The Brave & the Bold is an interesting concept. It is a series of four novellas contained in two books, each novella involving one of the four Trek television series, with a prologue that involves the fifth. Not only is the concept intriguing, but DeCandido does a wonderful job with the first book. It contains a wonderful mix of the characters we know and the ones that he has created, along with characters who were briefly shown in a television episode whom he has fleshed out to a great degree. The first book is a knockout punch, and I enjoyed it very much.
DeCandido has created a very logical way to bring the five television series together into one set of books. It does feel a bit stretched, as yet again the main cast of each show are involved in the same events, but at least DeCandido involves other ships and people as well, lessening that impact a little bit. DeCandido makes good use of the formerly incidental characters from the television series to flesh out the story. Even better, though, the stories are told completely from their viewpoint, so that all of the familiar characters that we know and love are seen from an outsider's view. I found this very effective, as we got to see our heroes as other see them without delving into their thought processes.
In the first story, DeCandido has created a vibrant crew that is interesting to read about. Decker is the only character from the television series, all other characters being original. Decker matches what little we know about him from the series, and the rest of the crew comes across very well also. Takashewada is Decker's no-nonsense first officer who keeps him in line when he wants to go against the book. She's completely against the imposition of martial law on the planet and is ready to tell Decker in no uncertain terms about it when she gets the chance. Fortunately for Decker, she never does, as the situation is resolved before that can happen. She's very determined but you can also tell that she really likes Decker, and that he finds her a very valuable officer. Dr. Rosenhaus is a bit too much of a Dr. Bashir (from the series Deep Space 9) clone, given that he's a young doctor excited to be out on the frontier. He's arrogant and thinks he can fix anything, as well as thinking that he knows better than some of the old hands. However, the relationship he develops with Dr. McCoy of the Enterprise is wonderful. When they first meet, sparks fly as arrogance clashes with experience and McCoy's crotchetiness. Soon, though, a healthy respect develops, especially after Rosenhaus goes off half-cocked and almost kills an experimental subject. Rosenhaus learns some humility when McCoy doesn't berate him (too much) for what happened. Other crew members do well in the limited parts that DeCandido gives them, and all of them seem to have distinct personalities no matter how little screen time they have.
Much the same can be said for the second story, and the crew of the Odyssey. DeCandido tries to do a couple of things in this story. In the television episode in which the Odyssey appears, there is a healthy dislike between Keogh and Lieutenant Dax. This story gives us the reason why, which helps flesh out Keogh and also provides another dimension to the episode. There aren't as many new characters in this story, but DeCandido does a good job with them as well. Especially effective is Orta, who is a Bajoran terrorist from a Next Generation television episode. DeCandido gives him a lot of background and broadens him a lot. He's a terrorist, not a freedom fighter. He fought Cardassians because he hated them, not because he wanted to free Bajor. DeCandido paints a wonderful picture of a man who's lost in his own insanity. When Orta finally makes his move, his reasoning keeps on changing as Kira and Dax point out the logical holes in each story he tells. Descending deeper and deeper into madness, you almost start feeling pity for him for what he's gone through and what he has finally become.
What I found most effective about these stories, at least to me as a Trek fan, is the sense of tragedy that is evoked. Both the Constellation and the Odyssey were destroyed with all hands in the television episodes where they appear. Both of these stories take place shortly before that. We are getting to know these characters, getting to like them, and then we realize that they are not going to survive much longer. I liked that, and it's a tribute to DeCandido's characterization that we wish we had more time with them. Also, the fact that most of the crew is created by DeCandido gives us the possibility that not all of the characters will survive the story, which provides a nice bit of extra tension.
There isn't a whole lot to say about the plot. The stories are interesting, but nothing that special. I found the characters much more interesting than the plot, which is just as well. The plots are almost Trek-by-numbers, which isn't always a bad thing, especially in a franchise series of books. They do their job well, and don't get in the way of the characters. I liked that. We don't get a lot of information about the Zalkat Union, which makes the artifacts little more than McGuffins, though they are at least used in each story. It's the characters that make this book worth reading, and any Trek fan will enjoy it because of that. If you like Star Trek, I think you will like this book. I just hope the second book in this series is as good as the first.