Okay...I JUST FINISHED....and I have two words: HOLY CRAP!!!!!!
WOW! There's going to be another one of my reviews, and yes, I plan on giving the book the same treatment I gave Gods of Night. But, simply put.... not only has Dave's writing matured, like I mentioned in the last review, but he kept his trademarks alive and well in this book..... I have smiles all over my face.
Just a few points: (YES, SPOILERS BEWARE!!!!!!)
1. Loved seeing Garak again. Interesting that there's a female castellan in charge of Cardassia now. I guess something to look forward to in the years ahead in DS9 literature.
2. Seven's endgame solution that got scoffed.... did NOT see that one coming, but in the sense of the situation, it made the most sense. I liked how all those in the halls of power scoffed at the idea of using it, but in the end, Seven was RIGHT.
3. What a great cliffhanger!!!! And, I say that on several fronts.... Troi/Ree, Riker,Hernandez and Titan, Picard and Ezri..... Lost Souls is going to be fantastic.
For those who moan excessively still about the Borg.... I want you all to consider something: Dave Mack's done something in his narrative that I cannot remember reading since I read The Lord Of The Rings, and he pulled it off very well. In The Lord Of The Rings, the whole story is centered on The War of the Ring and the Dark Lord Sauron, and the impending evil that broods behind Mordor, waiting to be unleashed. However, we barely see Sauron in the book or in the movie, yet his presence is always there. Dave's done the same with the Borg. You know they're there, and you know they're coming, but it doesn't consist of every scene dealing with the Borg. We saw politics, character dramas, freakin' Hirogen (tres cool), and for me, the gem of the story was the ongoing story with Hernandez and the role that story plays in the overall narrative. In short: AMAZING!!!!!
Like I said, review's forthcoming, but I just couldn't contain my excitement. Dave, great job. AGAIN!
Well, without further ado, here is my review of "Mere Mortals"....
STAR TREK DESTINY: BOOK TWO – MERE MORTALS
WRITTEN BY DAVID MACK
REVIEWED BY JEREMY WOOLWARD
One month after reviewing David Mack’s first outing in the Destiny
trilogy, Gods of Night
, I have returned to review the second instalment, Mere Mortals
. Given the attention I gave the first novel, the expectations are high that I deliver a quality review to this title as well. I can say that I will do my best, because, I found Mere Mortals
to be just another example of why David’s done a fantastic job contributing to the Star Trek
literary universe. Mere Mortals
has it all: action, suspense, character drama, romantic moments, and another huge cliffhanger at the end that keeps us all in suspense for the final instalment, Lost Souls
. So, let us begin to dig
As in Gods of Night
, Mere Mortals
follows several distinct storylines: that of Captain Picard, Captain Dax, Captain Riker, and Captain Hernandez. However, in this outing, there are few additions to make: the story also features Christine Vale’s away team, Melora Pazlar and Commander Ra-Havreii and the return of Nanietta Bacco as the President of the United Federation of Planets. (Besides her cameo in Gods of
Night) You would think with all these storylines in place, one would get lost, but it’s not the case in Mortals
. Each story is paced appropriately so that you never get tired of one, or get confused as to what’s really going on. As well, the ending of Gods of Night
set up the Picard and Dax storyline in that their stories are fused together and become one.
For Dax and Picard, the premise again is simple: the Enterprise
is in the Azure Nebula and has come under attack by a Borg cube intent on their annihilation. Captain Dax and the Aventine
, having taken one of the subspace tunnels from the Gamma Quadrant where they were investigating the wreck of the Columbia
, end up coming to aid the Enterprise
in its time of need. Curious and relieved at Dax’s arrival, Picard determines that there must be away to collapse these tunnels as he feels they’re related to the Borg incursions. They proceed along this front until they find it unfeasible, and then decide to hunt down the Borg and force the front line away
from the Federation. However, two ships are unable to do it alone, so Picard request reinforcements to accomplish this. (This particular aspect of this narrative falls under the Bacco storyline, so I’ll discuss it more there) Upon getting his reinforcements, the Aventine
and the Enterprise
begin to play a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette and try to figure out where the Borg are coming from. Most turn out to be empty leads, but two draw attention: in one, Picard finds stars enveloped in shells, and although attempts to communicate fail, Worf’s suspicious that a civilization that
advanced may be dangerous in contacting. (I also speculate that this discovery will have a resolution in Lost Souls
) The second, Picard hears the taunting of the Borg Queen, but soon finds themselves under attack. They’re not attacked by the Borg, but rather, a Hirogen hunting party. (Yeah, didn’t see THAT coming did you???) The Hirogen prove to be ruthless in their assault, using energy dampeners to further their attack until having them neutralized. Although victorious, the Hirogen attack leaves both ships crippled, and only through a quick thinking solution by T’Ryssa Chen are both ships able to return to the Azure Nebula through the tunnel, but not before someone fires soliton bursts with the intent to destroy the tunnels. The ships escape, but realize that they escaped certain death and destruction as they return to see that the fleet that Picard had requested destroyed by the Borg. Worf learns that there were over seven thousand
Cubes that had emerged from one of the tunnels, and that there were enough in Federation and Allied space to completely annihilate all the inhabited worlds of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. In desperation, Dax tells Picard that the Aventine
is going after the Borg Queen and taking her out. Picard wonders how she’ll keep up, and Dax reminds him that the Aventine
is equipped with a prototype quantum slipstream drive. Chiding him to keep up, Dax takes off. Picard, pausing to consider his options, orders the Enterprise
to take up the chase as well.
