Sunday, August 9, 2015

Long Shot

Star Trek: Seekers #3
Long Shot by David Mack
Release date: July 28th 2015
Read July 31st 2015

Previous book (Seekers): #2: Point of Divergence

Next book (Seekers): #4: All That's Left

Spoilers ahead for Long Shot!

From the back cover:
SCIENCE GONE MAD... Bizarre sensor readings lead the Starfleet scout ship USS Sagittarius to an alien world where efforts to harness a dangerous and unstable technology have thrown the laws of probability out of balance. Now, events that might have occurred only one time in a trillion are happening constantly—to deadly and dazzling effect.

A PLANET IN PERIL... As disasters and miracles multiply globally at an ever-increasing rate, it’s up to Captain Clark Terrell and his crew to shut down the experiment-gone-wrong before its storm of chaos causes the planet’s destruction. But the odds against their success—and their survival—might be too great to overcome.

My thoughts:

When Seekers was first announced, I was very excited. I had absolutely loved Vanguard, and another series by the same authors featuring some of the same characters was an exciting prospect. The first two books, Second Nature and Point of Divergence weren't bad. I enjoyed the story well enough, but it felt like there was something missing. It didn't quite have that one-two punch I'd come to expect from the authors of Vanguard. Still, I loved the premise of Seekers, including the fact that it represented a return to "one and done" style stories. I really do love the interconnected stories of the post-Nemesis novels, but the idea of having exploration-based "planet of the week" stories on occasion is very welcome. So, with all of that said, what did I think of the latest adventure of the crew of the Sagittarius? In short: I loved it.

It is in this novel that I feel these characters have really found their "voice" again. I really enjoy the dynamics between the characters. Captain Terrell is fast becoming one of my favorite lit-only commanding officers, and the relationships between characters such as Theriault and Dastin, and between Ensign Taryl and Torvin brought a smile to my face as I read this novel. I think this series sets the record for novel-only characters, with the only "canon" character being Captain Terrell. This doesn't hurt the story in the slightest, as I found myself empathizing with every character on the Sagittarius and genuinely concerned about their personal stories.

Captain Clark Terrell - the only canon character aboard the Sagittarius.

Another aspect of Long Shot that I really appreciated was the lack of a villain. These days, it seems that a story can't be told unless there is some kind of villain bent on universal domination or a madman out for revenge or a manipulative evil genius attempting to gain power. Thankfully, this novel breaks with that tradition, instead giving us a "man vs. nature/expanding field of weirdness" type story (it's Star Trek; that's totally a valid category). In some ways, it reminded me of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the only Trek film in which the crew isn't fighting some oppressive evil enemy (The Motion Picture sort of gets a pass as well).

This smaller adventure gives the author time to focus on great character development. The quadrant-spanning sweeping epic adventures are great, but I feel like they sacrifice some of the smaller stories due to their scope. This smaller, planet-of-the-week adventure really lets us get into these characters' heads and see what makes them tick. There is not a single character in this novel that I didn't like, and the story itself was compelling and fun to read.

In the second season DS9 episode "Rivals," alien gambling devices alter probability all over the station. Is the device in this episode based on the same principle on a grander scale?

As far as the plot goes, the idea of a probability field affecting the outcomes of random chance was a fun concept to explore on a planetary scale. I wonder if the small "gambling devices" from Deep Space Nine's "Rivals" operated on a similar principle? It was interesting to see this idea writ large, and the true consequences of mucking about with probability. I'm curious who initially set the "trap" for the people of this world. Perhaps they are an antagonist we will meet in future Seekers adventures?

Blink and you'll miss it:

David Mack continues his tradition of including little "easter eggs" and in-jokes for readers to find. My favorite? A subtle reference to the "Thanks, Obama!" meme.

Final thoughts:

Like so many Star Trek novels, it is a love of the characters that really makes this story shine. David Mack has created a group dynamic that is a hell of a lot of fun to read. Combined with a fun, high-stakes adventure, Long Shot makes for a great read. I'm very interested to see where these characters go in the future, and where certain relationships will end up. Some great character development for the small crew of the Sagittarius gives me a lot of hope for the future of Seekers.

With an already-excellent year in Trek lit to this point, it is no small praise to say that Long Shot is my favorite novel of the year so far.

More about Seekers #3:

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

Next week: my review of the second part of the e-book series, New Frontier: The Returned by Peter David!

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