Era: The Original Series
Series: Vanguard (#5)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2009
The Organians have forced a ceasefire on the Federation and Klingons, but true peace is a way off. Both sides use this opportunity to engage in covert affairs, but they are not the only ones. Two former Starfleet officers have not left the Taurus Reach behind . . .
The Vanguard series continues its strong run as it crosses over the midway mark, and now the epic scope is really starting to pay off. The first thing you notice reading this book is the date at the start of each chapter. Because this book takes place over the course of an entire year. It’s the sort of time scale you don’t see very often in Star Trek, where there’s often a race against time or some ticking deadline in the background. It’s not that Precipice has a lack of urgency, but the longer time frame gives this book a different feel to the ones that came before. there’s breathing space, and the character development feels a lot more natural when it occurs over months rather than days.
The Original Series was, by the standards of its time, the most adventurous sci-fi around. The heroics were larger than life, and Kirk never met a problem he couldn’t wrestle into submission (albeit verbally in some cases). A lot of the tie-in books focus on the science and ethical considerations that Trek is famous for, but Precipice leans into that TOS sense of action and adventure. It has a space western feel about it that would please any Firefly fan. There are action scenes between Klingon soldiers and pre-warp natives that could easily be from The Magnificent Seven. But it’s not just Westerns that Precipice draws influence from. On the aforementioned pre-warp planet there is a hidden temple, alien artefacts, and a sinister ritual. It’s right out of an Indiana Jones script, and real fun to read. David Mack has always been good at action, and this is easily one of the most exciting Stra Trek books I’ve read.
Historically, Star Trek has focused on Starfleet personnel, and they have been the backbone of the franchise for five decades. Deep Space Nine broke ground with it’s non-Starfleet (and non-Federation) characters, and Picard is showing life after Starfleet, but Vanguard takes the time to develop those characters who were once in uniform, but not any more. Reyes and T’Prynn are both disgraced, and both take very different paths from there. T’Prynn spends much of this book trying to atone for her past actions, and her interactions with Tim Pennington are some of the best character work in the series so far. In particular, I have to say I’m much more of a T’Prynn fan now that she doesn’t have the katra of Sten in her head. Former-Commodore Reyes, however, uses his presumed death to work beyond the rules of Starfleet. I always appreciate a little bit of messiness in Star Trek, and Precipice does fine work, making the edge present, but not overwhelming the story.
Five books in, I now see why this series is so beloved by Star Trek readers, and I cannot wait to get into the next volume.