Series: Destiny (#2)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2008
Titan has been captured by the Caeliar, the secretive species who captured the Columbia two centuries earlier. But while Captain Riker faces a choice between terrible options, the Federation at large faces an even greater challenge. The Borg armada is on the way . . .
Once again, I am astounded by David Mack’s ability to balance so many plates in the air without breaking anything. Last time around, I remarked on how well he brought together the stories of four captains. In this second book of the Destiny trilogy, we have even more perspectives. The main one is a continued thread from last time, showing Federation President Bacco’s political manoeuvring as she wrangles the various political powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants to work together against the Borg. The political debates aren’t particularly in depth, as they are not the focus of the book, but it’s fascinating to see how the larger universe is handling the apocalyptic events. Deep Space Nine fans are sure to enjoy Ambassador Garak’s appearance at the table, and it’s his frank assessment of a post-war Cardassia that hammers home just how brutal DS9 was in its final year. We also get a look in on the Klingon Empire, seeing how these warriors face a relentless foe with no sense of honour or glory. I really appreciated the recognition that the Federation is not the only power in the Galaxy, and that this threat goes well beyond one political entity. A lot of the time ‘threat to existence’ and ‘threat to humanity’ get conflated, and it’s refreshing to see Star Trek avoiding this particular pitfall.
In spite of the overwhelming threat posed by the Borg, most of this book is spent away from the field of battle. Picard and Dax investigate wormhole corridors that could provide an access route for the Borg, or a final escape route for a defeated Federation. What follows is a series of mini adventures that could easily have been a whole season of TV. The far-flung nature of these wormholes also allows for the appearance of both new aliens, and some familiar ones. It’s interesting that the familiar ones are the Hirogen from Voyager, while the new ones are the Children of the Storm, who would go on to appear in a Voyager novel of the same name. These scenes provide a bit of somewhat lighter adventure between the heavier scenes back in the Alpha Quadrant.
The Titan side of things is the heaviest of these. A lot of this story-line can be summed up as ‘hurry up and wait’ as Riker and Troi seek a way to escape from their captivity. I’m not the biggest fan of their ongoing marital drama, but there’s no denying it adds a more emotional aspect to a book that is otherwise sweeping in scale. Troi’s story intersects with that of Hernandez, who appears both in the year 2381, and in a series of flashbacks beginning in the 16th century. Star Trek hasn’t often had a story take place over such a long period of time. ‘Blink of an Eye’ is the one that immediately springs to mind, but Hernandez’ story is a very different beast. There are no great changes here, just a monotony that grinds away her resistance. It doesn’t immediately show any connection to the larger story of Destiny, but it does inform character choices that become important later on.
The climax of this novel is a battle between the allied powers of the Alpha Quadrant and the Borg. Interestingly, the battle itself takes place entirely off-screen. Rather than show us the battle itself, Mack only shows us the aftermath. It’s proof that you don’t need explosions to tell a good war story, and brings a sombreness that drives home how ruthless the Borg are. Really, it sums up so much of what makes Star Trek great. We have a few fights along the way, but in the end, it’s the human cost that matters.
Mere Mortals is another excellent book in an epic trilogy, and solidifies Destiny‘s place in the history of Star Trek canon.