Spoilers VAN: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Sho, Mar 3, 2012.

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Rate Harbinger.

  1. Outstanding

    34 vote(s)
    65.4%
  2. Above Average

    16 vote(s)
    30.8%
  3. Average

    2 vote(s)
    3.8%
  4. Below Average

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Poor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Hey,

    I feel like I've walked into a minefield in this thread but I should mention that I've heard about how Vanguard is one of the better of the Trek Expanded Universe books for many years now. My experience with the Novelverse is pretty spotty to be honest. I was always a fan of the New Frontier novels but I actually only started the novels with "Department of Temporal Investigations" and moved on to Christopher Bennett's other novels with the Destiny, Klingon Empire, and Typhon Pact novels coming next.

    So I'm starting Vanguard now a bit late to the pack. Indeed, I'm only starting it because I loved DISC: DESPERATE HOURS so much.

    Some early thoughts before I do an actual review-review but:

    1. I love the idea inherent to a Deep Space Nine-esque story set in TOS' era. That's just an idea of pure genius.

    2. The book felt a lot seedier than I expected and that's not a bad thing. It really did feel like a book taking place in the ass end of the galaxy.

    3. I love the character of T'Prynn even if her actions regarding the media were awful.

    4. I am both a bit back and forth on Pennington's adultery because I like the fact people do cheat on each other in the 23rd century as a nice little humanizing moment. However, his reactions did kind of feel a little overthetop in covering up their affair as it seems like the social recriminations he feared were far bigger than he'd feel today in the 21st century.

    Still, the actual feelings of the story were well-done.

    5. I've always been fond of the Tholians so making them the apparent villains (while something darker is behind them) was a good idea.

    6. I also like how Kirk is just genuinely disgusted about everything going on in the Vanguard project.

    7. Reyes seems like he'd be hell to be a boss for but I think he's probably good at getting the job done.
     
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  2. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2011
    Well, I've decided to pick up David Mack's VANGUARD series after reading STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: DESPERATE HOURS. I really liked his fusion of both the Original Series era with the 2017 CBS series, having only a few seams showing in the resulting stitching up of the two franchise sections. So, I was intigued by the possibilities of a series seemingly based on combining the premise of DS9 (a long-range space station on the frontier of Federation Space) with the time period of the Original Series. So, how did it work? Remarkably well, actually, and Star Trek: Discovery could take a number of lessons from David Mack on how to write "dark" Star Trek.

    Indeed, this is the darkest incarceration of Star Trek I can remember reading and it does so without the "Space Whale" elements of armies of cyborg zombies or scary dogmatic aliens who hate humans. Instead, what makes Vanguard dark and personal is the human stories (even for the aliens) which are going on. The space station Vanguard is a place where the humans of Roddenberry's enlightened future are nasty, meanspirited, lost, confused, and full of all too believable emotional trauma. The fact Kirk, Uhura, and Spock find the place deeply unpleasant during their short visit also nicely establishes it's not a revisionist take on the Federation but it's THIS SPECIFIC PLACE which is the Mos Eisley of their territory.

    Harbinger works essentially like an anthology of collected stories. We have Commodore Reyes, who is the fuming admiral who clearly hates his position on the Vanguard despite the fact he has convinced himself it's of vital Federation importance. We have T'Prynn, a Vulcan intelligence agent whose life was ruined by the culture which raised her. She's also a lesbian or bisexual character in literature which is still catching up for the show. Then there's my favorite character of Pennington, who is a crusading reporter in an adulterous affair that both seem like are things which shouldn't be needed in the 23rd century. The only character I really didn't warm to was Cervantes Quinn who seems a bit like a much-less competent Han Solo wandered into the Star Trek universe.

    The premise of the first book is Starfleet has constructed Vanguard to secure their position against Klingon and Tholian Space (or possibly something bigger). While sending out one of their ships, it gets destroyed by the Tholians and a government cover-up is enacted to prevent war with the former. Because if the Federation goes to war with the Tholians, they'll be easy pickings for the Klingons and vice versa. This ties into everyone else's story because Quinn stole the materials which the starship was replacing, Pennington is lovers with one of the dead crewmen, and Reyens is the architect of the cover-up with T'Prynn as his agent.

    I found T'Prynn the most interesting of the characters and enjoyable even though she seemed the most like a book character. I love the idea of a Vulcan who has just been utterly screwed over by her culture from birth until present. I also like the fact she's an amateur jazz piano player because that's just a character quirk which says so much about the character. Watching her handle Reyes' dirty work while maintaining her Vulcan stoicism worked well.

    I also very much like the dualistic cowardly and crusading elements of Pennington. In the 21st century, being exposed as an adulterer is bad but hardly life-destroying but he's terrified of it and goes to elaborate lengths to cover it up. He also is outraged by Starfleet's various actions and cover-ups but is less concerned about actually revealing the truth than the "Big Scoop." He's a mass of contradictions and I like the implications he's just a terrible selfish person in his marriage but an excellent journalist. Still, it makes you wonder what Orianna (his lover) ever saw in him.

    In conclusion, I really loved this book and will be picking up the other installments of the series. I like the handling of Starfleet and the Federation's politics in this time period. It's a little more off-beat and less utopian but not so much as to be unrecognizable.
     
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  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2004
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    Vanguard was amazing, it's one of my favorite book series, Trek or otherwise.
     
    Jedi Ben, Leto_II, Jinn and 1 other person like this.
  4. mthompson1701

    mthompson1701 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2001
    Location:
    Out there, thataway
    I bought Harbinger because I liked the cover. It took my three times reading it t get past chapter three, but once I did I was blown away. Great book, great book series. It helped me to become a TOS fan again.
     
    Idran, Leto_II and Charles Phipps like this.