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bok2384 March 26 2012 05:58 AM

VAN: Summon the Thunder by Ward & Dilmore Review Thread (Spoilers!)

With the kind permission of Sho, apologies for the rather large image but I don't know how to make it smaller, I'm putting up the third installment in the "retro review thread" and the second novel in the Star Trek: Vanguard series, Summon the Thunder by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.

Summon the Thunder was released in 2006 and continues on the story from Harbinger and sees the USS Lovell and its team of Starfleet Corps of Engineers (re)introduced into the series. The Lovell and her crew had previously been introduced in the SCE novel, Foundations, working with "Scotty" on several occasions, as well as Where Time Stands Still and Distant Early Warning.

Here is the official blurb from the Simon and Schuster website:


The Taurus Reach: a remote interstellar expanse that holds a very old and potentially cataclysmic secret, the truth of which is feared by the Tholians, coveted by the Klingons, and dubiously guarded by the Federation. At the center of this intrigue is Vanguard, a Federation starbase populated by an eclectic mix of Starfleet officers and civilians, whose lives are forever altered as they explore the layers of mystery surrounding the Reach and steadily peel them after another.
In the aftermath of Harbinger, Commodore Diego Reyes commands Vanguard while waging an intensely personal struggle, tasked to uncover the true significance of the Taurus Reach while simultaneously concealing that mission from his fellow officers -- and even his closest friends. As the Daedalus-class U.S.S. Lovell brings some of Starfleet's keenest technical minds to help, the U.S.S. Endeavour makes a find that could shed further light on the enigmatic meta-genome that has captured the Federation's interest -- if its crew survives the discovery....
Deep within the Taurus Reach, an ancient and powerful alien mind has awakened prematurely from aeons of hibernation, alerted to the upstart civilizations now daring to encroach upon the worlds in her care. With the stakes for all sides escalating rapidly, the alien lashes out with deadly force against the interlopers, propelling the Vanguard crew on a desperate race to understand the nature of the attacker, and to prevent the Taurus Reach from becoming a war zone.
You can also read an excerpt here:

Finally, a note about spoiler policy: This review thread is for a book that, at the time of posting, is several years old and which has several sequels. While discussing the book's events and merits in hindsight of those sequels is expected to be part of the appeal of the thread, please be mindful of readers who are reading the series for the first time (such as myself :)). Refer to facts from later installments obliquely if you can, and consider to surround critical information with spoiler tags. But don't strain yourself too much all the same - beware ye who enter here, of possible spoilers!

Sho March 26 2012 09:00 AM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
Good job :). I'll post my review soon ...

JD March 26 2012 08:19 PM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
I really enjoyed this one, lots of big developments for the series.

bok2384 March 26 2012 08:28 PM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
It seems I'm in the minority for voting the novel as average. :( For me it just didn't grip me in the way that other installments, especially those by Mack, did. Although I lapped up the scenes with Pennington, Quinn and the Zakdorn.

However, I'm starting to think that I have issues with Ward's writing. With this, In the Name of Honor and That Which Divides, I found my attention wandering, and I didn't even finish Paths of Disharmony.

Patrick O'Brien March 26 2012 09:32 PM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
I voted outstanding. Another great entry in the Vanguard saga:bolian:

Yevetha March 29 2012 12:51 AM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
I like it so far.

Sho April 21 2012 03:37 PM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
This review has been a long time coming as I finished Summon the Thunder several weeks ago already, sorry :). It also won't be as long as my Harbinger review, mostly because I find it a bit harder to pin down my thoughts about this one.

See, the thing is - it's not like I didn't like it. Indeed I liked many things about it, various individual scenes and character moments (and I'll mention some of them below). But the pacing's a bit off - especially the first half feels rather meandering - and so it didn't grip me in the same way that Harbinger managed to do thanks to its very economic structure of pivoting everything around the destruction of the Bombay in some way.

OTOH, at other times I found myself thinking that the very even, plodding sort of plot progression combined with a lot of jumping between the different, parallel story threads certainly made it feel appropriately broad and TV show-y (like watching a string of episodes of a serial drama), so I'm not sure it's really such a bad thing. Varying the tone of the books within the series a bit probably helps keep things fresh, too.

Now, in terms of strengths, one thing Thunder definitely did well at was making me much more interested in some of the characters I didn't connect with during Harbinger, especially Reyes. While Reyes continues to be difficult to peg in the end, in the first book it was mostly a lack of information that left him rather faceless, while Thunder made him into a fascinating, mercurial commanding officer who is equally tormented by demons and bristling with resolve. Seeming to lack a strong "Captain" character made me a bit uneasy about Vanguard in the beginning, but now Reyes might well be right up there.

I also liked the Endeavour bits quite a bit, especially Klisiewicz's POV chapter(s?) on the bridge and the mess hall scene with McCormack. And I found it oddly satisfying when the book made more of Khatami's self-doubt at her new command position than just the cliché of having everybody pat her on the back and reassure her: There are indeed those among the crew who would doubt and critizie her judgement, which is only natural, and made the situation feel that much more realistic.

Not enough Pennington for my tastes, but I'll live :p.

Those last few chapters certainly did pick up pace, though (plus I always appreciate more Jetanien), and make for an interesting lead-up to Reap the Whirlwind, a review thread for which I'm planning to open pretty soon.

Verdict: Average.

Thrawn April 23 2012 04:09 AM

Re: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder Review Thread
On re-reading, I have to agree. Re-reading Harbinger, despite knowing everything that happened, was still incredibly gripping. This just wasn't. Ward and Dilmore obviously made a strong effort at continuing all of the amazing things Mack set up in Harbinger, with sweeping plot developments and character arcs with a bit more meat to them than usual Trek fare, but weren't quite up to the task. The plot development is slow and the characters are just a little bit less sparklingly awesome.

I do think Ward does better in Open Secrets, and I haven't read What Judgments Come yet, so I can't comment on that. I'm fairly certain this will end up being the weakest Vanguard entry, though. Lots of good ideas and solid developments, but it just isn't written especially well. (Granted, I'm comparing to Mack, who's one of my absolute favorites, but still.)

Maybe 7/10?

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