On the good ship Titan
, Riker and his crew that stayed on the ship while the away team went to New Erigol essentially play the role that the crew onboard Columbia
did in Gods of Night
. Limited in their options, Riker focuses his attention on understanding why
they’re stranded, and how
to escape, especially after their attempt to break free of the Caeliar fails miserably. Whereas Riker played a prominent role in the first book, the Titan
story (at least, this part of it) is driven by Melora Pazlar and Xin Ra-Havreii. Concerned that her confinement to the stellar cartography lab will do more harm to her than good, Counselor Hulian attempts to drive the issue to Melora, who rebuffs him. Later, Hulian confronts Ra-Havreii and forces him to think about why he built Melora the modified lab where she could move freely about in her limited gravity environment. Xin insists he did it for Melora, but Hulian suggests he’s done it for himself, and suggests he did it to absolve his conscience about the accident on the U.S.S Luna
, the motivator for Xin to accept the posting on Titan
. Before talking to Melora about it, Xin finds the patterns in the behaviour of the pulses that emanate from New Erigol. He discovers that they’re soliton based, and Riker insists on finding a way to use that to their advantage. They’re able to tap into the soliton pulses, and Riker learns to his horror the massacre at the Azure Nebula. Wanting a real-time feed, they learn there’s none to be had. As they wonder why, Erika Hernandez appears on the bridge of the ship, and informs Riker of what happened: the Caeliar destroyed the subspace tunnels that existed in the Azure Nebula, and are going to shut down their surveillance wormhole. Erika insists she can take Riker to the Azure Nebula, but they’d have to leave immediately. Torn between his duty to Starfleet and his responsibility to Deanna who was still on the surface, Riker tells Hernandez to take them home.
On New Erigol, the Titan
away team learn about the reclusive Caeliar, and struggle with the idea that they’re restrictive guests. During their reconnaissance missions, the away team learns of the nature of the Caeliar: they’re synthetic life. For them, their lives continue as it had before their change, yet they’re devoid of the functions that limit organic life. It allows them to manipulate matter, and do the things that the away team witness. Vale, Tuvok and Keru suggest to move with caution, and as the leader of the away team, the call is up to Vale, and she follows protocol to the letter, causing tension with Deanna Troi, who attempts to make a bond with Hernandez. Deanna learns that despite Erika’s change at the hands of the Caeliar, she’s just as much a prisoner as they are. As time passes, not only does Troi’s condition deteriorate as a result of the doomed pregnancy, but her patience deteriorates as well with trying to win Hernandez over, especially when Erika suggests they just accept the fact that they’re going to be here forever. Not accepting that, especially in light of the Borg conflict back home, Deanna tells Hernandez of why
they came to New Erigol in the first place, and informs her of the threat to Earth. Troi senses Erika’s emotions wrestling with each other, and hopes she’s made a difference. Nevertheless, she doesn’t have much time to think about it as her physical condition deteriorates, which forces Doctor Ree to operate, but Deanna refuses treatment, citing she wants to be on the Titan
and to have her husband at her side, and that since Ree would need the Caeliar’s help, she refuses because she knows she’ll end up as one of them. Deanna’s unstable condition coupled with her volatile emotions leaves Ree no other choice but to take matters into his own hands as he pounces and pins Deanna to the ground. Then, as the away team watches in sheer horror, Ree plunges his fangs into Deanna’s chest to end it.
