Thursday, June 1, 2017

Random Thoughts On... Star Trek: New Frontier Books One through Four

Well, I’m to my last post for the Sci-Fi Month... and it’s June 1st. At least I have an excuse with the trip and my time at the Renaissance Festival. As usual, it’s been cool getting back to doing regular posts. There were a couple of things I couldn’t get to, though.  Since I’ve touched on all the current Trek shows and movies, I think my last post should look at a lesser known crew: the crew of the USS Excalibur.

Some time ago, I talked about the first book to Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier series. For those who don’t know, Peter David and John J. Ordver put together a concept about a crew that wasn’t tied to what was going on in the movies and TV. At that time, DS9 and Voyager were on. You also had the TNG movies. David took a few unused characters from TNG and mingled them in with new characters of his own. David has had written them in novel form and even comic book form. From what I can tell, it’s actually still continuing. The latest book (an eBook) was released in 2015.

I don’t remember where I first heard about the series. It may have been on Two True Freaks but I’m not sure. All I know is when I read the first book, I really got hooked into checking them all out. Unfortunately, I haven’t done much of that reading. I stopped after reading the fifth book in 2014… sorry, Pete. I did lose a little interest since I was trying to find them all. Since there’s already so much stuff to see and read, they got literally put in the closet to make for more book space. I want to get back on this horse eventually, so I just want to talk about the first four books in the series.

The crew is made up of faces new and old:
  • Mackenzie Calhoun – A Xenexian who left his world to join Starfleet. He “left” Starfleet after an incident but was asked by Captain Picard himself to come back and captain the Excalibur.
  • Elizabeth Shelby – Commander Shelby (from TNG’s “Best of Both Worlds”) becomes First Officer for a couple of reasons. She’s capable and she can put up with Calhoun’s antics. They used to be close.
  • Selar – Selar (from TNG’s “The Schizoid Man”) is the ship’s head medical officer. Because of some past events, she is much, much colder and dispassionate than most Vulcans.
  • Burgoyne 172 – Burgoyne is the head engineer of the Excalibur. S/he is a Hermat from a species that has both sexes.
  • Si Cwan – Prince Si Cwan is what’s left of the Thallon’s royal family. He’s the one who got the Federation to send aid to his people.
  • Soleta – Soleta is a half-Vulcan/half-Romulan who once surveyed Thallon, the Thallonian Empire’s main planet. Even though she’s feels fine as a teacher as Starfleet Academy, she’s asked to go back into space on the Excalibur. She also met Si Cwan during her time on Thallon.
  • Robin Leftler – Leftler (from TNG’s “The Game”) is another one of the ship’s science officers.
  • Mark McHenry – Lt. McHenry is the ship’s navigator. He may act absent-minded, but don’t let that fool you.
  • Zak Kebron – Lt. Kebron is the ships security officer. He’s a Brikar. Imagine Worf mixed with Ben Grimm (The Thing) and you kind of get this dude.
A few more recognizable faces from the TV shows show up here like Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Spock, and everyone’s “favorite” Interim Captain: Admiral Edward Jellico.

The first four books were first released separately. They were then all put together into one set.
  1. House of Cards – We get introduced to some of the some crew as well as the new situation. The Thallonian Empire has fallen, so that part of space needs aid. The USS Excalibur is supposed to go in and provide whatever help they can to the refuges and ones that were under the empire’s hold. Mackenzie Calhoun is chosen to lead the ship in this unknown part of space.
  2. Into The Void – The Excalibur launches and heads into Thallonian space. It’s here where we meet the rest of the crew. We also find that Si Cwan has come on as a stowaway. Instead of getting rid of him, Calhoun decides to keep him on.
  3. The Two-Front War – The Excalibur comes across a group of refugees and takes them to a planet that seems safe. Meanwhile, Si Cwan gets word that his sister, Kallinda, may be still alive, so he and Kebron take a runabout to a stranded ship. Unfortunately, both the Excalibur and the runabout find trouble.
  4. Endgame –The Excalibur get into major trouble. Also, Si Cwan and Kebron get captured by the new Thallonian Empire. Calhoun does find a way to save the day. As the Excalibur finally reaches the planet, Thallon, they have to deal with getting Ci Swan and Kebron out of danger. Not only does the planet start to exhibit dangerous earthquakes, Calhoun has to face some ghosts from his past.

These were some good reads. When I first read these, I read them back-to-back. In my re-read, I pretty much did the same thing over the weekend. David does his best to make every situation here interesting. He also adds that wit and charm that’s always in his writing. At this point, David had written for Star Trek in novel form and comic form, so he knew what to do. The stories themselves were pretty good. I liked all of the detail that went into crafting this new, unexplored part of space. The action is also done well.

One of the things that David excels at is with characters and character interactions. The crew of the Excalibur is pretty interesting. Even though he really only centers on four characters here,  all get a moment to shine. Calhoun was an interesting character. Even though he comes off a little too perfect at times, he was cool as the captain. He reminds me of a few characters from like Han Solo and Mal Reynolds. In fact, I wonder if Joss Whedon read this and got some ideas…
Joss, did you... Nah!

The other crew members were also nice. They were all diverse and pretty interesting.  It was nice to see some of unused characters return like Shelby and Lefler.  I also thought what was done was Selar was pretty interesting. Her interactions with Burgoyne were interesting. David also tries to instill some character development in these four books. You definitely see it with Calhoun and Selar throughout all four books. I even liked the appearances of other well-known characters like Spock, Picard, and even Jellico. If you know your Trek lore, you may even catch a few nods. You’ll notice a dig at a certain chef trapped in the Delta Quadrant.

There aren’t too many problems with the books. The only thing I can say is a bit of a problem is that the humor. Sometimes, it wouldn't be that funny or it could lose me. Luckily, David does make a lot of the humor work. Other than that and a couple of nitpicks, these stories were good. They were funny, action-packed, and insightful. Most of all, these stories have the feel of Star Trek. If you’re missing some Trek in your life, check these out. The books may be considered non-canon, but don’t let that stop you. Well, I’m outta here. Peace and God Bless.

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