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New Frontier (Star Trek New Frontier) Hardcover – February 1, 1998
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From the Publisher
Sector 221-G: For the whole of Federation history, this large area of space has been controlled by the Thallonians, a cruel, militaristic race of which little is knownexcept that they rule the other races in their sector with vicious iron hand. Now the Thallonian Empire has collapsed and the systems it once ruled are in chaos. Old hatreds are surfacing. Petty tyrants control deadly weapons. World after world is descending into disorder and self-destruction. The Federation must send a starship to help where it can and report what it finds. That ship is the U.S.S. Excalibur, a newly refit Ambassador-class starship commanded by Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and manned by Starfleet's best and brightest, including some old friends from Star Trek: The Next Generation and some of the most dynamic new characters ever to crew a Federation starship. Join Captain Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur as they explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is a single -voiced presentation with background sounds and music: phasers, explosions, clangs, and sometimes people, such as multi-voiced crowds or cries of pain. The music is vintage "Star Trek;" the story builds upon a "Next Generation" episode. It all fits into a nice package, and reader Joe Morton has the young man's voice that the main character calls for. However, he appears to believe that the essence of dramatic effect is to separately enunciate each word with distinct pauses in between, and he uses this device too often. "Star Trek" fans won't care. D.W. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story focuses on the crew of the USS Excalibur, an Ambassador class starship (the same class as the Enterprise-C). As such it is far from the latest or greatest ship in Starfleet. The ship is crewed by a mix of original characters and a few returning from minor roles in the TV series.
The star of the book is easily Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, an original character whose origins and command style differ sharply from any other captains in the series. In his youth Calhoun was from a primitive planet that had been conquered by an alien empire. He rose up and became the leader of a rebellion that freed his planet and then fueled by a vision joined Starfleet. He is impulsive and rough around the edges, willing to go toe to toe with anyone that challenges him. Honestly his character is a breath of fresh air when compared to the overly smug and stuffy characters who usually appear in Star Trek.
The story begins with the collapse of the Thallonian Empire. With the region plunging into chaos the Federation decides to send the USS Excalibur in to gather information and provide humanitarian assistance. In this first round of exploring they come across treachery and political intrigue as the Danteri, a member world of the Federation, starts trying to gain influence over the region.
Overall this compilation book has its ups and downs. The crew of the Excalibur are generally entertaining to read, although at times they seem to be running down the usual list of Star Trek clichés. With two vulcans on the crew we are treated to most of the usual jokes and cliches right off the bat. The security chief Zak Kebron feels almost cartoonish at times with him having the strength to manhandle men with ease, shrug off phaser hits, and hold his breath for over twenty minutes at a time.
Several old one episode TNG characters return in new positions and are a welcome sight. The one most fans will remember is Commander Shelby from "Best of Both Worlds" who is the Excalibur's first officer. Although in comparison, Edward Jellico from the TNG two parter "Chain of Command" is treated rather poorly. In the episode where he appeared he was a generally sociable and friendly person whose greatest sin was ruffling Riker's feathers. In this story however he is treated as a generally horrible person with multiple characters taking jabs at him. The most jarring moment for me came during the brief cameo of Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. Their portrayal felt extremely out of character, with them seeming almost bitter and hostile towards one another.
Perhaps the books biggest flaw is the pacing of the story. Despite being a compilation of four books, each individual book is rather short, with the total only coming in around 600 pages altogether. The first two books in this set are rather slow and uneventful, serving primarily to introduce the new cast and setting. The story doesn't start to pick up until the later half of the third book, with things finally kicking into full gear in the fourth book. If I had read these books individually I probably wouldn't have made it beyond the first book in the set.
Once things get going they are fun and entertaining, although the ending kind of came out of left field and didn't seem to serve much purpose at this point. The resolves enough of the current plot threads to make for a satisfying ending, while still leaving enough to let the series continue forward. Overall it is a decent start to an original spinoff.
Star Trek fiction existed before this massive multi-book series, existed in books by the hundreds in-fact, but it was continuity-less and insubstantial as a cloud to the greater universe. I hesitate to use the word licensed fan fiction, because some of it was really good, but that's how Paramount viewed it. Flattering, fun to read, but lacking in consistency and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
New Frontier changed that by providing a self-contained universe written entirely by Peter David, carrying the consequences from one story to the next. For over fifteen years, the adventures of Captain Calhoun have entertained fans of Star Trek and created a bedrock to let publishers know fans were willing to follow original characters into the void.
With the obliteration of planet Vulcan by Nero, the old universe now exists entirely within text (and in Star Trek Online) so the importance of Star Trek fiction can't be understated. So, what better way to celebrate my love of Star Trek fiction than to discuss the Star Trek: New Frontier universe with its first four volumes collected neatly into this omnibus.
So what do I have to say about this series, now that I've talked it up for about four paragraphs?
It is very-very silly.
No, seriously, that's what you should understand before you pick up this volume and read a word of it. Peter David is a comic book writer, one of my favorite if not my favorite, and I mean that in both tenses of the word. The adventures of Captain Calhoun and his wacky crew trump the Original Series in terms of ridiculousness, are often prone to comedy skits, and include a race of Ewok-shaped evil wizards. If the idea of a planet-sized egg for a being not-too-dissimilar to the Phoenix from the X-men comics offends you, this may not be the series for you.
The strange thing is, New Frontier is still capable of generating drama and pathos despite its occasional verges into utter insanity. I care about the characters of the U.S.S. Excalibur more than I care about a lot of fictional characters. The death of billions during the Star Trek Destiny series affected me less than than the loss of some crew members here. This is definitely a book series where your mileage may vary but I recommend checking them out just in case.
Now that I've discussed the series as a whole to death, I'll mention the omnibus itself. The premise for New Frontier is brilliance in itself and I've replicated it a dozen times for my tabletop Star Trek games. A big Romulan Empire-sized territory called the Thallonian Empire has collapsed, leaving dozens of star systems anarchic and without leadership.
The Federation, fearing a humanitarian crisis on an epic scale, sends a lone starship into the chaos to patch things up. It is captained by the second most renegade/rules-ignoring Captain in Starfleet history (the most being Chris Pine's Captain Kirk).
Captain Mackenzie Calhoun is a former planetary warlord who joined Starfleet after liberating his planet from oppressive alien rule. He's also spent the past six years on undercover assignments for Admiral Nechayev, doing the sorts of things Section 31 would do if it had been invented yet out-of-universe.
His crew is a similar collection of misfits including straight woman Shelby from "The Best of Both Worlds", Robin Lefler (Wesley's girlfriend played by Ashley Judd), a hermaphrodite alien engineer, one-off TNG character Selar, an exiled alien dictator, and the cast from Peter David's Starfleet Academy books. It's not the sort of cast which immediately excites you but the way they interact is delightful. Assuming, you know, you throw out all sense that Starfleet has any discipline whatsoever.
The first four books aren't perfect. I'm not too fond of the way that Shelby conducts herself around Calhoun, I think Burgoyne (the hermaphrodite engineer) treats Selar in a manner dangerously close to sexual harassment, and the best moments for our captain are usually when his brother is humiliating him. Despite this, the humor and sense of adventure is nearly beyond compare in the EU. Check them out, I suspect you'll find them well worth it.
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Nice links with "known"Star Trek characters and introducing some new.Read more