Where I Re-Read NEW FRONTIER by Peter David

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Charles Phipps, Oct 4, 2021.

  1. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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  2. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    A very funny point then and conceded.
     
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  3. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    At least Shelby can be broad strokes recognized. Lefler really does feel “in name only.” Even the position she has on Excalibur doesn’t line up - she was an engineer in TNG, and then becomes Operations officer? Like, yeah, theoretically it’s not a long jump, especially given the five, six years between Darmok/The Game and First Contact (as NF begins somewhere after First Contact), but combine it with the fact that Lefler’s overall position in the plot ends up being “has a crush on Si Cwan,” it just makes it seem like Lefler might as well have been an original character for all that she has in common with the character on screen.
     
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  4. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I definitely agree. I feel like that is both a truism as well as something that is also somewhat inevitable, though.

    PD decided to make the "canon" characters his own and flesh them out in various ways far beyond the depictions we see onscreen but that runs the risk of making them unrecognizable. The thing is that I think Peter David's writing is enough to have made them a likeable enough crew without the connection to the main series.

    Still, I don't begrudge him feeling like adding these characters was a treat to fans and he did check ahead of time to see if he could have a free hand with them from now on.
     
  5. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which is why he was irritated about the Shelby reference in "You Are Cordially Invited."
     
  6. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, she also showed up on Lower Decks recently.
     
  7. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Spin Off

    The Captain's Table: Once Burned review


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    ONCE BURNED is the best Star Trek novel I have ever read. It's interesting because I never picked this up despite STAR TREK: NEW FRONTIER being my all-time favorite book series alongside the Dresden Files and Mercy Thompson. I think it's because it was not part of the main series that I never really felt the need to read outside of it. I now am kicking myself because it is a story that is dark, brooding, fascinating, and really integral to understanding the character of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun.

    This is a genuine tragedy and that's something that Starfleet rarely deals with. The vast majority of occassions result in our heroes rising to the occassion or pulling off a miracle. The few occassions that they don't do so are rare but potent. They are also some of the most memorable in the series. Stories where the protagonists don't necessarily accomplish anything of note like "City on the Edge of Forever", "A Private Little War", "The Defector", "Half a Life", and the underrated "Hippocratic Oath."

    The premise is Mackenzie Calhoun as the first officer of the U.S.S Grissom where his commanding officer is hosting his brother and daughter on a peace negotiation. Things go disastrously, terribly wrong and it is strung out over a very long period. I think Peter David's best writing here is that Captain Kenyon makes reasonable points for 90% of his actions and I actually agree with most of them.

    There's a vicious, "evil", group of hostile aliens called the Dufaux who have murdered peace envoys. They're dangerous and hostile to a neighboring power, the Carvanga, that wants to join the Federation. Arming the latter for a defensive war and also perhaps even suggesting a mutual defense treaty (or expediting their admission to the Federation) seems reasonable.

    This isn't a Prime Directive issue because it's not internal politics. It's a matter of a hostile power invading another that needs help. Plenty of people would argue it's not the Federation's fight but my formative years were with the first Iraq War that ended up liberating Kuwait. Inaction is also its own choice after all. Of course, it's never that simple after all and even defensive actions are likely to have dramatic repercussions. It also seems more "reasonable" than the Federation is known to be in these situations.

    Like a avalanche gaining steam, we get to see how things gradually explode and end tragically. No one acts out of character and I found all of the actions extremely believable. I also salute Peter David for the fact that he doesn't attempt to make Kradius, the Dufaux dictator, sympathetic. No, he's a monstrous narcissist right to the very end. I also appreciated the relationship between Kat Mueller and Mac that was refreshingly un-romantic and, ironically, far more mature as well as believable because of it.

    This is one of those stories that I say is not just a good Star Trek novel but a good novel period. It doesn't require anything egregious techno-babble wise or weird cosmic events but just people acting out to believable human emotions. It could only take place in the Trekverse because no one else would think the captain was rationale after having such a personal loss and good to go or trust the Federation is acting unusually pragmatic (maybe in the Vanguard novels). But it is excellent military science fiction because of its applicability. Up there with my favorite of the Trek movies: The Undiscovered Country.

