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Harbinger (Star Trek Vanguard) Mass Market Paperback – July 26, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Mack is the national bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Wildfire, Harbinger, Reap the Whirlwind, Road of Bones, and the Star Trek Destiny trilogy—Gods of Night, Mere Mortals, and Lost Souls. His first original novel, the supernatural thriller The Calling, debuted in July 2009 to critical acclaim. In addition to novels, Mack’s diverse writing credits span several media, including television, film, short fiction, magazines, newspapers, comic books, computer games, radio, and the Internet. He currently resides in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 2

The sultry jungle night buzzed with the sawing song of nocturnal insects. With a casual sweep of his hand, Cervantes Quinn pulled a long twist of his tangled, bone-white hair from his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. An insidious humidity amplified the post-sundown radiant heat and left Quinn's sweat-sodden clothing clinging like a skin graft with pockets to his thick-middled, past-its-prime body.

He straightened from his crouch and reached into his left pants pocket. Nestled deep inside, under the lock-picking kit, past his last snack stick of meat-flavored synthetic something-or-other, was his flask. As quietly as he was able, he pulled it free, unscrewed the cap, and downed a swig of nameless green liquor. It tasted horrible. He kept it in his flask only because his most frequent employer, an Orion merchant-prince named Ganz, had an irregular habit of demanding that other people pour him impromptu drinks -- and then shooting anyone who poured something he didn't like. Ganz liked the green stuff.

Awful as it was, it still constituted a minor improvement over the stale aftertaste of the pseudo-beef snack stick Quinn had devoured an hour ago. He took another swig, then tucked the half-empty flask back into the bottom of his pocket. This stakeout was taking longer than he had expected. He had imagined himself long gone by now, the pilfered device securely hidden behind the false wall panel in the cargo bay of his private freighter, the Rocinante. Instead, he swatted blindly at the high-pitched mosquitoes that he could hear dive-bombing his head but couldn't see unless they passed between him and the lights of the camp below.

From his vantage point deep in the undergrowth, beyond the tree line that marked the perimeter of the mining camp, he saw the prospectors moving from one semipermanent building to another. Most were winding down for the night, settling into their bunks, making final trips to the latrine. Vexing him were the two who continued to sit inside their Spartan mess hall, playing the most uninspired game of cards Quinn had ever seen.

He was certain he could beat them handily in just about any game, from Texas Hold'em to Denobulan Wildcard. For a moment, he allowed himself to consider scrapping his mission of covert confiscation in favor of card-sharking the mining team. Quinn's common sense awoke from its slumber and reminded him not only that it would be wrong to cheat honest working folks but that, if he returned to Vanguard without the sensor screen he'd been sent to steal, Ganz would garnish his next buffet with Quinn's viscera.

Patience was not one of Quinn's stronger virtues, but his impulses were usually kept in check by his healthy fear of death, injury, and incarceration. Long after he had become convinced that his knees had fused into position and would never allow him to straighten again, the last two miners restacked their cards, snapped an elastic band around them, and left them on the table as they got up. They turned out the mess-hall lamp and stepped out the door into the murky spills of weak orange light from lamps strung on drooping wires between their shacks. Despite the multilayered soundscape of the jungle that surrounded Quinn, he heard their every squishing step as they trudged across the muddy dirt road and passed out of sight on the far side of the barracks. Their shadows, long and blurred, fell across another building. Deep, repetitive clomping sounds echoed around the camp as the miners kicked the wet filth from their boots. Finally they entered their barracks, and the door slam-rattled shut behind them.

Batting away lush fronds and dangling loops of thorny vines, Quinn skulked forward toward the camp. An arthritic aching in his knees threatened to slow him down, but he ignored it, lured forward by the promise of an easy night's work. He paused at the edge of the tree line. There was no sign of automated security devices -- no cameras, motion detectors, or sentry guns. Not that he had expected any, necessarily, but the presence of the sensor screen in a mining camp had aroused his suspicion. It wasn't the kind of equipment normally found in civilian hands. Ganz hadn't said how he had come to learn of its presence here on Ravanar IV, and Quinn wasn't foolish enough to ask.

He unholstered his stun pistol. The street was empty. In the distance, something shrieked three times in quick succession and something else roared in reply. With his hand resting lightly on the grip of his sidearm, he emerged from the trees and moved in a quick, low jog across the street. The mud under his boots made every step an adventure; it slipped like congealed hydraulic lubricant and stank like the open sewers of Korinar. Several quick steps brought him back into the cover of shadow. He leaned sideways and cast a furtive glance around the corner into the dark, narrow stretch between the barracks and the equipment shed. It was empty, and he stole into it, his feet seeking out the driest -- and therefore quietest -- patches of ground from stride to stride.

