- An Omnibus of Six Novels
- Published by Pocket Books in 2000
- Space Opera Adventures
- 1143 pages
In a way, this book brings me full circle. It’s one of the first Star trek books I can remember reading. Way back before I even knew what blogging was, I have dim memories of reading this mammoth tome on the way to a chess tournament. I remember broad strokes about some of the stories, but none of the details. Since that initial reading, I’ve watched my way through every Star trek TV show except The Original Series. I’ve also dived headlong into the Litverse, which was slowly forming when these stories were first written in the late 1990s The first time I read The Captain’s Table, I was mesmerised by the variety of the stories within. Coming back a decade and a half later, and I have a somewhat different experience to share with you.
The central conceit behind these stories is that there exists a unique drinking establishment which may only be accessed by those who hold the rank of captain. Once inside, patrons are encouraged to tell a story. As a result, we get a first hand account of some adventure from each of the major Star Trek captains up until the point the stories were written (alas, no Archer) as well as a few surprise guests. As each of the stories stands perfectly well on its own, I’ll tackle them individually in brief.
War Dragons, by L. A. Graf
The opening story is the weakest, a rough way to open but at least it’s out of the way quickly. This one suffers a lot from having too many perspectives thrown into under two hundred pages. The story is told jointly by Sulu and Kirk, with them being together in the present, but telling accounts from different periods of their life. It all gets a bit jumbled up, with neither tale being long enough to stand alone, but not enough connecting them until the very end.
Dujonian’s Hoard, by Michael Jan Freidman
A much more straightforward offering, this one sees Picard and Worf going undercover among a crew of ne’er-do-wells. It brings to mind the two-parter ‘Gambit’ in a lot of ways, and succeeds in being a fun and simple adventure. Weaving together the Cardassian-Maquis conflict, an ancient treasure, and the seedier underbelly of Trek’s generally optimistic future, Dujonian’s Hoard is a refreshing break for the usually very proper Picard.
The Mist, by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
This story falls prey to a common issue I have with books set within the timeline of the series they tie into, aggravated by Deep Space Nine’s more involved storytelling. It’s clear from the outset that Sisko won’t uncover any galaxy-shattering technology, or we’d already know about it. The constant interruptions by other characters within the framing narrative doesn’t help either, although the actual story is quite engaging.
Fire Ship, by Diane Carey
Cutting Janeway away from the rest of her crew, this one is the hardest to fit into the conceit of the Captain’s Table. But once you move past a few leaps in logic, the story itself is very strong. Here we see Janeway forced into service on alien vessel, having to work her way back up through the ranks. Bonus points must also be awarded for the Menace, who are one of the more interesting one-off alien in literary Trek, and a pleasant break from the usual warmongering ‘evil’ villains we see in this sort of story.
Once Burned, by Peter David
Featuring literary original captain Mackenzie Calhoun, this one succeeds in making me want to read the rest of the New Frontier series. It’s a fair bit more mature than Star Trek tended to go at the time, both in content and in tone. As an origin story of sorts, it works as a great introduction to Calhoun’s character, while also serving as a cautionary reminder that not all Starfleet captains are as noble as the ones we know and love.
Where Sea Meets Sky, by Jerry Oltion
Before Anson Mount stepped foot aboard Discovery, there was another version of Christopher Pike. That’s the version written about here, though impressively it fits very well with Mount’s version of the character. Especially as he pauses his story to share pizza with a Klingon. Pike aside, this is a wonderful little story about space-faring creatures and macro-scale ecosystems. The story is by the numbers, but the imagery is truly great. The only stumble is the final chapter, which brings the whole omnibus full circle in a way that only re-treads old ground.
Overall, The Captain’s Table is as mixed a bag as any multi-author, multi-era series is going to be. At its best it’s a whole load of fun, and probably best served in more digestible single volumes.