Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier (Part Three)
I have been having a great time diving back into Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier series of novels. Click here for my overview of the series, and here for my thoughts on several of Mr. David’s most recent New Frontier novels. Having caught up with the New Frontier story, I was eager to move on and read the two most recent books that I had not yet read: Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff.
Treason — One of the earliest New Frontier story-lines involved the unlikely relationship between the hermat Burgoyne 172 and the Vulcan Dr. Selar. That romance immediately turned sour, sadly, and in the background of the last decade-plus worth of New Frontier books we have seen the tension between the two characters. Finally, with Treason, the Burgoyne/Selar story returns to the forefront. Dr. Selar has become increasingly isolated and bitter due to her inability to solve the health situation of her son with Burgoyne. The young Xy has been developing at an incredible rate, so that now at age four he is already an adult and the science officer on board the Excalibur. But Selar knows that his rapid aging will soon, inevitably, lead to his death. As her logic begins to crumble over her increasing rage at the hand fate has dealt her, Selar abandons the Excalibur in a desperate attempt to find a cure for her son.
Meanwhile, Robin Lefler has fled the New Thallonian Protectorate with her young baby, seeking shelter on board the Excalibur. Captain Calhoun has granted her asylum, but things become rather more complicated when the spirit of Robin’s dead husband, Si Cwan, seems to inhabit and take control of Si Cwan’s sister, Kalinda, and Dr. Selar kidnaps Robin’s child, for reasons unknown. This begins a frantic chase across the galaxy to a thought-to-be-uninhabited world, where the Excalibur and their sister ship, the Trident, will encounter a powerful new foe.
After a little shakiness with Missing in Action, Treason is a confident return to form for Mr. David. I am loving the return to focus, in these recent New Frontier novels, on several of the side characters and sub-plots that have been in the background for the past decade-or-more of books. The character-arcs of supporting players like Selar, Burgoyne, Xyon, Moke, etc. are compelling and very enjoyable. The novel itself is tense and fast-paced, and as usual with Mr. David I found myself enjoyably clueless as to where the story was going. I am not wild about the name of the new race of villains, The D’myurj (just say it out loud and perhaps you’ll see why this particular new alien race’s name was a little too on-the-nose for my tastes), but they, along with their armored, powerful soldiers, the Brethren, are an intriguing and dangerous new set of adversaries for our heroes.
Mr. David has ended each of his last four novels by knocking off one of his cast of characters, so reading Treason I found myself only half-jokingly wondering who would get killed in this novel’s climax. Well, Mr. David continues his recent trend, and not only does he present to us the Brethren’s shocking invasion and massacre of much of the crew of Kat Mueller’s Trident, in which several minor but familiar supporting players are killed, but he also proceeds to depict the death of another of the series’ major characters who has been around since the very beginning. We’ve seen a lot of deaths in the New Frontier story, particularly in the last several books, but I think this is the first time Mr. David has killed off one of the characters he inherited from Star Trek: The Next Generation, rather than characters of his own creation. I will say no more, except to comment that, while sad, this character’s end was a satisfying end to his/her story.
Treason doesn’t end with the type of everything-is-up-in-the-air cliffhanger that the last several of the New Frontier novels did, though it does end on a note of mystery which promises further stories to come, so I was glad I had the next book ready and waiting for me on my bookshelf.
Blind Man’s Bluff — The ending of Treason left it unclear as to whether the D’myurg and the Brethren had been defeated. The opening pages of Blind Man’s Bluff make it clear that they had not. We open with Mackenzie Calhoun, somehow separated from the Excalibur and back on his home planet of Xenex, which is being savagely attacked by the Brethren. As the novel proceeds, we see how the situation has unravelled. Not only have these new villains, the D’myurg and the Brethren, chosen to strike directly at Captain Calhoun, but another enemy, much closer to home, has arisen. Morgan Primus, the mother of Robin Lefler and a woman who, as revealed by Mr. David in earlier New Frontier books, was a long-lived being who seems to have been many of the characters played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry in Star Trek, was killed in a previous book. However, she did not die — instead, her mind somehow fused with the Excalibur’s central computer. In essence, Morgan became the computer itself. At first, this seemed convenient for Calhoun and his crew, as their ship’s computer was now self-aware and able to help them solve many of the problems they encountered far more effectively than a regular computer would have been able to. But Calhoun has begun to worry that the Morgan in his computer is not really the woman they all once knew, and that the incredible power that her newly computerized mind offers her has caused Morgan to lose her humanity and her conscience. What would happen, Calhoun has begun to wonder, were Morgan to turn against the crew of the Excalibur? And so Calhoun begins to put into place a plan to deal with the all-powerful Morgan, but Morgan moves against him first.
