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)
"Star Trek: Destiny: Mere Mortals" and "Star Trek: Destiny: Lost Souls"
available for pre-order at Amazon
Coming up – crossover retrospective
Next up we take a look at other Pocket Books Star Trek ‘crossover events’ over the years.
it sounds nice i guess.
Nice twist with Picard. I never read the other books and that was a great unexpected addition to Trek history.
I really wasn’t going to buy this book. I think I will.
I guess women in the 24th century can have kids well in to their 50’s. No offense but crusher isnt no “spring chicken anymore”
“Darkness falls on the Federation and her allies as the ultimate battle for survival begins”
Again? Sheesh, what happened to seeking out new life and new civilizations, etc.?
I am a HUGE Beverly Crusher fan… she is probably my favorite character out of all… but I tend to agree when I had to re-read that she was prego. I mean…. huh?
I feel like her character has been sadly neglected over the years, after season 7 of TNG. CMO, Head of SF Medical, CMO, Head of SF Medical, CMO again… now she’s pregnant too? I just don’t get that. In the ‘A Time To…’ series, they almost poked fun at how whenever she comes back to Earth, there’s a fear that she’ll take over SF Medical again. That made sense, considering how crazy her career seems to have gone. Have there been any promotions for her at all?
A commander in rank after all these years going from one position to another? It seems hardly credible… although, considering she was born in 2324 and is apparently pregnant in sometime in the 2380s (late 50’s, early 60’s…?) seems about as credible. Wouldn’t she be given a higher rank at least?
This series sounds really good… and I want to read it. But if they can make Exri Dax a captain… why oh why are they turning Beverly Crusher into a baby factory?
Huh, glad to hear that it’s good. “Greater than the Sum” was also fairly good, so maybe I’ll go for this one.
To the book store!
I always found Star Trek books to be too risk-averse in depicting the main characters. I enjoyed Diane Duane and the Reeves-Stevens’s era stuff, but, face it: If your main characters cannot evolve, it truly limits what can be written. It’s a shame, too, because Trek has had its share of good written fiction. But Tasha Yar gets whacked by a living grease stain in a one-off (Skin of Evil), and the novel writers have to respect it, garbage though it is.
Then they create “Commander Johnson” or “Subcommander Spork” who are allowed to have development arcs, but I find myself speed-reading through them to get back to the characters who matter. It’s a shame, because the writers can truly shine in these cases. But when you know your main crew will not die, have lasting relationships, or ever leave, it makes a Trek novel a hard-sell for me.
#4 and #6 — Remember that human lifespans have been greatly extended in the 24th century, and improvements in medicine and nutrition can delay the effects of aging. With hormone therapy and fertility treatments, it is entirely plausible that a woman in her 50s could have a viable pregnancy in that setting. (Hell, it’s rare but happens even now in the 21st century.)
#5 – As to your lament, “what happened to seeking out new life and new civilizations,” that is in fact the driving element of both the Titan and Columbia storylines in this trilogy. How those crews deal with this new civlization they’ve encountered, and how it impacts the big picture of the Federation’s struggle against the Borg, is precisely the point.
#8 – I’m guessing you haven’t read a Star Trek novel in a while — because main characters do die, lasting relationships do occur, and people move around.
(SPOILER ALERT for Trek book fans)
Janeway died in Before Dishonor. Picard and Crusher are married and having kids. A new relationship is on the horizon for Worf. In the DS9 books, Kira takes over as commander of the station. Jake gets married. Characters move from one book series to another both before and after the Destiny trilogy.
Put simply, your accusations against the books are not true.
And on a side note to Padre Lyons — thanks for the review!
I look forward to this book. Sounds like the most promising Trek novel in years. Already pre-ordered :D
Dr. Crusher had great potential in TNG to be Picard’s girlfiend. There were all the hints and sexual tension, etc., but I think the era demanded that Picard not fall in love with a member of his crew. Beverly disappeared for a year, and came back to find a castrated Picard (the ridiculous Guinan backstory didn’t help), and no-one to love. And I think Gates McFadden always portrayed her as a loving and lonely person with a great job, a dead husband, and a super son, but with something important missing in her life. TNG never filled the gap.
I don’t think we could ever hope to get a “trilogy’ of movies from a book series like this, as cool as that would be. A movie based on “Mere Mortals” though sounds like it would be really cool.
