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Era: The Original Series, Season 1

Series: Vanguard (#3)

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 409

Publication Date: 2007

Verdict: 4/5

Probed by the Federation and Klingon Empire alike, the Taurus Reach is beginning to reveal its secrets. Yet the Tholians have an agenda of their own, and ties to the enigmatic Shedai whose ruins hold many secrets. As exploration turns to warfare, tragedy is inevitable . . .

Now this is more like it. Three books in, the Vanguard series has found its stride. There’s a saying among some Trek fans that each version of the show really finds its footing in the third series, and I suppose this holds true for some of the novel series too. After one book that served to introduce the characters and a second that set out the major conflicts, Reap the Whirlwind is where we finally get a chance to dive into the meat of the books.

As I’d hoped, Reap the Whirlwind sheds some light on the Tholians. Of all the one-off alien appearances in Star Trek, I’ve always felt they were most in need of a return visit. Of course, budgetary restraints limited their onscreen appearance, but in prose they come with another problem. Just how do you convey the thoughts of something so totally alien? Thankfully Mack has the answers. The limited exposure we get to the Tholians keeps their alien-ness intact, but in those scenes we do get are precious glimpses into the Tholians’ history and psychology. It’s far from a full picture, but this is exactly what I wanted to see in this series.

Of course, it’s not just aliens that make Star Trek so appealing to millions of people. one of the great strengths has always been its ensemble casts, and after three books the Vanguard crew are as richly developed and dynamic as any ship’s crew you’ve seen on TV. In book form you get a better look inside their heads, and even though there are a dozen point-of-view characters, they all feel very distinct. Special mention must be made to how well the characters carry from one volume to the next when there are three authors involved. Clearly everyone was working very closely, and if you didn’t know better you’d think it was the work of a single pen.

Aside from the quality of the storytelling, I also want to draw attention to the cover. To be honest, I don’t pay as much attention to covers as a lot of other people. On my shelves and in my TBR I really only see spines, and when I’m reading the cover is facing away. Plus it must be said that a lot of Trek book covers are simply head-shots of characters familiar to viewers. But the Vanguard series has a great set of covers, which look like CGI shots from the show. It’s the shine and detail that makes them stand out and pull you in. Quintessentially Star Trek, but different to what has gone before. The stark simplicity of Reap the Whirlwind in particular makes for a very striking image.

I had a few doubts early on, but Reap the Whirlwind is the best Vanguard book yet, and the series shows no signs of slowing down as it approaches the midway mark.

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