Friday, November 1, 2019

Gods of Night

Star Trek: Destiny
Book I: Gods of Night by David Mack
Published September 2008
Read October 28th 2019

Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Destiny, Book II: Mere Mortals

Mass-market paperback: | |

E-book (Kindle): | |

The Destiny trilogy is also available in an omnibus containing all three parts!

Trade paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Gods of Night!

From the back cover:
Half a decade after the Dominion War and more than a year after the rise and fall of Praetor Shinzon, the galaxy's greatest scourge returns to wreak havoc upon the Federation -- and this time its goal is nothing less than total annihilation.

Elsewhere, deep in the Gamma Quadrant, an ancient mystery is solved. One of Earth's first generation of starships, lost for centuries, has been found dead and empty on a desolate planet. But its discovery so far from home has raised disturbing questions, and the answers harken back to a struggle for survival that once tested a captain and her crew to the limits of their humanity.

From that terrifying flashpoint begins an apocalyptic odyssey that will reach across time and space to reveal the past, define the future, and show three captains -- Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise, William Riker of the U.S.S. Titan, and Ezri Dax of the U.S.S Aventine -- that some destinies are inescapable.

My thoughts:

More than any other story line in the Star Trek literary universe, Destiny has impacted the current state of Star Trek novels. Although the word has been overused in recent years, Destiny is nothing short of epic. A story that spans generations, with a tragic event for the crew of the Columbia in the 22nd century, and an apocalyptic Borg invasion in the 24th, Destiny ties together the whole of Trek history into one incredibly intricate and compelling story.

In this, the first novel of the trilogy, the various pieces are moved onto the chess board, setting things up for the huge story to come. In the 22nd century, a battle with the Romulans at the outbreak of the Earth/Romulan War leaves the Columbia crippled and out of contact with Starfleet. With no alternatives, Captain Erika Hernandez sets a course for the nearest habitable planet and pushes Columbia's impulse engines to relativistic speeds - the warp drive is offline. Upon arriving at the planet they discover is called Erigol, the inhabitants - a species calling themselves the Caeliar - informs the landing party that they will not be allowed to leave the surface, and the orbiting Columbia will not be permitted to leave.

The novel alternates between the Columbia crew in the 22nd century and the crews of a number of starships in the 24th century. Of course, on the front line of the battle against the Borg is Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. Outfitted with transphasic torpedoes (see: Voyager's "Endgame"), the Enterprise is assigned to determine how and where the Borg are entering Federation space. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Aventine under the command of Ezri Dax is investigating the crashed wreck of the Columbia, which has somehow wound up in the Gamma Quadrant. The third 24th-century starship the story follows is Captain Riker's U.S.S. Titan, which finds itself far beyond the borders of the Federation investigating a strange, seemingly artificial star system.

This image, "Last Flight of the Columbia," from Ships of the Line, was the inspiration for much of this story for David Mack.

Interspersed with the huge, epic narrative of the battle against the Borg are smaller, human stories that serve to remind the reader just what it is the characters are fighting for. Picard and Crusher have a child on the way, which causes Jean-Luc to reflect on what kind of universe their child will be born into. Riker and Troi are having difficulties in conceiving a child, and Troi makes what some would see as reckless decisions regarding her nonviable pregnancy. And in the flashback sequences, the crew of the Columbia, imprisoned on Erigol, deal with their fate in a variety of ways.

One of the big themes that comes out of the novel is the idea of fear as the impetus for much of the story: the Caeliar fear outside contact, so they do not allow the Columbia crew to leave. Major Foyle, the head of the Columbia's MACO contingent, fears never returning home and takes drastic steps to secure their freedom. All the while, they are setting in motion events that will shape the future not only for themselves, but for the entire galaxy.

Some may feel that the whole "Federation in peril" story has been overdone. However, it has never been done quite like this. The future that Picard sees when he hears the Borg in his head is nothing short of apocalyptic. The Federation is being brought to its knees in a way it never has before, and while those who have read the entire trilogy know how it will all turn out, at this point the outcome appears bleak to say the least. This is the ultimate test of the Federation, and even someone as strong as Jean-Luc Picard at times seems resigned to the fact that the Federation will fail.

All of these elements will eventually come together, but for now, they are all mostly set up for what is to come. Eventually, we learn of the fate of the Caeliar, and how members of the Columbia crew contributed to the cataclysm that befell them. At the end of the novel, an away team from Titan investigates a planet surrounded by an artificial shell. A familiar figure greets them: former Captain Erika Hernandez of the Starship Columbia, who welcomes them to "New Erigol."

Final thoughts:

This is an incredibly strong start to the Destiny trilogy, both when I first read it years ago and in my most recent re-read. The action sequences are among the best in Star Trek, and the character moments work very well for the most part. I found the Columbia sequences to be equal parts heartbreaking and horrifying. It's clear from the very start that this is a very tightly-plotted story, with twists and turns that readers will not see coming. At the same time, the story is pure Star Trek through and through. If you haven't read Destiny yet, do yourself a favor and put it on your list immediately; this is Trek lit at its absolute finest, and the best is still yet to come.

More about Gods of Night:

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

Next up is my review of the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, recently re-released for that film's 40th anniversary!

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