Star Trek: A Singular Destiny
In movies, in TV shows, in books, and in comic books, a big cataclysmic event is always a lot of fun. But it only becomes meaningful and worthwhile if that big event leads to great new, interesting stories about the aftermath of whatever has happened.
Did something BIG and DRAMATIC happen in some show’s season finale or season premiere? Well, great! But is everything back to normal in the very next episode? Or are the repercussions of the exciting event explored in the episodes that followed? Since, as you can tell from the headline, we’re talking about Star Trek today, let me give a Trek example: “The Best of Both Worlds” is possibly the high-point of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (As anyone reading this article is probably aware, it’s an amazing, action-packed two-parter in which Captain Picard is assimilated by the Borg.) But, for me, an enormous part of what made that event so great is the episode that follows, “Home,” in which we explore Picard’s attempt to recover from the intensely traumatic event that he went through.
David Mack’s trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destiny, (which I reviewed here) was an incredibly exciting, ambitious story that left the established Star Trek universe in chaos. I enjoyed Destiny thoroughly, but I was even more excited about that story’s follow-up: A Singular Destiny, written by Keith R.A. DeCandido. That many of Mr. DeCandido’s books rank among my favorites of the recent Trek novels certainly added to my anticipation, but mostly I was just excited to see what sorts of new, exciting stories the Trek authors would be able to tell in this brave new post-Destiny world.
I am happy to report that A Singular Destiny is a terrific read, and that this new novel continues to contain all of the elements that I have so throughly enjoyed in so many of Pocket Books’ recent Star Trek novels.
As the book begins, we are introduced to a new character: Professor Sonek Pran. Once a valued advisor to a series of Presidents of the United Federation of Planets, he has fallen out of favor and settled into a life of teaching University students on Mars. But he is called back to service to help with the diplomatic situation within what’s left of the fractured Romulan empire (the result of the events of Star Trek: Nemesis as well novels such as Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman and Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels). Needless to say, what seems like an isolated incident turns out to be only a small piece of a larger, galaxy-wide puzzle. Before long, Professor Pran (and the readers!) have witnessed the emergence of a new, dangerous threat to the beleaguered Federation of Planets.
A Singular Destiny is an epic tale, spanning many worlds and involving many characters (plenty of familiar faces as well as a number of new DeCandido creations). Although the main thrust of the novel follows the journey of Professor Pran, many chapters jump away from his story in order to give us a taste of events happening in a variety of different planets in the Federation, as the known galaxy tries to pull itself together following the massive destruction that occurred in the Destiny trilogy. (I am being purposefully vague about the events of Destiny, so as not to spoil those wonderful novels for anyone!) In addition, DeCandido utilizes a clever device of beginning each chapter with a letter, a news report, a starship log entry, or some other form of correspondence. Some of those texts connect to the stories of the main characters in the novel, though many do not. Their purpose is not so much to advance the plot but to give the reader additional information about the events transpiring all around the galaxy, and the personal costs and impacts of those events.
As always with his work, DeCandido fills the novels with a number of “easter eggs” and cameos of familiar names and places. These are carefully done — they don’t intrude upon the story being told, but they will surely bring a smile to the faces of long-time Trek fans, and they help add to the sense of the Trek universe as a large, connected tapestry.
Speaking of which, it is clear that this novel is just one piece in the growing tapestry of Star Trek novels. In my previous articles about Trek novels I have mentioned repeatedly how much I have enjoyed the way the last few year’s worth of Trek books have all fit together into a larger, connected universe of developing characters and stories that move forward from book to book. A Singular Destiny is no different. The novel’s main focus, in its second half, is to introduce us to The Typhon Pact, a new coalition of foes that looks to be giving our heroes significant trouble for the next year or two’s worth of novels. There are also a lot of little hints about other story-lines that I am sure lie ahead in future novels. For example, one chapter in the middle of the novel begins with a lengthy list of casualties from the fighting in one sector of Federation space. When I was first reading the book and I got to that list, I read the first few names then skipped the rest and moved on. On a lark, when I was done reading I went back to that list to read through it. I’m glad I did, because there were some real shockers in there. It seems that several pretty major Star Trek characters have met their ends — I am sure those stories will be told in future books.
A Singular Destiny is exactly the type of Star Trek story that I love (no matter what type of media it is in): a BIG, galaxy-spanning tale filled with real dramatic stakes that is filled with connections to and explorations of many of the different characters, worlds, and races that have been developed by the previous Trek movies, TV series, and novels. It’s a winner.