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Star Trek: Vanguard: Precipice Mass Market Paperback – November 24, 2009
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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.
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Readers who are invested in the Vanguard series (and I know I'm way behind in reading this series) have little choice but to pick up "Precipice," but be warned that David Mack and whatever editors ran their fingers through this manuscript basically mailed it in.
A few examples: there's a scene where one main character, a human, is talking to another main character, a non-human, and says, "so basically it's a dog chasing a car?" This novel is set in 2287, and the alien character doesn't say a thing. It's a ridiculous piece of dialogue, but then again, every human and non-human character in "Precipice" is basically a 2005 human -- same mannerisms, same dialogue. Even the Tholians, about as alien a species as Star Trek has ever dreamed up, are pretty much humans in high-pressure suits -- the complex, wildly alien Tholians in the previous books have become as one-dimensional as Quinn, Pennington, and T'prynn.
Another example: the main characters find themselves on a planet with humanoids who have just one complex eye. Now, this is a novel, and Mack could have been as imaginative as he wanted with this race, but instead he was imaginative as ... David Mack. Meaning not very imaginative at all. Same gravity, aliens serving dinner on a dining room table, the human characters pulling up a chair, the aliens reciting a long dialogue about climate change. They're basically exactly like 2005 humans, except for the one eye. Lazy, lazy, lazy, David Mack.
Now, if Mack chooses to portray every single character as an early 21st century human, only surrounded by 23rd century tech, he can. But overall, he does the Star Trek universe no favors by not pushing creatively. And this is a Vanguard book that moves very slowly for all the actioin it contains. Frankly, the novel could have been 30 pages shorter if Mack et al had eliminated describing every human female by her hair color and dropping every instance of characters drinking or thinking about coffee.
I'm reading this only to get to book 6. I'm skimming at this point. And if I hadn't already bought books 6-8, plus the inevitable tacked-on ebook to finish an already finished series, I'd have given up by now.
I used to like David Mack books in the Trek universe. But he's become another Greg Cox -- a writer who's constantly waving their hands so the reader will notice how clever they are. Once I got to this line in the book -- "Zett's dead, baby. Zett's dead" -- a tweak of a Pulp Fiction line that the character (in 2287!) seems to know is a line from a 1994 movie -- I knew that I was done buying future David Mack novels.
PRECIPICE has other surprises in store, including the not-dead-yet status of a character previously thought lost in space. It also features several secondary stories, including a determined effort by Councillor Gorkon--who we've seen on screen in "Star Trek VI" as Chancellor Gorkon--to find a path to peace; a new Ming Xiong discovery about artifacts associated with the Shedai; a dogged Starfleet criminal investigation that reveals ties between the Orions and the Klingons; and a new romance for JAG lawyer Rana Desai.
Nothing really grand happens in PRECIPICE, but that's OK. The novel is filled with enough action, intrigue, humor, and unexpected twists to make it an enjoyable read and a definite improvement on its tedious predecessor, OPEN SECRETS. It advances the Operation Vanguard story arc just a little, meaning that there are likely to be several more novels in the series, but few readers who've read this far into the series will be disappointed.
P.S. The VANGUARD authors have been dropping hints about the advent of the Organian Peace Treaty, which was forced on the Federation and the Klingons on Stardate 3198.4, shortly before the conclusion of PRECIPICE. While it's nice that the Trek gods thought to incorporate this important event into the VANGUARD story, they really don't do anything much with it, which is disappointing.
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