farr. She’s with her betrothed when he suddenly dies of a heart attack. Because of this, she shuns all emotion and becomes even colder than most Vulcans.

We then come to the present day where the Thallonian Empire has fallen. On the Enterprise-E, Captain Picard and his crew are heading to a starbase that’s on the edge of Sector 221-G. When they get to the starbase, Riker and Picard meet up with an old “friend” of Riker’s, Admiral Edward Jellico. They also meet with Admiral Nacheyev, Ryjann of the Danteri, Si Cwan, and Ambassador Spock. They all talk about the situation in the unexplored sector. It’s fallen into chaos since the empire fell. Si Cwan, who’s the only surviving member of the ruling family, asks the Federation for assistance.

Eventually, Riker puts out an idea of sending a ship into the sector. It’s met with some resistance since this is around the time where the Borg attacked Earth for the second time. After some discussion, the idea is accepted and the ship that’s chosen is the Excalibur. Si Cwan wants to have a place on the ship, but the Federation says no. Picard suggests that Calhoun to command the ship since his planet is close to that sector, but Jellico disagrees. Apparently, Caulhoun is a bit of a troublemaker and not in Starfleet anymore. After the meeting ends, Nachayez tells Picard that Calhoun is actually doing undercover work for Starfleet and she tells him where he is.

On Mojave Station, Picard finds Calhoun in a sticky situation with some Orions. After they leave, Picard asks Calhoun to come back to Starfleet and command the Excalibur. Calhoun is reluctant at first but Picard is able to sway him with one his awesome speeches. Calhoun also sees this as a way to tick off Admiral Jellico some more. On Earth, we catch up with Soleta who is now a teacher at Starfleet Academy. She is offered the position of Science Officer since she was one of the only people who’s been in Thallonian space. She tries to decline, but they order her to go. After she gets her orders, she gets held at gunpoint by an unknown assailant.

This was actually a pretty nice read. Since the book was only about 180 pages, I was able to slog through it especially when it got to my favorite parts. This first book is akin to a pilot for a TV show. In fact, it’s a lot like most pilots from Trek series. Here, we have Picard, Riker, and Spock making an appearance a lot like how Picard made an appearance in the DS9 pilot. The writing is pretty good. David was able to get me to care about the new characters that were introduced. He also kept the existing characters from the TV show in character for the most part. He even made some aspects of this new sector interesting.

The characters introduced here were interesting for the most part. Calhoun is probably the most interesting of the four introduced. He’s like a mix between James Kirk, Han Solo, and Major Kira. I know that last name feels thrown in, but it’s a weird combination that kind of works. The rest of the newer characters are also pretty interesting. Selar’s situation is becomes a bit of a running subplot in the later books. All I will say is that it is pretty… different. My favorite part of the book was the meeting between Picard and the others. It was pretty funny.

I don’t have too many issues with the book. Some info in the flashbacks is a little bland, but the good material helped them move along. Also, while I liked the meeting on the starbase, Picard and Riker did sound a little out of character. It was just a little bit though. Other than those minor things, I really liked this first book. It’s a good introduction to this new situation. Since the next three books in the series are about the same length as this one, I’ll be looking at them eventually. Next time will be a little different as I look at a book that brought back a fan favorite.


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