Blind Man’s Bluff is yet another fast-paced, rip-roaring adventure yarn from Mr. David. It’s great to see Calhoun back where he began, on Xenex leading his people against an implacable alien foe, and the situation in which the Excalibur finds itself — with the crew separated from their captain, menaced by the very ship they inhabit and hunted by pretty much every alien race in the surrounding region of space — provides a tense, compelling story. As has become his habit in these recent New Frontier books, Mr. David kills off yet ANOTHER character before the book’s end. (It really has become a joke to me how every recent New Frontier book has ended with a main character’s death!) But of course, there is as always Mr. David’s usual little bit of playfulness — this time seen particularly in the whimsically imprecise chapter headings.
I did find myself wondering, as I read this book, where exactly it fit in to the continuity of the other recent 24th-century-set Star Trek novels. Blind Man’s Bluff is clearly set after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, as are the rest of the recent Trek novels. (A few books back, Soleta and her Romulan crew find themselves a lot of trouble following the assassination of the Romulan Praetor Hiren, an event depicted in Nemesis.) This book, as have many of the previous New Frontier novels, feature two Starfleet admirals: Nechayev and Jellico (two characters who appeared on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and who Mr. David has had a lot of fun playing with in his books). But the novel Losing the Peace by William Leisner (click here for my review) told us that Jellico resigned following the dramatic, universe-shaking events of David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy (click here for my review). Yet Blind Man’s Bluff shows us Nechayev and Jellico both still in place with the admiralty, and yet the events that befall those two seem to contradict what we read of them in Destiny and Losing the Peace. I wonder if a future New Frontier novel will clear this up, as I certainly hope that Mr. David will follow up on what we see of Nechavey and Jellico in this book.
Which brings me to a subject of great uncertainty. Will there be future New Frontier novels? The series’ sporadic publishing schedule has lead me to assume that New Frontier is not high on Pocket Books’ priority list when it comes to Trek novels, though of course I have no inside information. I do know that Blind Man’s Bluff was published back in 2011, and I haven’t heard of any new New Frontier books scheduled for 2013 or 2014. The last line of Blind Man’s Bluff would be appropriate as the final line of the New Frontier series, though the climax of the novel itself seems to have left a lot of story as-yet unresolved. This has been a little bit of a problem with the recent New Frontier books that I have alluded to before. Because Mr. David is treating each book as just a piece of a continuing series, he often doesn’t hesitate to leave story-lines unresolved at the end of his books, letting them carry over into the next book or books. This gives the series a great continuing-saga feel, and makes the books work GREAT when read one after the other, as I have done recently in re-reading the last five New Frontier novels. But when read on their own, this has given some of the recent New Frontier novels a slightly less-than-satisfactory feeling when I reach the end. The stories have tended to feel somewhat incomplete. (Because they ARE!) And that’s how I felt upon reaching the end of Blind Man’s Bluff. With no New Frontier books on the horizon, I am left with a feeling of “is that really the end??” I certainly hope it is not. Because if Blind Man’s Bluff was the end of the New Frontier story, than I’ll be left disappointed. But assuming (and hoping!!) there are more New Frontier adventures yet to come, then Blind Man’s Bluff will stand as a terrifically entertaining installment in the series’ continuing story.
Here’s hoping for the latter!! For now, I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my return to Peter David’s New Frontier universe. That there have been almost twenty books in this series is something of a miracle, and I can only heap my praise on Mr. David for his incredible work in charting the course of this Star Trek saga. Am I asking too much in hoping for at least twenty books more?
Note: Writer Peter David recently suffered a stroke. Here’s how you can help.
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome Minds, Cast No Shadow, Excelsior: Forged in Fire, Allegiance in Exile
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The Limit, Resistance and Q & A, Before Dishonor and Greater than the Sum, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal Coil, Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory, Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons, Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overview, The Soul Key, The Never-Ending Sacrifice, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn
Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle
Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi Maru, The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm
Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking Wing, Book 2: The Red King, Book 3: Orion’s Hounds, Book 4: Sword of Damocles, Book 5: Under a Torrent Sea, Book 6: Synthesis
Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum Game, Book 2: Seize the Fire, Book 3: Rough Beasts of Empire, Book 4: Paths of Disharmony, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Brinkmanship
Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overview, Stone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in Action
Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the Clock, Forgotten History
Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298), Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311), Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)
Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions – Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light
Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels