Monday, October 24, 2011


Star Trek: Vanguard: Precipice by David Mack
Published December 2009
Read: July 8th, 2011

Previous book (Vanguard): Open Secrets
Next book (Vanguard): Declassified

Click the cover to purchase Precipice at!

Spoilers ahead for Precipice and the rest of the Vanguard series!

From the back cover:
Operation Vanguard is in chaos. 
On a post-apocalyptic world in the Taurus Reach, undercover Starfleet intelligence agent Cervantes Quinn finds an ancient Shedai conduit.  Unfortunately, the Klingons have found it first and sent an army to claim it.
Light-years away on Vulcan, reporter Tim Pennington answers a cryptic call for help and ends up stalking interstellar criminals with an unlikely partner: T'Prynn, the woman who sabotaged his career and is now a fugitive from justice.
Meanwhile, Diego Reyes, former commander of Starbase 47, lives as a prisoner aboard a Klingon starship.  But his former enemies aren't seeking revenge.  In fact, the only man who knows why Reyes is still alive is the one who arranged his kidnapping and faked his death -- the enigmatic Councilor Gorkon.
All their fates, as well as the futures of three great powers, are linked by one thing: the mysterious Mirdonyae Artifact.  And unless Doctor Carol Marcus and Ming Xiong can unlock its secrets in time, it might destroy them all.

About the Novel:

The year is 2267 (corresponding roughly to the end of the first season and the beginning of the second season of Star Trek).  En route to Earth to begin his prison sentence, former Commodore Diego Reyes is kidnapped by Klingon operatives.  Believed by the rest of the world to be dead, Reyes is held by the Klingons, and specifically, Councilor Gorkon (see: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).  He and a Tholian prisoner named Ezthene are being held in order to provide Gorkon with assistance in convincing the Klingon government to sue for peace with the Tholians and the Federation.  This bid by Gorkon is ultimately unsuccessful.

Ambassador Jetanien finds himself on the planet Nimbus III (the future "Planet of Galactic Peace" in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) in an attempt to set up a diplomatic mission between the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans.  Throughout the book, we see him and the Klingon ambassador waiting for the arrival of an ancient Romulan, who thankfully eventually comes.

Former smuggler and all-around ne'er do well Cervantes Quinn has made a complete 180 degree turn in his life.  Now sober and in shape, he has teamed up with Bridget McLellon ("Bridy Mac," formerly of the U.S.S. Sagittarius), and both are flying undercover missions for Starfleet Intelligence.  Searching for Shedai technology in the Taurus Reach, they arrive at the planet Golmira, where the local inhabitants direct them to an ancient artifact.  While they investigate, a Klingon military force arrives and occupies the planet.  Admiral Nogura of Starbase 47 ("Vanguard") orders them to evade capture and attempt to foment rebellion among the locals while Starfleet deploys help to their location, an effort that will require about three months due to the thin spread of forces in the Taurus Reach.  Quinn, who has experience as a mercenary, trains the local population (called the "Denn") in fighting and killing techniques.

On Vulcan, T'Prynn arranges a meeting between herself and Tim Pennington.  Together, they sneak off of Vulcan and begin looking for a way for T'Prynn to redeem herself with Starfleet.  She determines that if she is able to discover who killed Diego Reyes, she would be able to restore her life and career.  They steal a ship and set out.

Ming Xiong and Carol Marcus, investigating the crystalline artifact acquired in the previous book, discover that it actually contains a living Shedai, imprisoned within its core.  They also discover that each time they use the artifact to locate a planet containing Shedai technology, the planet is destroyed shortly thereafter.  To their horror, they realize that a total of eleven planets have now met their end in this manner.

The Klingons employ a thief to steal the artifact from Vanguard.  Covertly monitoring communications, T'Prynn and Pennington discover the plot, and T'Prynn contacts Captain Rana Desai to inform her.  T'Prynn also tells her that Diego Reyes is alive.  However, Desai refuses to believe her and disconnects without getting any more information from T'Prynn.  The attempted theft soon takes place, and Desai begins to wonder if T'Prynn was telling the truth about Reyes.  T'Prynn and Pennington observe the transaction between the thief and the Klingons, and then follow the Klingons to their destination: the planet Golmira.  Zett Nilric, one of Ganz's employees and thorn in the side of Cervantes Quinn, also observes the meeting and follows to Golmira as well.