The sensor screen was larger than he had expected. Ganz's drawing of the device had not been to scale, and it had led Quinn to believe that its removal would be as simple as unplugging it and tucking it under one arm. On the contrary, the cylindrical machine was almost as big as Quinn himself, and, if his approximation of its duranium content was on the money, it was at least twice as heavy. He considered stealing one of the miners' cargo pallets, but then he remembered how much noise the lifter would make. Damn thing'll wake the entire camp, he groused silently. This would've been easier if my ship had a transporter. He had often toyed with the notion of installing one, but his ship's limited power-generation capability meant that to operate a transporter would require sacrificing another system of equal energy level. Unfortunately, the only one that came close was the inertial dampener, and since it was the one thing that prevented routine starflight from turning him into chunky salsa, he was loath to part with it.

An idea occurred to him: I could just steal the active component and leave the power module. Just take the part that's hard to get. Examining the device more closely, he realized that the top segment constituted the screen generator, and that once it was separated from the much larger and heavier power supply he would be able to carry it out on his own. He dug into the lower pockets along his pants leg, found the tools he needed, and set to work. Another quick scan registered no sign of power inside the device; it appeared to be inert. That was for the best, in Quinn's opinion. A few simple twists and toggles later, he decoupled its primary power-supply cable.

No sooner had the cable come free than a scramble of data flooded his scanner. Eyeing the readings, he made the belated discovery that the sensor screen had, in fact, been active the entire time he had been here -- and, true to its intended function, it had fooled his scanner.

His ears detected the muffled din of an alarm klaxon. Doors banged open against sheet-metal shelter walls. Running footfalls slapped through the mud, converging on his location. Using a sonic screwdriver he'd swiped from a rather daft chap back on Barolia, he torqued off the sensor screen's restraining bolts, wrapped his arms around the screen generator, and hefted it with an agonized grunt. He stumbled backward, tripped over something that he couldn't see in the dark, and dropped the device.

With the unmistakable crack of something breaking, the device struck whatever unseen piece of junk had found its way under Quinn's feet. A sizable chunk of it struck his foot hard enough to launch a string of vulgarities from his mouth. Hopping on his good foot proved an unwise reaction, as he immediately slipped and wound up on his back, in the mud, and looking at a cluster of angry miners at the end of the alley.

"Hey, fellas," he said, flailing in the muck to get himself upright. "I know this looks pretty bad, but -- " One of the men drew what Quinn was certain was a Starfleet phaser pistol. Assessing the situation calmly, Quinn ran like hell.

With his arms and legs windmilling as he struggled for traction on the greasy mud, his movement was so clumsy and erratic that the first phaser shot -- whose tonal pitch Quinn recognized as level-five heavy stun -- narrowly missed him and scorched the wall behind his head. Finding his footing, he sprinted out of the alley on a mad dash for the tree line. As he crossed the street, he heard the group of armed men running up the alley to follow him.

Two more simultaneous phaser shots quickened Quinn's already frantic pace. One sizzled the mud behind his heel; the other passed over his shoulder and crisped its way through the foliage. He plunged straight into the stygian forest, zigzagging through the densely packed trees and ducking through nooses of vine. Blue phaser fire shimmered in the gloom, slicing wildly around his chaotic path.

Where's the damn trail? Seconds seemed stretched by the adrenaline coursing through Quinn's brain. He felt like he'd been running twice as long as necessary to find the path back to his ship. Then he broke free of the jungle's clinging tendrils and stumbled out onto the narrow, dry creek bed he had followed down this side of the hill from his ship. At the time, landing on the other side of the hilltop had seemed clever. Banked in steep, thick cloud cover even at this low elevation, it had enabled him to glide in unseen and unheard.

Now, unfortunately, it meant running for his life uphill.

His pursuers were getting closer. Time for tricks, he concluded. Several meters ahead, a sizable boulder offered him some cover. He reached the rock and dove to the ground behind it just before another volley of neon-blue phaser beams lashed across its pitted face. Fumbling through assorted bits of junk in his pockets, he found the detonator. The angry whine of another phaser blast bit off nearly a quarter of one side of the bould...

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

"The Arrows of Time"
See more titles from science fiction favorite Greg Egan.

Product Details

  • Series: Star Trek: Vanguard (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; 1st Pocket Books Paperback edition (July 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416507744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416507741
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

DAVID MACK is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels and novellas, including the STAR TREK DESTINY and COLD EQUATIONS trilogies. He developed the STAR TREK VANGUARD series with editor Marco Palmieri. His first original novel was the critically acclaimed supernatural thriller THE CALLING.

