Spoilers ahead for What Judgments Come and the rest of the Vanguard series!
From the back cover:
Operation Vanguard has risked countless lives and sacrificed entire worlds to unlock the secrets of the Shedai, an extinct alien civilization whose technology can shape the future of the galaxy. Now, Starfleet's efforts have roused the vengeful Shedai from their eons of slumber. As the Taurus Reach erupts with violence, hundreds of light-years away, on "The Planet of Galactic Peace," Ambassador Jetanien and his counterparts from the Klingon and Romulan Empires struggle to avert war by any means necessary. But Jetanien discovers their mission may have been designed to fail all along ... Meanwhile, living in exile on an Orion ship is the one man who can help Starfleet find an ancient weapon that can stop the Shedai: Vanguard's former commanding officer, Diego Reyes.
THE END OF THE EPIC SAGA BEGINS
About the Novel:
In this, the second-to-last novel in the Vanguard series, we find most of our characters at a crossroads. In "exile" aboard Ganz's ship, the Omari-Ekon, former Commodore Diego Reyes is surreptitiously contacted by Lieutenant T'Prynn via Dr. Fisher and Tim Pennington. The Vanguard operation relies on knowing where Ganz got the artifact he traded in the previous full-length novel (Precipice), so they convince Reyes to break into the Omari-Ekon's computers to steal the navigational data. Attempting to do so without being caught, Reyes places himself in grave danger of being discovered by the Orions.
Another project being undertaken by the Vanguard crew is an attempt to contact the Shedai Wanderer, trapped within the crystalline device in the possession of Starfleet. The experiments to contact her are being held aboard the U.S.S. Lovell, so that if anything goes wrong, the station will be (relatively) safe. Of course, something does go wrong, and in true Vanguard style, huge sacrifices are made to ensure the situation is brought under control.
Meanwhile, Cervantes Quinn has once again fallen off the wagon. With the death of his lover, Briget McLellan in the previous story, "The Stars Look Down" (found in the anthology Declassified), Quinn has turned his back on his new-found purpose and energy. Instead, he has fallen into his old habits of drinking and getting into bar fights at his regular watering hole in Star's Landing. Tim Pennington attempts to reach out to his old friend, but when all he gets in return is a right cross, Tim leaves Quinn to his self-destructive behavior.
On a Klingon colony planet, the Tholians deploy a weapon that, while originally meant to pacify the population, has the unexpected effect of killing every citizen on the planet. The Starship Defiant arrives on the scene, finding the bodies of the Klingon colonists. They discover a piece of Tholian equipment left behind and transport it aboard as evidence. As they are leaving the area, they are being chased by Tholian vessels. Soon, they receive a distress call, and change course to investigate. I think I am not spoiling too much in revealing the end result of that investigation. See "The Tholian Web" (TOS) and "In a Mirror, Darkly" (ENT).
Finally, on Nimbus III, the so-called "Planet of Galactic Peace," Ambassadors Jetanian and Lugok, along with Senator D'Tran, begin to see their grand project unravel. The colonists have begun to fight among themselves, and soon turn against the government. Ultimately, "The Planet of Galactic Peace" seems to be anything but.
With all these disparate stories coming to a head, we find ourselves set up for the final book in the Vanguard saga, Storming Heaven, coming in March 2012.
What Judgments Come is a competent, well-told outing in the tradition of the Vanguard series. Dilmore and Ward have crafted a terrific tale of action, intrigue, and suspense. I especially loved the format in which the story was told: the entire narrative is told as a flashback by Diego Reyes to Tim Pennington, who has found the former commander of Starbase 47 living essentially under "witness protection" on the back-water colony of Caldos II (featured in the abominable episode "Sub Rosa," from TNG's seventh season). It is a couple of years after the main events in the novel, and Pennington wishes to hear what happened from Reyes' perspective.
As for the story itself, the feeling of setup is ever-present in this novel. Many pieces are being put in place for the ultimate payoff in the final novel. There are a number of shocking moments, chief among them the end of Orion crime lord Ganz's story. This is one area where I felt that the story faltered a little bit. When we were first introduced to Ganz, he seemed to be a formidable enemy whom we should rightfully fear. However, in this book, he doesn't quite pack the same punch, seeming more like a cartoonish villain obsessed with revenge.
I'm very saddened by where Cervantes Quinn has found himself. I desperately want his character to have a happy ending, but I'm not optimistic about it. As his name implies, he is very much a quixotic character. I'm hoping to see him come into his own once again, but as I said, I'm not counting on it.
The positives: Setting up the Vanguard storyline and the characters for the payoff in Storming Heaven has me really wanting to read more, and now! March seems so far away. At the same time, I will be very sad to see the story end. I definitely have mixed feelings. I am also apprehensive that the next book, written by David Mack, will kill off an unprecedented number of characters whom I have come to know and love. I say this because Mack is notorious in Star Trek literature circles for killing off many characters. However, this just makes me even more eager to read the rest of the story!
The negatives: Very few, with the exception of some of the characterizations. As I mentioned, Ganz seemed off a bit. I have mixed feelings about the Orion storyline; as the Omari-Ekon left at the end, I wasn't sure if I wanted them to come back in the next book or not. The ending of their storyline fell a little flat in my opinion. I don't think I would mind if they came back for a more satisfying conclusion.
All-in-all, another excellent entry in the Vanguard saga! I fear for the lives of the remaining characters, but I can't wait to see where this all ends up.
Final rating: 8/10.
Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:
- Star Trek: S.C.E. #4: Interphase, Part One of Two (2001)
- Star Trek: S.C.E. #5: Interphase, Part Two of Two (2001)
- Star Trek: A Time to Sow (2004)
- Star Trek: A Time to Harvest (2004)
- Star Trek: Mere Anarchy, Book 1: Things Fall Apart (2006)
- Star Trek: Seekers #2: Point of Divergence (2014)
- Star Trek: Seekers #4: All That's Left (2015)
- Star Trek: Legacies, Book 3: Purgatory's Key (2016)
My next read:
I'm finally caught up on all of the recent new releases of Star Trek fiction! Until Rise Like Lions comes out at the end of this month, I have no new Trek fiction to read. I've had a request from one of my friends to review one of William Shatner's Star Trek novels: specifically, The Return. However, it doesn't seem to be available as an e-book, and I'm afraid my dead-tree copy is back home in Canada, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from where I am. Sorry Fergal! Instead, I'll be reading one of the Original Series novels from a couple of years ago, The Children of Kings.