STAR TREK: DESTINY…. perfect name for a final TNG film if I ever heard of one!
…David Mack… I think you should start turning that book into a screenplay!
David: I think I’ve properly dated myself. I was a great fan of the James Blish short-story-izations of the TOS broadcasts. I remember reading back in the ’80s some writers’ complaints that they were hamstrung by the restrictions on main character development. Also, it’s difficult to write these books when the series is on the air and canon is being altered every week.
If this restriction has been lifted, I may actually go grab this novel to get back in. My words, however, are not “accusations,” but recollections of what earlier Trek writers complained were restrictions imposed by Pocket Books.
It’s good to know Picard and Crusher are together in the novel world. Unlike Troi and Riker, who have no chemistry at all, that one makes sense.
#14 / A.J. — My apologies for a poor choice of wording.
Yes, indeed, many of the previous restrictions on Star Trek books have been eased or lifted in recent years. Now that the 24th century has no more films or TV series (so far as we know), the books are free to venture into uncharted territory.
You might also want to check out some of the novel-original series, such as Star Trek: Corps of Engineers, Star Trek: New Frontier, Star Trek: Titan, and Star Trek: Vanguard, which all establish their own niches within the shared Star Trek universe.
I hope you’ll check out the trilogy and enjoy what you find.
I just pre-ordered “Gods of Night” based on your recommendation. It better be good. ;-)
BTW, Amazon shows a cover with an NX-class ship (Columbia?) on it and the words “Cover Not Final” at the bottom. Clicking on it gets to the Ezri cover.
Jake gets married?! Last I read- he was still in the wormhole looking for dad.
I don’t mind the spoiler, David- I’m pleased to hear he finally got out.
(Sorry- I’m playing DS9 catchup with those big, combined novels)
Please tell me— which DS9 book picked up the Jake storyline?
Im so glad the movies don’t follow the plots of any of these books they are really just fan masturb**** IMHO so whats picard doing now married to crusher and having kids? Seems totally out of character to what I saw on the shows.
18, I am glad that things are changing for Picard. This makes a nice departure from that heart-wrenching scene in Generations where he’s sobbing over his photo album after his nephew’s burn to death in a house fire. “There will be no more Picards” ….well not anymore.
He must have been even more reinvigorated on the Baku home world than we previously thought. :)
5 – The preceding books, particularlly “Resistance” and “Before Dishonor” started the Borg back… but “Greater Than the Sum” and now “Gods of Night” have done an outstanding job of making them an interesting read… for the moment. Simply put, the Borg story that “Resistance” began had to be wrapped up somehow in order to restablize the entire Trek Lit universe. If I had been the editor, I would never have brought the Borg back with “Resistance”, but I am not the editor. They have to resolve it, and why not do it in a galaxy-spanning epic? There is far more to GoN than the Borg, including an entirely new species that really is an awesome use of an alien to explore a ‘strange new world’.
I’ll be as glad as the next reader when the Borg are finally dead (and please, oh PLEASE, let this be the end of them for good!)… but Mack is doing an oustanding job with this, and I’d urge you to realize that the Borg are only a part of the overall storyline of the Destiny Trilogy.
18 – I wasn’t a real fan of Picard and Crusher getting married, though we did see inklings of it in the show, particularlly in later years as their friendship drew closer. It was obvious that they cared deeply for one another, so, in spite of my dislike for the choice to follow this storyline, it is the choice that Friedman put in motion with “Death In Winter”, and that subsequent stories have had to incorporate.
Up until “Greater Than the Sum”, I hadn’t had much of anything kind to say about it… but finally with GTtS and now “Gods of Night” it feels a lot better, and is being used in a positive way, as an insight into Picard. In GoN, Mack definately uses both P/C and R/T to their fullest story-telling advantage. Don’t worry, however… it isn’t two hundred pages of Crusher nagging Picard to come play daddy… it is confined to a few meaningful places and is used for maximum dramatic and story-development impact.
I haven’t read a Trek book in years… I think I may have to.
18: I can see Picard marrying Crusher and having kids, but not putting them in mortal peril every week on a starship.
Picard: “I’m not good with children, Number One. And captains are supposed to have an image of…’geniality’…so you’re to see that’s what I project!”
Riker: “So that’s why you transferred me back from the Titan?”
Picard: “Yes, now Beverly and I will at the cinema until 10, and then have a late dinner. Please make sure Junior is in bed by 2100 and don’t give him his Nintendo until after supper.”