    If I do have any complaints about this novel, it's the fact that I don't think the Captain's Table conceit is really necessary. While I don't think a equivalent of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is a particularly weird concept by Trek standards to insert in the universe, this could have easily been part of the main series and arguably should have been. Certainly, it makes a lot of Mac's history make more sense even if I think Jellico is grossly overreacting.

    Ooo, the gut punches of this one.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
  8. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I added an index to the first post and will probably do so with the Stargazer thread for ease of navigation.
     
  9. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Yeah. Don’t have anything to add to that review. Once Burned is REAL good.
     
  10. Corran Horn

    Corran Horn Vice Admiral Admiral

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  11. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    I think my favorite moment is the insane luck of Mac keeps coming through like when he decides to execute the baddie to save his friend's soul, only to find out the guy had a phaser so it looked like self-defense. Mac is truly protected by the author/destiny and that is something he's vaguely aware of and disturbed by.
     
  12. GaryH

    GaryH Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I loved Morgan Primus. Great character and I was genuinely moved by her ultimate fate.
     
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  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Spin off

    Double Helix: Double or Nothing

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    I'm a huge fan of the NEW FRONTIER books by Peter David but I admit that I didn't spend much time reading the spin-offs of them due to the fact that I felt I would be lost due to not reading the rest of the series. Still, I'm in a Star Trek-y sort of mode for writing my own space opera saga and decided to complete my re-read of the New Frontier books. First, I read the excellent ONCE BURNED and now I am reading this tie-in to the Double Helix books that deal with viruses ravaging the Federation. Which is silly! No modern 1st World Nation has anything to fear from disease anymore! *weep*

    Here, Double or Nothing is a marked contrast to Once Burned and basically can be summarized as a James Bond movie for half the book. MacKenzie Calhoun plays the role of Bond, stopping an evil arms dealer in the opening credit and bedding the beautiful Orion girl that is uncomfortably threatened with human trafficking and rape--not really subjects I'm used to in my Star Trek. I mean, Deep Space Nine does but that was handled with more seriousness than the goofy spy adventure here.

    Indeed, the James Bond feel of the book is about 75% of the book with an insane military commander who wants to rebuild the Soviet Union, err, Thallonian Empire, and plans to destroy the Federation with a weapon that will wipe out trillions! I mean, we're in full Roger Moore territory here. There's even a revelation that he knows our protagonists' true identities but is keeping them around to make a suitably dramatic reveal that they have fallen into his clutches. Mwhahaha. Even the title sounds like an adventure of 007.



    The thing is, that's not a criticism. I like James Bond. Literally, it's probably my favorite franchise after Star Wars and Star Trek. Indeed, if you were to go over the 30 books I've written then about six or seven of them can be described as "science fiction James Bond" or "urban fantasy James Bond." I can hardly begrudge Peter David for making his Romulan ale, shaken not stirred. Still, it does tonally clash a bit as I rarely think of Star Trek villain as mindlessly evil megalomaniacs with doomsday plots. It's not peanut butter and anchovies but it is a bit like peanut butter and honey. Not terrible but a bit odd to taste.

    Ironically, I much preferred Rikers' 25% of the view where he becomes the captain of the Excalibur for a week or so and does an absolutely [bleep] job. It's a bit like him becoming captain of the Orville as the sheer weirdness and quirkiness of the crew drive him to insanity. The thing is that it is the captain's job to work with the crew he's given and the fact he can't is perhaps the first time I agree that Riker is not ready for the big chair. I really liked his and Shelby's conversations as the latter's bitterness and the former's irrational hatred of her are an interesting dynamic. Still, I feel like it deserved its own book and Riker vs. Sela is something that should have been a bigger deal.

    I think I might have preferred a book where Riker realizes that the Enterprise is a ship where everything is a bit easier and he has to learn to bend instead of breaking. Also, that he needs to learn to accommodate crews that do have "quirkier" elements to them. I actually note that Riker tended to be a hard[bleep] to crew members outside his circle of friends (TNG: Lower Decks, Ensign Ro, Barclay) and don't think he would have hesitated to throw his weight around the Excalibur if he felt he wasn't getting their all. There's still some great moments like Riker mistaking Janos for a rampaging animal and Soleta showing her increasing Romulan side. I wouldn't be surprised if mind-melding with Sela helped her make some later decisions.

    Overall, a good book but I don't think it reached its full potential.
     