Beyond novels, Mack's writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE), film, short fiction, magazines, newspapers, comic books, computer games, radio, and live theater.

His latest published novels include the best-selling A CEREMONY OF LOSSES; book one of STAR TREK: SEEKERS, a new original series; and the STAR TREK spy-thriller SECTION 31: DISAVOWED. His novelette "And Hell Rode With Her" is included in the new anthology APOLLO'S DAUGHTERS, available from Silence in the Library Publishing.

Upcoming projects by David Mack include THE MIDNIGHT FRONT, a World War II-era fantasy adventure, and a pair of new STAR TREK novels.

Mack resides in New York City with his wife, Kara. Visit his official web site, http://www.davidmack.pro/ and follow him on Twitter @davidalanmack.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Boris the Sneaky Effing Russian on August 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The worst thing about Star Trek Vanguard is that we have to wait until July 2006 for the next in the series. In "Harbinger," David Mack has taken an approach that had yet to be explored in the Star Trek mythos. Usually, a television show or book will focus on the captain, first officer, security officer, etc... But Mack has brought in a very wide array of characters, from Tim Pennington, a reporter for the Federation News Service, to Ganz, an Orion merchant-prince. This presents Vanguard to the reader on a much grander scale than any previous Trek incarnation. The writing is witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and familiar characters such as Captain Kirk and Mister Spock are written dead on. Hopefully, fans will be presented with something similar whenever the next television show rolls around. Vanguard is a book that has no problems appealing to all Trek fans.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Penned by best-selling author David Mack, HARBINGER is an outstanding novel in its own right and the perfect introduction to a series with lots of promise. The story has all the necessary elements to hook you and hold you; a great concept and fascinating characters you want to know more about, whether or not you personally find them likable.

As you read you begin to realize that there are a multiple mysteries being set up within the narrative, the most obvious being what's so special about the Taurus Reach. By the end of the first chapter you are already intrigued by the ambiguities surrounding the station and as the story continues to build, the more you read the more you want to know.

Vanguard has a large cast of characters, both principal and supporting, most of whom are all trying to get to the bottom of what's going on, each for a different reason. Mack takes his time introducing the main characters, continuously building up an ever evolving picture of them as individuals. The mix of characters provides a nice balance. They aren't all Starfleet and they most definitely aren't what you'd expect. This approach to `casting' the series provides the reader with multiple points of view as events unfold. The various characters feel real in their responses and reactions to the events they find themselves caught up in. Some of the characters you'll like, some you'll loathe but they are individually and collectively a fascinating bunch.

The time frame for Vanguard is firmly anchored by the use of a major point in Star Trek history, the Enterprise's disastrous mission to the barrier.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on September 17, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pocket Books has launched a new series of Star Trek books, set during the early period of Kirk's time. The series is Star Trek: Vanguard, and the first book, Harbinger is an excellent start. Written by David Mack, one of the premier authors of the line, it carries an interesting concept, some rather unique (at least for Star Trek) characters, and some wonderful plotting. It definitely leaves me waiting impatiently for the next book.

Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard, is a station way out beyond Federation space, in a zone sandwiched between the Klingon Empire and Tholian space. Built very quickly, it also has a secret purpose, one which only a few members of Starfleet's hierarchy know. Captain Kirk is bringing the Enterprise back from the edge of the galaxy, after the events of the television episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before." The ship is battered, his friend is dead at his own hand, and Kirk just wants to get home and refit. He discovers that the Vanguard station is along their way home, and is much closer than limping back to Federation space, so he takes the Enterprise there. When he gets there, his suspicions are aroused by the reluctance of Commodore Reyes to answer his questions about why the station is out there, and he becomes determined to get to the bottom of what's going on.

Let me start right away by saying that, while a lot of the description of the above was about Kirk, this is *not* his book. Kirk and the Enterprise are only in this book to do a "hand-off" to the crew and characters of Vanguard, much like the appearance of Picard in Deep Space Nine's pilot. This is the raw rookie Kirk, not yet the legend, and people don't kowtow to him (though he isn't above bullying his way in anyway).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Picardfan007 on July 28, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book reads just like the pilot set in the original series era. Only in this one the characters are more interesting then the ones in recent live TV trek. Why wasn't this the subject of a new TV series. It doesn't go on about the original series Kirk,Spock and McCoy. It has to do with the star ships stationed there and the task of keeping a starbase going. Unlike DS9, which took place with non federation worlds, this one has starfleet ships and starfleet officers in each direction. I'd like to see more of these because we need them. If TV Trek isn't coming back in 3 to 5 years, at least we can read about them in the Pocket books universe of Star Trek books...
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