Sunday, November 8, 2015

All That's Left

Star Trek: Seekers #4
All That's Left by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Release date: October 27th 2015
Read November 6th 2015

Previous book (Seekers): #3: Long Shot

Next book (Seekers): #5:

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Spoilers ahead for All That's Left!

From the back cover:
Initially charted by Starfleet probes dispatched to survey the Taurus Reach, the planet Cantrel V now plays host to a budding Federation colony, as well as a combined civilian/Starfleet exploration team. Ancient ruins of an unknown civilization scattered around the planet have raised the curiosity of archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and other interested members of the Federation scientific community. Together, they are attempting to shed light on the beings that once called this world home. 
After a large, unidentified vessel arrives in orbit and launches a seemingly unprovoked orbital bombardment, the U.S.S. Endeavour responds to the colony's distress call. As they attempt to render assistance and investigate the mysterious ship, Captain Atish Khatami and her crew begin to unlock the astonishing secrets the planet has harbored for centuries. Does the survival of a newly-discovered yet endangered alien race pose a threat not only to Cantrel V, but to other inhabited worlds throughout the Taurus Reach and beyond?

My thoughts:

For this, the fourth entry in the young Seekers series, we return to the U.S.S. Endeavour with a new novel by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. Responding to a distress call from Cantrel V, the Endeavour and her crew get caught up in a centuries-old plot by a race of "parasites" called the Lrondi.

The idea of a parasite taking control of a humanoid host and the two living as a conjoined being is certainly not a new one, and Star Trek has tackled the issue several times itself, most notably through the Trill. However, the Lrondi as presented in this novel are unique, and truly terrifying to me: a species that "co-exists" with you, but seems to subtly influence you so that you are totally "okay" with going along with whatever they want. Some of the actions taken by someone who had been "collected" seemed to be willing, but there was enough influence and manipulation there to completely frighten me.

The whole "sentient parasite" concept has been done many times before, but is nonetheless a very frightening concept.

There is a lot in this novel to recommend it. While the plot takes a little while to kick into high gear, once it gets going, we get a fascinating adventure with a creepy psychological aspect to it. As with previous novels in the Seekers series, my favorite part is the characters. The Endeavour crew is always a pleasure to read about, and the side characters in this story really stand out as well. It was a lot of fun to see Commander Al-Khaled again! I'm just now reading the S.C.E. story Foundations, which is the introduction of this character, so the timing couldn't have been better.

Another surprise in All That's Left is the appearance of Ensign Tropp, a Denobulan crewmember who will presumably become the Dr. Tropp that is featured in the Next Generation novels as a doctor on the Enterprise-E. We already know from Enterprise's Dr. Phlox that Denobulans are very long-lived, so it makes sense to have Tropp in Starfleet already at this point. Why make up a new Denobulan character when you have a great one already? As far as I know, Tropp has not appeared this early in the chronology before, but if he has, I'm sure one of my intrepid readers will be quick to correct me!

A standout scene for me comes right at the end of the story, featuring two characters becoming closer due to their shared experiences with the Lrondi. Something about their connection really rang true for me, and it's little character moments like this that really make me appreciate Ward/Dilmore stories.

I have gushed about the amazing artwork of the Seekers novels before, but this one deserves a special mention. Rob Caswell has knocked it out of the park with the cover art for All That's Left. A gorgeous scene featuring the Endeavour crew attempting to gain entry to the mysterious alien ship is hands down my favorite Star Trek cover this year, possibly of all time. Beautiful!

Rob Caswell has posted the complete cover art without titles on his DeviantArt page - click here to see it in its entirety.

I'm curious, however, as to when we might next see a Seekers novel. David Mack, the other author involved in the series, has said that he has a rather lengthy break in his Trek novel writing in order to focus on his series of original novels (which look great, by the way; I hope you check them out!). If the Seekers format of alternating between Mack and Ward/Dilmore stories is the way they intend to continue to do them going forward, it may be some time before Seekers appears on the schedule again.

Final thoughts:

Another fascinating entry in the Seekers series. Although the story starts off a little slow, patience is rewarded as the story sucks the reader in. It will insinuate itself into your brain like some kind of mind-controling parasite as you find yourself pondering the implications of the plot long after you've put the book down. How much of the actions of the "collected" really were free will, and how much was simply the influence of the parasite? And... *gasp*... what if the Trill operate in a similar fashion? Is there really a way to know for sure? Creepy.

Four out of five is my ranking for All That's Left. If you're on board with the Seekers one-off story concept, you'll enjoy this as a classic "planet of the week" story.

More about All That's Left:

Also by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Book five in the TOS e-book series, Mere Anarchy: it's The Darkness Drops Again by Christopher L. Bennett!

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