Darkness falls on the Federation and her allies as the ultimate battle for survival begins in the first book of the Destiny trilogy, "Gods of Night" by David Mack.
[NOTE: this review contains mild spoilers for this book, and major spoilers for previous works, particularly the recent post-Nemesis Next Generation and Titan novels.]
REVIEW: STAR TREK DESTINY – GODS OF NIGHT
With a new Original Series era Star Trek movie less than a year away, fans of the twenty-forth century who are being realistic have probably already surrendered to the notion that Nemesis is the final film in the run. They are probably right. But let me just share with you a thought. If (and I do mean if!) they were ever to return to the twenty-fourth century and continue with any kind of post-Nemesis continuity, David Mack’s Destiny trilogy must be filmed.
This month, the long-anticipated series hits bookshelves with its first installment, "Gods of Night". Before delving into the book itself, let’s recall for a moment some of the imperatives of this trilogy:
- Tie together the various literary series even more closely than they are now
- Bring the growing Borg storyline to a head
- Leave the Star Trek universe dramatically different when you are done
Those are pretty strong marching orders, and David Mack exhibits his ability to follow them well beyond the expectations that I had for a story that includes (again) the Borg.
With "Gods of Night", it’s important to realize that you have several storylines that all touch on one another in some respect, while still holding their own unique and independent feel. From the ‘loss’ of the Columbia, to her discovery in the Gamma Quadrant, and even to the bridges of the Enterprise and Titan, "Gods of Night" is chocked full of unique and imaginative stories that all quietly rotate around an common center of gravity.
On the journey, we get to know a lot of new people (there is a helpful section at the end of each book in the series to let you know who the main players are, but you may want to keep a notebook handy for your sanity’s sake), most all of whom feel like much more than your standard extra. You know the type: generic male, female, or alien, stood in place with a pensive line or two, and destined to a brief existence that serves only to fill a storytelling need. Mack ensures that even the ‘extras’ have a genuineness about them that is not often found in tie-in fiction. At the same time, while they are well crafted, they never take away from the main characters’ of the tale.
Also, unlike past Star Trek crossover series, the Destiny trilogy interweaves the different storylines throughout each of the books (seamlessly jumping from one to the other and back again). The the stories are still independent and complete in and of themselves (in spite of the fact that they all tie together), so we can take a look at them one-by-one…
USS. Aventine – Captain Dax and her crew find themselves in the Gamma Quadrant investigating the wreck of the long lost starship Columbia (NX-02). She is a ghost of her past self, and the lives of the long-deserted ship’s crew aren’t the only ones that the vessel places in the balance. Faced with a deadline to return and take up the defense of Federation space, Dax discovers that the heavy burdens of command don’t actually care how long you have sat in the center seat. All they care about is the strength with which you meet them.
USS Enterprise (E) – The Borg are coming, and Jean-Luc Picard goes maudlin… for good reason. This is the mother-of-all-invasions, and, as indicated at the conclusion of Christopher L. Bennett’s "Greater Than the Sum", the Borg don’t care about anything anymore, except the extermination of the Federation, and anyone else who stands in their way. It doesn’t stop Picard from waging a desperate campaign in the depths of space, but his own self-doubting about the future of the Federation may well be his undoing. Only Beverly and [spoiler alert] his unborn child seem to be able to provide him with any solace.
USS Titan – Too far away to get into the fight with the Borg, the Titan continues her journey of exploration. Perhaps they will find allies, or technologies, or something that can be used back home…But not all is well on the good ship Titan as Will Riker and Deanna Troi face the greatest personal test they have ever known.
Columbia – Romulans. They’re closing, using their insidious tele-presence technology, and leaving the Columbia for dead. Or so they think. But the Columbia’s journey may as well end in death. In a gutsy move, Captain Hernandez heads for a sensor target many light years away… with no warp drive. But not everyone is pleased with her decision, and as she and her crew find themselves among the awe-inspiring and reclusive Caeliar, their hopes of a future seem to be doomed, and tensions begin to rise as the countdown nears zero and the crew choose sides in what may well become a battle for their survival.
Page after page in "Gods of Night" is loaded with outstanding narrative, story development, and personal touches that ensure that not even a single letter goes to waste. Mack’s alien creation, the Caeliar, is another ‘impossible for TV but possible in novel form’ race that allows us to truly explore the strange new worlds that all of us dream of at night. They are impressive, vast, and utterly alien, yet their philosophy is, in some respects, the ultimate dream of humanity. There’s a level of nobility about them that makes one almost excuse their seeming disregard for anyone but themselves and their "Great Work"… almost.
The Columbia storyline is probably the best out of the book, with the Titan’s a close second. This is not, in any way, a slam on the Enterprise or Aventine storylines, as they are just as entertaining, but somehow these two stories just grab you emotionally. Columbia’s stands out because we are getting to know an almost entirely new crew pretty much from scratch, particularly in how they handle what is easily the most harrowing emotional event of their lives. Titan’s story is equally engaging, but on a much more personal level, as we see Deanna and Will struggle through their own personal "Kobayashi Maru" scenario, and witness its effects on Dr. Ree, Christine Vale, and others on board.
Every major character gets their due in "Gods of Night", and they get them nearly flawlessly. Nobody is overdone, an easy temptation when you are writing an ‘epic’, and nobody gets the short end of the stick, which is an absolute joy.
If you are a Trek fan that’s been avoiding the TNG relaunch, the DS9 relaunch, the Voyager relaunch, the Titan books, or any of the rest of the current crop of twenty-fourth century Trek literature, do yourself a favor: go get this book. Sure, reading the stuff that came before will help, but you can jump right into "Gods of Night" without it, and if you don’t, you’ll be missing the most entertaining and universe-changing experience that Pocket has brought you to date. Pocket Books knew what they were doing when they gave this project to David Mack, and David has not disappointed.
"Star Trek: Destiny: Gods of Night" available for pre-order at Amazon
(Ships mid-late September)
More info on Star Trek Destiny
STAR TREK DESTINY: MERE MORTALS (October 2008) & STAR TREK DESTINY: LOST SOULS (November 2008)
Coming up – crossover retrospective
Next up we take a look at other Pocket Books Star Trek ‘crossover events’ over the years.