As for Erika Hernandez, her story takes up the longest amount of time, for it essentially begins in 1519, and ends with her on Titan
as Riker decides to let her send his ship home. At the end of Gods of Night
, Erika, Veronica Fletcher, Johanna Metzger and Sidra Valerian are the remaining officers of the Columbia
left on Axion after the MACO rebellion forced the Caeliar cities to abandon Erigol. Adrift in deep space, hundreds of years out of time, the Caeliar become even more reclusive while trying to find a new home, and to continue plans on their ‘Great Work’. Frustrated at what’s happened to them, the Columbia
officers attempt to make the best of it, but they soon learn that the sacrifices required to make the best of it are just too much for them, especially after Hernandez introduces her crew to the holographic constructs the Caeliar have prepared for them. The view of an ocean and the ability to interact with the simulation pleaes Valerian, but frustrates Metzger and Fletcher. Metzger is the first to go and commits suicide. Valerian, already muted from the trauma that had been imposed of them, is the next. Erika consults with Inyx, their primary contact with the Caeliar, and slows down Sidra’s pain, hoping to ease it. However, a last minute change of heart on Hernandez’ part blows up in their faces as an attempt to restore Sidra fails, and she dies in pain and becomes nothing more than dust. Fletcher and Hernandez become isolated and distant, with Fletcher blaming Erika for what happened. Eventually, the two reconcile, but Fletcher confides to Erika that she may very well be dying, which she is. Fletcher manages to hold out until the Caeliar come to New Erigol and begin to make it their home. The Caeliar build the two humans a house on the planet, and it’s there where Veronica Fletcher passes away. Left alone and near death herself, Erika decides to end it all herself, and attempts suicide. However, she’s rescued by Inyx, who has restored her enough to grant her an option: to die, or not to die. Inyx proposes a solution that would essentially let Hernandez live, but it would make her one of the Caeliar. Hernandez considers the irony of the situation, and decides to go along with it with no resistance. At the end, she realizes that Inyx’s given her a great gift, but that gift came with a huge price: Erika would forever be condemned to Axion as her life was being sustained by the energy that governed the city. The years pass, and Hernandez learns more about the Caeliar’s Great Work, and decides that imprisonment is not her best option: she wants to be free. As time moves forward, Hernandez carefully devises her plan, learning more about the Caeliar’s technology and how to use it to her end. After witnessing the destruction of Old Erigol, Hernandez manages to take a peak at Earth, and see what’s happened to it since her departure, and learns about the Federation and the fate of Jonathan Archer. She muses about a hero’s rescue, but she’s soon discovered by the Caeliar authorities, and is placed in Inyx’s care as he’s burdened to be held accountable for her actions. Still determined to be free, Hernandez continues until Inyx pleads with her not to, admitting to her that the Quorum had threatened to handle her themselves if she continued to resist, and Inyx also tells her that he cares for her. Hernandez realizes she cares for him too, and finally surrenders her will to protect Inyx shortly before Titan
’s arrival. Her experiences with the Titan
crew were awkward and uneasy, knowing that she was now the ‘jailer’, but Deanna’s comments about Earth changed all of that. She saw the Azure Nebula, and saw what the connection was there, and stunned beyond all belief at what she had witnessed. Furthermore, things get complicated when the Quorum decides to shut down the subspace tunnels, citing fear that they’d be misused. The Caeliar fire the soliton bursts at the tunnels, essentially collapsing them. This leaves Hernandez with one choice: to take matters into her own hands, knowing what that would cost her in the end.
But there’s even MORE: on Earth, another drama’s unfolding: upon hearing Picard’s request for reinforcements at the Azure Nebula, the task of assigning those ships to aid him falls on the lap of Nanietta Bacco, who must work to gather friend and foe, and get them to cooperate. Some are easier to get than others, but she is successful. However, that support did come at a price, and in the case of the Cardassians, it cost the Federation several planets along the border, something that the Cardassian Ambassdor to the Federation, Elim Garak, suggests might draw the suspicion of the new female Cardassian castellan. Bacco assures Garak her interests are benign, and he takes her at her word. Eventually, Bacco’s gathered all to her cause except for the Tholians, who insist on holding a grudge, citing the events of the Taurus Reach as to why the Tholians would refuse to cooperate with the Federation. When the news of the destruction of the armada hits Earth, Bacco’s taken aback, not sure how to react. She ponders the immediate future, and realizes that she may be the Federation President that presides over the annihilation of civilized life as one knew it.
While Bacco’s working on the diplomatic front, her new adviser, Seven of Nine, is working on the tactical front. Assembled with some of the President’s cabinet and some of Starfleet’s top brass, Seven provides feedback on the recent Borg attacks, which are met my scoffs and ignorance. As Starfleet debates the limited usage of the transphasic torpedo, Seven assures them all that conventional weapons would do nothing against the Borg, and that eventually the Borg would assimilate the transphasic torpedo and then Starfleet’s ace in the hole would be come useless: their only hope lied in building the thalaron weapons that the Remans gave Shinzon during his ascendancy to power in the Romulan Senate. Disgusted with the process, Seven leaves, but not without providing a demonstration of what the Borg would NOT do: let go as she strangled Admiral Jellico in the briefing room. To another audience, Seven suggests a mass evacuation of the Federation, which is also dismissed. Later, as the news of the invasion and the subspace tunnels comes in, Seven laments that without an open tunnel, there is no way to escape. The Borg are not only coming; they’re already here
, and there’s nowhere left to run.
The only small narrative left is that of the U.S.S Voyager
, who was among the first to respond to Picard’s call to arms. Captain Chakotay, embittered after the death of Kathryn Janeway, laments why he’s not the one calling the shots in this armada, citing in his head that they’re the crew that’s most experienced against the Borg. He also confers with Tom Paris, his XO, about how he’s holding up, considering that only four days earlier, Tom received the news about his father’s death. Stalwart and strong, Paris trudges on, but little do they know the horror that awaits them. Harry Kim calls them to the bridge as the one subspace tunnel that the armada could not open decides to open, and then the Borg emerge. Chakotay orders all ships to fire, but it is to no avail. Upon the return of the Enterprise
and the Aventine
is one of the few ships left in the entire fleet. Picard hails them, and Chakotay answers, but could barely make a coherent sentence. Picard beams emergency crews over to the ship to help stabilize it, but little’s known about the fate of Chakotay’s crew...for now....