Era: The Original Series
Series: Vanguard (#4)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2009
Diego Reyes is no longer in command of Starbase 47. Facing a misconduct trial after leaking classified information to the media, he can only stand by as the Klingons target Federation citizens across the Taurus Reach. yet the Klingons are far from the greatest threat to safety out here . . .
The middle novel of Vanguard is the best yet. The alternating author schedule continues with this solo entry from Dayton Ward that brings to a close some of the many dangling threads of the past three books, while setting up much larger conflict in the three yet to come. So yeah, it does exactly what you think a middle book is going to. And it does it in style.
One of the things I admire most about the Star Trek litverse is the way it handles consequences. In traditional episodic Trek, consequences rarely carried over from one adventure to the next. A few character dynamics did, and both Deep Space Nine and Enterprise went into more serialised storytelling later in their run, but the litverse really runs with the idea of long-lasting effects of character actions. In a show, Reyes’ leaking of information might have posed an ethical dilemma at the climax of an episode, but here we get the best part of a novel dedicated to his trial. There’s no reset button here, and Reyes’ trial is up there with ‘Measure of a Man’ for an examination of Starfleet and its values, both those it aspires to, and those it actually encourages.
In a similar vein, I was happy to see that the death of Klingon double agent Lurqal was not revealed to be a deception. There’s rarely a permanent main character death in Star Trek, so this one really drove home the danger the characters face. The lingering effects of that death on T’Prynn also show the value of continuity in this series. Vulcan’s have been used a lot (and I mean a lot) over the past 55 years, but in T’Prynn’s story-line we see that there is life in the old tropes yet.
The Klingons too are used to good effect. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not as much of a Klingon fan as many others, but what Ward does with them is shifting my opinion. Possibly the best aspect of Ward’s Klingons is that they speak English, and I don’t have to sift through paragraphs broken up by glottal conlang. Seeing a lasting effect of Enterprise‘s ‘Affliction/Divergence’ story arc is also a boon, as I’m a sucker for anything Enterprise related. See also, the Archer-class ships. There is an odd moment in both prologue and epilogue where the Klingon story-line if altered by something that happens off-page (though onscreen in The Original Series), but other than that it’s faultless storytelling.
This is a book that balances the needs of an ever-increasingly complex plot with a wide and diverse ensemble cast. The high-point of the series so far, and validation of all the praise it receives.