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  14. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If anything, I think that Double or Nothing shows that the series really is something of the oddball area in the modern (well, turn of the millennium, but you know what I mean) Trek era. Though I honestly kinda get a "Frank Grimes-esque" approach to the Riker in command story, where he's come in as someone who is moderately down to earth entering a wild and wacky world. It's... Well, it's like dropping a person into a comic book and expecting them to just roll with that reality.

    Like it really brings into focus the wackiness of the Excalibur crew in relation to the rest of the Star Trek universe. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does play less (to me, at least) like a "the Excalibur is the outlier of the traditional Starfleet crew" and more of a "Riker is uptight and needs to loosen up" story, which... I don't necessarily agree with.

    Though point for acknowledging the Shelby side of things - like we brought up earlier, Shelby's character is one of those that seemed a little twisted into the form Peter David wanted from her, and this novel gives her the chance to explore that fact, even justify why, despite showing her as hungry for a promotion in Best of Both Worlds, is still just a Commander some six years later, seeing that she is reactive to the command style of her superior, and that may well be why she hadn't gotten eligible for a fourth pip.

    Also, bitter humor moment I'm noting because of the Double Helix branding of this one, I have my Trek books arranged in a roughly forward progressing timeline - so going like Enterprise, Kirk's five year mission, the TOS movies, the Lost Era, then straight TNG for five seasons then sprinkling in the DS9 and then Voyager novels - and right as the quarantine and lockdown orders started coming down, I'd reached one of the Double Helix novels (specifically, Vectors).
     
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  15. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Was Double of Nothing the one where the baddie's secret hideout was a FREAKING DYSON SPHERE??

    That was the day Peter David was forever branded as a sci-fi writer with no sense of scale:lol:
     
  16. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Yes, but I don't see the issue. I mean, there's one just lying there that Scotty found. I'm honestly surprised we don't see more superstructures in Trek but I suppose there's no need with all the millions of M-class planets that look like Vasquez Rocks lying around.

    :)
     
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  17. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Book 8

    Dark Allies

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    Synopsis: Many years ago, a bizarre alien lifeform known as the Black Mass consumed and destroyed an entire solar system in what was then the Thallonion Empire. Now the Black Mass has returned and its target is Tulan IV, homeworld of the fearsome Redeemers. Faced with near-certain destruction the Overlord of the Redeemers is forced to turn to an unlikely ally: Captain Calhoun and the Starship Excalibur.

    Busy coping with the return of his rebellious son, Calhoun is none too eager to come to the aid of his despotic enemy, but when innocent lives are threatened he has no choice but to confront the unstoppable Black Mass. But how can one starship turn back a force capable of consuming entire suns?


    Dark Allies is another great book in the Star Trek: New Frontier series. I've mentioned this is my favorite series in the Star Trek novelverse and it's up there with my favorite series of books all round. The books are funny, adventurous, entertaining, moving, serious, and ridiculous all in one. The premise of the books is the U.S.S Excalibur, led by eccentric military genius Mackenzie Calhoun, and populated by a band of misfits has been sent into the former Thallonian Empire on a mission of peace. Accompanied by the former Prince of Thallonia, Si Cwan, they have run into numerous races who want to tear the region apart as well as those who want to exploit the former empire's resources. Oh and a gigantic flaming space bird that hatched out of a planet.

    It's that kind of series.

    Dark Allies follows Captain Calhoun being approached by the dangerous religious cult, the Redeemers, which have waged a genocidal war of conversion across the Thallonian Sector. Apparently, a kind of monstrous space-blob called the Black Mass is threatening the Redeemer's homeworld. The Redeemers, having no idea how to defeat it, believe their worst enemy might have a better shot. Captain Calhoun is not persuaded by simple humanitarian concerns so the Redeemer's Overlord also takes an innocent planet hostage. Wonderful guys.

    The soap opera elements of the series, which I love almost as much as the adventure, are in full form as well. Captain Calhoun has reunited with his estranged Han Solo-esque son, Xyon, who is also courting Princess Kalinda of the Thallonian Empire. It's a match which infuriates her brother but Si Cwan doesn't have a planet anymore so he has little room to complain. Xyon isn't quite sure of his willingness to settle down even for a girl he's fallen in love with. Even Captain Calhoun and Shelby's relationship is on the rocks as they run into a position where they have to choose their careers or each other. Fun stuff.

