Saturday, 28 December 2013

Star Trek: Vanguard: Harbinger - David Mack



Title: Harbinger
Author: David Mack
Published: 2005
Chronological Period: 2263 - 2265

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Harbinger” by David Mack is the first novel in the Vanguard series, a collection of novels set in the Star Trek Universe around the same time period as the Original Series. This series of novels does not utilise Enterprise or its regular crew beyond the odd cameo, instead it uses a whole new cast of characters and is set on Starbase 47 aka Vanguard.

Anyway, the events of this novel take placed just after the TOS Episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and features the Enterprise heading to Starbase 47 for repairs following the events contained in that episode. However the Commander of Vanguard and his crew have more to worry about than just assisting with the repair of the Enterprise as they have colonists to support, ships to prepare and two other spacefaring Empires right on their doorstep who may not appreciate the Federation’s presence.

I am going to come right and say that the most difficult aspect of reading this book was trying to appreciate all the new characters. As this is a whole new crew I didn’t know anything about any of them and it took me a bit of time to get them all straight in my head which did lead to some confusion. Also, the limited time given to each of them means you can’t fully appreciate who they really are yet. In the end however, I realised that I had just had to treat this as the pilot episode, it is mainly here to introduce you to these new characters and at least give you some basic appreciation for who they are. I fully expect future novels to enhance the characters and give them greater depth.

Despite the negatives highlighted above in regards to the large ensemble cast I have to say that Mack has created a group of characters who feel realistic with their flaws and imperfections quite clearly showcased. In addition, I appreciated their variety as we get to see civilian points of view in addition to Starfleet and even the Starfleet crew are varied with a legal officer included for example which felt rather different. I basically found myself warming to most of the characters quite quickly and I particularly enjoyed following the antics of Cervantes Quinn a trader/smuggler who despite his criminal leanings, had elements of compassion within his persona. A final thing that struck me as the various characters were introduced is that Mack has realised there is a multitude of ethnicities within humanity itself and has tried to include a nice prominent mix within the novel which was nice to see.

In regards to the story itself, well of course people are going to compare this with DS9 or Babylon 5 as the similarities are quite obvious. I really did feel the influence of these shows quite strongly with the frontier space station, flawed characters and an overall mystery which could result in various spacefaring empires going to war. The only issue is that the book itself doesn’t really contain a standalone story, there was lots of set up with some good plot twists and action sequences but there was no real heart to the novel itself. It wasn’t a big problem for me as I am jumping straight into the next novel but as a standalone book “Harbinger” itself didn’t really leave me feeling that satisfied.

Overall, this book has the feeling of being a setup for the series in that it introduces the characters and gives us a taster of some overall mystery that is going to be uncovered as the reader progresses through the other novels. It was without doubt a nice introduction but I do wish that there had been at least some sort of decent standalone plot element as there was no real satisfying conclusion to the novel itself. In the end, this initial glimpse of the characters and the overall story arc were more than enough to get me hooked on the series which is without doubt its aim, so on that front it is a success.