Riker: “Yes, Sir.”
22 – Actually, I can see him having kids and putting them in danger. Every other parent-with-kids on his ship during the life of the TNG series did it. He didn’t forbid it. I am sure he would have no issue putting his kid on the ship, or else he’d throw every kid off. Of course, the Sovereign class Enterprise seems a little kid-unfriendly… I can’t recall having seen any kids aboard in the films… but I guess JLP has just matured a bit.
They killed off Janeway?
Not good :(
Yes, indeed. Sadly, this is a part of storytelling. Characters have to move on. Personally, I that, and the way, Janeway died. But these books aren’t about her. I’m also secretly hoping she’ll come back in one of the upcoming Voyager books.
David, I look forward to this. Destiny has been something I have been waiting for, for quite a while at that. You’ve written a lot of good things in the past, and I do hope that this will continue that tradition.
#25, Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the trilogy.
Rule of Acquisition #33: It never hurts to suck up to the boss.
I’m really thinking about importing the book – it sounds awesome.
But I’d love to catch up before I read “Gods of Night”, so does anyone know where I might find a detailed summary of the events in other post Nemesis books?
#28 – I don’t know how detailed they’ll be, but you might find brief descriptions on Memory Beta, the wiki for non-canon officially licensed Star Trek (i.e., books, comic books, and video games).
#17. The book that focuses on Jake is “Rising Son”
I have to say though in regards to the statement that these novels can’t give the characters room to evolve and grow may have been true in the book series that took place during a show’s run but now since none of the shows and movies are in the 24th century, you can continue and make changes (i.e. Janeway’s death, Bajor in the Federation, etc) that couldn’t have been made while there were still movies to be made especially since we haven’t seen an on screen depiction of 24th century Star Trek for over 6 years.
#30: Actually, it’s been exactly six years: the last time we saw the 24th century on screen was “Nemesis” in late 2002.
(Well, unless you count “These are the Voyages…” in 2005, anyhow……)
I think it’s been about six years or so since I’ve read a Star Trek book. And you know what? I’m almost tempted…
The thing that’s holding me back though is Ezri Dax. I really couldn’t stand her. :/
I can’t wait to read this … just think I’ll wait until all three are out…
I really enjoyed the book, more that I thought I would. I have always been a P/C and not much of a R/T fan. I always felt that there was a natural chemestry between Stewart and McFadden that came through with there charaters that was not really tapped into to its full petential. Where as I always felt that the chemestry between Frank and Sirtis was more forced for thecharaters. I was happy to see P/C get married but was more happy to see that they are also staying true to charater in that the marriage is PART of the plot not the main plot. As for Beverly being pregnant I alway felt the it was always a matter of WOULD they not COULD they. It is not inconcievable that in the 24th centry that this would be an option of women having family’s so much later. After all even today women are having babies well into thier 40’s with no problems (working for a pediatrician we have several patients having babies that old) so add a few hundred years and advancements in medicine it cold definelty happen.
Over all I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the others.
Mr. Mack, in case you were are still watching this thread, thanks for the spectacular first book of the trilogy, ready now for book 2! Really outstanding stuff, characters were spot on, and the action sequences stand out. I concur on your recommendation to readers here that there is much great work being done in the DS9 and Enterprise relaunches (Kobayashi Maru is so worth the read). I’d been crashing on the DS9 books to get ‘caught up’ on life at the station before starting in on GoN, since I wanted to be sure I had a sense where Dax was coming from, and glad I did so. Let’s hope Kira and Ro and Vaughn and Odo get a moment in Destiny to stand out, the authors working on the DS9 relaunch (Keith!) really are writing great stuff. Keep up the great work!
Just finished ‘Gods of Night’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down! An absolutely wonderfully written novel and I await part two with baited breath.
One complaint/question however, I’m couldn’t get my head around the Riker/Troi scenario depicted in the Titan section of the novel. I understand that the ‘non viable’ pregnancy would cause significient upset to both the Counselor and Captain. However, I am forced to wonder why Vale and Ree allow the ‘compromise’ and subsequently allow Troi to join the away team at the end of the novel. Would another member of the crew receive the same treatment? I doubt it.
I suspect that the Caeliar will heal her in some fashion (which would neccesitate her departure from the ship) but I’m not buying the journey she took to get there.