    I complained about the previous volume having too much focus on side-characters as well as a lack of space action for, well, a Star Trek novel. This one picks up the pace a great deal and has a lot of focus on our main characters. We get more insight into Captain Calhoun, Shelby, and what kind of forces drive them both. This is in addition to picking up the plots from the previous volume. Despite being, basically, two teenagers in love, I also found myself warming to Kalinda and Xyon's relationship. Watching Si Cwan try to sabotage their relationship using reverse psychology irritated the hell out of me, because teenagers are stupid enough to fall for that sort of thing.

    The Redeemers are somewhat silly villains, which is part of their charm but they're hard to take seriously even though they threaten billions of lives. Basically, if you want to imagine them then you should start with Ewok Sith Lords. If that causes you to pause then you have roughly the same reaction many people have to their race in-universe. The Black Mass, by contrast, is a perfectly serviceable Star Trek monster and while Captain Picard would have tried to save it, I'm quite glad Captain Calhoun is not so sentimental.

    I should note that Peter David actually does a bit of excellent religious satire here that, sadly, is not even parody. The Redeemers are the worshipers of a pacifist good god named Xant that they are actively evil and monstrous toward in hopes of bringing him back sooner. This sounds insane and stupid, which it is, but I also live in an area where I know some fundamentalists argue we should destroy all the resources of Earth in a polluting frenzy so Jesus will come back sooner.

    While she only plays a small role in the book, I'm also fond of the character Kat Mueller who is the XO of the Excalibur. Peter David spotted a rather glaring plot hole in the Star Trek series which is, "Wait, who is in charge of the ship when everyone else is asleep" and added a night shift. Kat is a wonderful character, more or less what you'd get if you combined Ronda Rousey with Misato Katsuragi and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. Note: I initially assumed she was introduced in this book when she was actually a product of ONCE BURNED.

    This is a fun book like the majority of the Star Trek: New Frontier series and should be picked up by fans who already love it. I also love the ending of the book. Now THAT is how you do a cliffhanger.
     
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  18. Csalem

    Csalem Commodore Commodore

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    I remember reading all of Double Helix because I was working my way through New Frontier at the time and didn't want to skip a book in the series. Was my first taste of where the novels could cross-over with each other, before the litverse came into being post-DS9.

    Dark Allies does represent a turning point in the series. I remember waiting for the following books to come out to resolve the cliff-hanger and the excitement of when S&S put the first chapter of the next book on their website and I printed it off so I could read it. (No smart phones back then and using dial-up internet).
     
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  19. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Both books have important plot points that notably didn't get resolved in the main series. ONCE BURNED while mostly filling in backstory as to why Jellico hates Calhoun and how he ended up leaving Starfleet, also introduced the character of Kat Mueller. DOUBLE HELIX: DOUBLE OR NOTHING, though also is the book where we find out Burgoyne isn't pregnant and ending hir relationship with Mark McHenry. A fact that sort of just gets dropped in the main series.

    I admit I am always a fan of unconventional pairings in science fiction so I was fully of the mind they might do a polygamous relationship with Selar, Burgoyne, and McHenry. It was also something I thought might be a thing with Soleta and Calhoun and Shelby but that's not the sort of thing that really would have been accepted in the Trek franchise back then. We're only getting it now handled in sci-fi like Caprica and The Expanse.

    While my re-read may come to a different conclusion, as much as I love a lot of the upcoming books, I also feel that Requiem represented the end of "classic" New Frontier. The mission to explore the Thallonian Empire comes to an end and the series takes on a much darker and even meaner edge. Tragedy after tragedy starts hitting the crew and it honestly doesn't let up until the final trilogy.
     
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  20. captainmkb

    captainmkb Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Seconded. i really love the series but after some of the rearrangement of the EXCALIBUR trilogy does feel "off". They configured the crew in such a way that was beneficial to crossovers and anthologies, so the loss of focus in the central narrative wasn't a complete disaster, but it made me trail off. I was more concerned with following the bare minimum so i could stick with GATEWAYS and NO LIMITS as they released.

    Returning to the books i trailed off with, a decade later, i am enjoying getting to finish reading the series. It's nice to have some books i haven't read available to me despite no new releases on the horizon.
     
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