on 23 June 2012
So first off, it's worth noting that as of this compilation, the series is now being released in trade paperback format. This allows for more stories in each release but also has the downside of being more than twice as large and therefore more unwieldy.
It's good to see the Da Vinci back out in space in this compilation and still feeling the effects of the Galvan VI mission from Wildfire. To review each of the stories in turn:
Aftermath introduces us to the new Tellarite second office, Tev - and what a breath of fresh air he is. While I think it's possible for a reader to feel the loss of Duffy and his unique take on life, Tev more than makes up for the loss. Also, my personal opinion is that Stevens is becoming a more fleshed out character as a result of Duffy's loss, but seems to have inherited some of Duffy's characteristics.
Tev on the other hand instantly makes his entrance memorable by managing to pretty much rub everyone up the wrong way with his gruff and superior attitude. I admire the fact the authors usually have him be right most of the time, therefore validating the arrogance. What makes Tev stand out (over the course of the whole compilation) is that he's fairly honest and without guile, so his attitude is justifiable. It's also good to see a Tellarite take centre stage, as we've never really got to know them as a race - and at the point this book was written, Enterprise hadn't introduced them as a major player in the formation of the Federation yet.
Back to Aftermath though; the story has a welcome post-DS9 cameo from O'Brien and expands on his life after 7 years on the Cardassian station and also picks up on the effects of the Breen attack on Earth.
The story itself of miniature cities being encased in pocket-sized crystals is clever, and it's good to see the SCE back to doing what they do best. For fans of the whole series, it's also good to see the recurring theme of redshirt Vance Hawkins being injured in the line of duty again!
The Ishtar Rising duology is written by two Trek-lit veterans, Messrs Martin and Mangels and deals with trying to terraform Venus into Earth II. To be honest, the story felt a little dragged out to purposely be a two-parter. I did enjoy the fact we get to delve into Soloman's thoughts, life after becoming single and how he interacts with a Bynar society that rejects him as a deviant. Unfortunately, I felt this aspect wasn't played on enough though.
We were also introduced to a new minor character who has recently transferred to the Da Vinci who - and I'm probably being a bit cynical here - seems to be a bit horny, and possibly to drive the LGBT issues that these authors usually include. Firstly she mentions that she has a crush on Bart Faulwell, until she finds out he is both taken and not attracted to women, then immediately mentions that a fellow female crewmember is "kinda cute". To me, the whole thing felt a bit shoehorned in and I'm still unsure how to take her outlook - are they saying that 24th century humans are evolved beyond simply "heterosexual" and "homosexual", or implying that promiscuity is the way forward in a free and forward thinking culture?
Luckily, Bart manages to talk her down towards the end of the book by basically saying "calm down, dear!". Even so, the whole thing didn't really jibe with me, especially considering her crewmates are allegedly reliving a very recent nightmare.
I hate to say it, but the whole parallel with Wildfire left me cold as rather than being a situation that throws are characters into a position of pouring salt in open wounds, it just feels like a rather oddly timed re-hash of Wildfire. The idea of the ship and crew being at the mercy of a turbulent and dangerous planet's atmosphere is still too fresh in my memory for this to feel as tense as it should have.
Also, I think it's fairly obvious throughout that they're in nowhere near as much danger as Wildfire, so it's hard to really feel the tension that's being played out.
Buying Time was a rather entertaining take on Ferengi greed and time travel (which up to this point I don't think has been covered by the SCE series). Tev playing the role of Alpha Male and successful business man with female slaves was fun to read. Credit is also due to the author for the mature and factual way he handles three naked female characters, without resorting to immature or voyeuristic descriptions.
Collective Hindsight is the second two-parter of this compilation and describes the return of a ship that some of the veteran SCE crew had encountered previously and had cost them a heavy price. Essentially, the first part expands upon the role of Commander Selak, Gomez's predecessor, and how he came to be replaced. The only downside to this part of the tale is the fact that his sacrifice seems almost unnecessary, as I'm sure our crew have escaped trickier situations with less extreme solutions.
Part two details how the current crew deal with the re-appearance of this mysterious ship and also marks another appearance of the recurring enemies, the Androssi - some of whom have a personal score to settle with the Da Vinci.
The solution to the problem the crew now faces is well thought out and fairly unique, and I really enjoyed this two-parter.
The Demon is yet another tale in two parts. To be honest, by this point, I'm starting to feel clobbered over the head with them, as I'm of the opinion they should be a rare and special occurrence. As with Ishtar Rising, it felt like this was purposefully expanded into a duology, when a bit of streamlining would have allowed for a fairly entertaining standalone story.
The Resaurians were well fleshed out as a snake-like race, and I enjoyed reading about them and their culture, how they use smell and taste to judge moods and deal with social interactions almost as much as we rely on sight and sound.
Like too many tales though, this seems to force the tension upon us that the ship and crew is in mortal danger, and as is the theme now, refers back to Galvan VI multiple times to try and draw parallels.
The highlight for me was the fact a lot of the shipboard story was told from Tev's perspective - he views the rest of his crew with an almost childlike naivete whilst at the same time grudgingly accepting that they might be his intellectual equals after all. His respect (possibly attraction?) for Gomez, his budding friendship with Faulwell and his new-found love of sour apple sweets were definite high points for me, and I'm grateful we got to spend so much time inside his head and see things as Tev sees them.
While I did enjoy this tale, I did find it particularly odd how Captain Gold suddenly decides at the end of this mission that the ghosts of Wildfire can be laid to rest and he can continue with a clear conscience from now on. I'm not sure how I feel about this, as surely either Gold would have let this go already by now, or would accept the fact that losing half his crew is going to stay with him for the rest of his life. It's almost as if the character is being reset so Wildfire is not overshadowing the series as much after this.
So, in short, I did quite enjoy this compilation, while not being a fan of the trade paperback format. While it was a fairly strong collection of stories, I felt there three two-parters were too much and these weren't without their faults. The character of Tev is fast becoming my favourite and I hope the writers don't feel compelled to water him down any time soon, as the kind of brashness and conflict he brings is a welcome change from the happy-go-lucky "we're all one big family" feeling I sometimes get from these novels.
Since Wildfire the SCE series has really had a shot in the arm and seems to have stepped up its game - which is probably why I'm judging the stories more harshly (rightly or wrongly, I'm not sure). As overall, I did rather enjoy this, I'm going straight into Grand Designs confident that we can expect more of the same!