On Golmira, the Klingons capture Bridy Mac and Quinn attempts a rescue.  He crashes the Rocinante into the Klingon barracks while the Denn mount a simultaneous attack.  T'Prynn, who is observing, enters the fight as well.  The battle is interrupted when the Wanderer, the Shedai from the previous Vanguard novels, arrives and takes the Mirdonyae Artifact.  Having killed Zett, Quinn is recognized by the Wanderer, and he and McLellon are chased by her.  They manage to find Zett's ship and escape.  Meanwhile, T'Prynn is rescued when Tim Pennington arrives with a team from the Starship Endeavor.  Xiong has managed to engineer a device to lure the Wanderer toward them.  When she is about to attack, the device is used to cause a reaction in the Mirdonyae Artifact, which the Wanderer drops.  Hurt, she flees Golmira.  Pennington and T'Prynn are placed under arrest.

Back on Vanguard, T'Prynn is found guilty of making fraudulent statements under oath, illegally tampering with her medical files, going absent without leave, and fleeing prosecution.  As punishment, she is demoted to the rank of lieutenant and is placed on probation.  She assumes duties aboard Vanguard, under the command of her replacement.

Ganz's ship arrives at Vanguard with two surprises with which Ganz is able to negotiate: a crystal that is identical to the Mirdonyae Artifact, but empty, and former Commodore Diego Reyes.  The crystal is turned over to Vanguard personnel, but Reyes remains aboard Ganz's ship, which is technically sovereign Orion territory.  In this way, Reyes remains free from extradition.

As Xiong and Marcus begin studying the new artifact, the Wanderer arrives and attacks Vanguard.  Ripping through the station deck by deck, she encounters no resistance on her way to the Vault.  Just as she is about to kill Marcus and Xiong, the latter activates the new artifact and it draws the Wanderer into it, imprisoning her.

My Thoughts:

Vanguard is currently my favorite series of Trek literature, and I think it's safe to say that David Mack is my current favorite Trek lit author.  Needless to say, this combination makes a Vanguard novel written by him a sure hit with me.  The series continues to hit on all cylinders.  The characters are dynamic and have a true "real" feel to them, which makes Vanguard all the more enjoyable.

One of the common complaints with regards to Trek fiction (and, indeed, all "media tie-in" fiction) is that the characters cannot change because they are not owned by the author.  For example, reading a Trek novel, you know that Kirk and Spock aren't going to die at the end.  This is one of the things that make Vanguard so great.  Because most of the characters are original creations, the authors have more freedom with regards to storylines.  Cervantes Quinn is a prime example.  His character has undergone a fundamental shift, something that would be impossible to do with primary characters from the Star Trek universe.

Many have complained that Precipice didn't feel as "epic" as Mack's previous Vanguard outing, Reap the Whirlwind.  While this is true, I don't feel that the pace set by that previous work is maintainable, and the slightly slower feel of Precipice is quite welcome.  I really feel that this novel is setting up much of what is still to come in the Vanguard saga, and I for one can't wait to see what Mack and the other authors have in store for the series.

Positives: Character development!  Especially the relationship between Bridy Mac and Cervantes Quinn, and the relationship between T'Prynn and Tim Pennington.  Also, the unorthodox method that T'Prynn and Pennington use to get off of Vulcan had me laughing out loud!  As always, another positive of the Vanguard series is the amazing CGI covers by the wonderful Doug Drexler.  Simply beautiful!

Negatives:  Not many.  The loss of the Rocinante was sad, but again, this is a universe that is constantly evolving, so we have to accept some things.  I can't go on about how much freedom the authors have, then complain when they shake things up!  Also, I'm a little wary but also fascinated to see how the developments with Reyes play out.  I'm so used to seeing him as an authoritative command figure that it is difficult to imagine him as a fugitive "hiding out" on Ganz's ship.  I guess we'll see how this develops!

Final Thoughts:

Excellent, excellent, excellent!  The high quality of the Vanguard saga is maintained.  A lot of setup that I can't wait to see finally pay off.

Final rating: 9.5/10.

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

The next novel from my summer reading backlog is another book by David Mack, this time set in the mirror universe: The Sorrows of Empire.

I'm also still currently reading A Choice of Catastrophes.  Look for reviews of both soon!


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