Seven Deadly Sins is 484 page monster with dense print containing seven different stories of 50 to 70 pages each. And odd observation - the cover is a bit of a problem. While it grows on one over time, the green tile background is very off-putting and I for one passed on this book a while ago before returning to it. Most recent Star Trek covers are downright awesome but this one could have hurt sales. The book gets a heads-up for concept: these stories can involve any Star Trek series and the idea of keying on one of the seven deadly sins seemed inspired to me (besides, as much as I hammer it, I love short Star Trek fiction and often use it find new authors). The special bargain price here you can get (about $6) at Amazon also speaks well for making this purchase if you like ST short fiction at all.
Unfortunately, the insides of the book are less than a mixed bag so far. I'm going to rate these stories 1 to 4, with 1 a paint by numbers plot to 4 a story you might one day re-read.
So here goes:
Story 1 - The First Peer. Romulans and Klingons. The story carries a positive recurring theme in the book - explaining these odd details that a fan wonders about (How Romulans got Klingon ship designs, what sort of conflict existed between ridge-head Klingons and smooth heads, etc.) and the story is written nicely enough. However, while I'll admit there must be others who have a different opinion, this is another purely paint by numbers plot that was far too predictable and easy to see coming (translation = BORING). I mean, there is little original here, and if you'd read Constellations or The Sky's the Limit you know these authors write VERY WELL but these stories are as limp as a wet noodle. Plus, the plot makes the fatal error of characterizing the Romulans - an offshoot of Vulcan -as displaying almost superRomulan stupidity. I didn't buy it and it was such a waste. My suggestion: I think these folks would be absolutely brilliant at doing movie adaptations or episode reconstructions or even existing episode extensions. Telling a new story seems more than a challenge, though I'd admit to avoiding full-length novels from these folks and maybe more space equals a better novel? I've also been told that they shine in the SCE books too. Don't know, but please try harder.
P.S. Make the stories more like your author bios in the book! Ample humor and mirth expressed here!
Rating: 1 star.
Story 2 - Reservoir Ferengi. A homage to Quentin Tarantino of sorts, I liked the unusual plot structure (flashbacks that take place 1 year ago, 5 months ago, 3 months ago, etc.) but making Brunt almost a sympathetic character and repeated references to "hew-mons" really seemed out of place, and the entire story was full of unresolved issues. I mean, these are Ferengi, and I think they would be involved with Ferengi matters, not human ones, but even the interesting characters (a clothing wearing Ferengi pilot was a lot more interesting than the main characters) get killed or go nowhere. Plus, it was just so obvious in so many ways - gee, a story about Greed involving the Ferengi?
Rating: 1.5 stars
Story 3 - The Slow Knife. Best story of the bunch so far, carefully constructed and very believable, it has an obvious conclusion followed by a less obvious one. The author has a clear handle on Cardassian characters (with a special appearance or not of our favorite waiter spy) and slow destruction of Envy among multiple players makes a lot of sense as far as real consequences are concerned. I liked this one very much and wanted to know if Kein had more of a story going forward.
Rating: 3 stars
Story 4 - The Unhappy Ones. The story above contained Caradassian words that added to the texture and tension of the plot but this one - it contains no less than 10 italized words in the first few paragraphs, to the point where it got very distracting and irritating and pulled your attention from the plot. Ah, and that plot was no less than the great Mining fix from our heroes Kor, Kang, and somebody else who didn't need to be there. I was reminded of the line Odo used about the "Great Tribble Hunt" when thinking of this utterly meaningless story (they will tell tales of the Great Mining fix they will, with bloodwine for all) which is a darn shame because the idea it introduces - discrimination among Klingons of ribbed heads and not -- is a wonderful idea that could have been explored far better than this. Very, very disappointing. DeCandido is a talented author but for heaven's sake, he could have come up with something a LOT better than this nothing tale...
Rating: 1.5 stars.
Story 5 - Freedom Agnst. Another competent story by a competent author, but competency is not the same thing as interesting, and this one reads like a discarded remnant of an existing episode, not a standalone story. There are no true new characters, no twists of old characters (Jennifer Sisko comes across very unlustful here), no nothing that makes you wonder where the story is going other than where you knew exactly it would go after the first couple pages. As such, you almost have to start blaming the editor at this point for not putting up a more demanding bar for the stories submitted. Right?
Rating: 1 star
Story 6 - Revenant. At last, an upgrade! In retrospect, the story is slight and the conclusion obvious and this is a story told many times before, but who cares? The characters are (mostly) well written, the creepy feel is very well done, and the conclusion was pretty cool. Plus, this is pretty much an entirely new twist that had you wanting more, a good sign in a short fiction piece. Good job, though doesn't that title stink?
Rating: 3.5 stars
Story 7 - Work is Hard. Another winner! A boring premise (search and rescue) enlived by funny exchanges, moments of brief peril, Star Fleet officers who manage not to be dumb (yes!), and absolute great names and characters. After a while, you had to figure Snollicoob could be the first candidate for Star Fleet Academy!
Rating: 3.5 stars
So, with a huge finish, the stories average out to more than 2 stars, making this worth your purchase. Given the price of the collection, I'm giving this an upgrade to 3 stars, but still can't help with the feeling that getting a short story collection with a min of 2 stars each is within the capability of those writing Star Trek fiction. Here's hoping there is a next time and that the result is even better...