BOOK REVIEW: Gods of Night, by David Mack

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destiny 1.jpg

Era: Post-Nemesis

Series: Destiny (#1)

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 423

Publication Date: 2008

Verdict: 5/5

For fifteen years, Jean-Luc Picard has known that the Borg would one day pose an existential threat to the Federation. Now that day has finally come. The Borg have launched their ultimate invasion, and their goal is not assimilation, but annihilation . . .

Here it is ladies and gentleman. The book that got me into Star Trek‘s literary canon all those years ago. The front cover features an intriguing blend of eras. A woman in an Enteprise-era uniform? And is that Ezri Dax wearing command red? Then there’s the blurb, which promises all out war between Starfleet and the Borg. Young me was very excited to read this book. Young mes was not disappointed by what he found. And over a decade later, I was thrilled all over again.

David Mack’s Destiny trilogy is often cited as the most important part of the post-Nemesis canon, and I fully agree with this. Destiny is to Star Trek what the Thrawn trilogy is to Star Wars. It’s proof that a literary expanded canon can evolve and expand beyond the confines of the franchise that spawned it. Yes, there have been lots of stories beforehand, but Destiny brings everything together and then shakes up the status quo. And after this, so much is built on the foundations laid by Mack. Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager novels are born directly from this conflict, and without Destiny there would be no Typhon Pact. If you want to get right into the heart of the Litverse, Destiny is the place to do it. But for a re-reader like myself, it’s incredibly enriched by knowing what the references are too.

Gods of Night is split between four story-lines. In 2381, we have Picard, Dax and Riker commanding their respective vessels as the Borg invasion begins. Riker and Titan are still on a mission of science when we join them, while Picard is on the front line. Mack makes excellent use of Picard’s singular history with the Borg to drive the narrative. First Contact showed how single-minded he could be when facing the Borg, and with a full invasion in force, Picard resorts to increasingly desperate measures to keep the Federation safe. For me, however, it’s Dax who proves the most interesting. In Deep Space Nine, we only saw Dax for a single series, and in that she was new to both her role on the station and to being a joined Trill. I haven’t read any of the Deep Space 9 relaunch novels, so seeing her in command of a vessel is a surprise. But it’s one that makes sense if you stop and think about it. She has multiple lifetimes of experience, and a blend of command skill and scientific curiosity that makes for an excellent Starfleet captain.

The fourth story-line takes place over two hundred years before. When we last saw Captain Erika Hernandez of the NX-02 Columbia, she was presumed dead at the hands of the Romulans. So why is her ship found halfway across the Galaxy? This is one of those rare books that makes flashbacks work, because it’s a very different pace of story to the main action, but one that ultimately feeds into the larger whole. Leaving aside the Enterprise finale, this is the only time we see the 22nd and 24th centuries cross over. And this crossover is much, much better. Hernandez was a bright spark in her few TV appearances, and it’s an absolute delight to have her in the central role where she belongs.

Destiny is a change of pace from the largely standalone adventures that have gone before. It’s a trilogy that feels truly epic, and it changed the canon forever. It’s more of a straight space opera than the social SF Trek is famous for, but it is an event series. It should feel different. And it does. Seeing familiar faces contemplate increasingly morally dubious options to counter the Borg threat shows us how important their humanity is. And there is a genuine sense of loss. Planets are laid waste to, and we recognise their names. Characters we’ve known for decades face mortal peril, and not everyone makes it out alive. The scope is massive, but the tragedies are intimate. It really is great stuff.

Gods of Night is a masterful way to kick of one of the most significant Star Trek series of all time, and is absolutely worth your time.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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