Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shield of the Gods

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations
Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett
Release date: June 16th 2017
Read June 25th 2017

Previous book (Department of Temporal Investigations): Time Lock
Next book (Department of Temporal Investigations): 

E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Shield of the Gods!

Publisher's description:
The stalwart agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations have tracked down many dangerous artifacts, but now they face a greater, more personal challenge: retrieving a time-travel device stolen from their own vault by a rogue agent of the Aegis, a powerful, secretive group that uses its mastery of time to prevent young civilizations from destroying themselves. Blaming the Aegis itself for a tragedy yet to come, this renegade plans to use the stolen artifact to sabotage its efforts in the past, no matter what the cost to the timeline. Now the DTI’s agents must convince the enigmatic Aegis to work alongside them in order to protect history—but they must also wrestle with the potential consequences of their actions, for preserving the past could doom countless lives in the future!

My thoughts:

To some fans, "Star Trek" has a very narrow definition: The voyages of a starship named Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilizations. With Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and more recently, Discovery, that definition has expanded quite a bit, showing that there is room for all kinds of stories within this universe. Ultimately, Star Trek is just a setting; it is a vast playground in which many different kinds of stories can be told.

One of the more abstract settings for Star Trek stories is within the Department of Temporal Investigations. This agency of the United Federation of Planets was established in the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," and has become a source of fascination ever since.

Agents Dulmer and Lucsly are the only two faces of the organization we've seen in canon Trek, but author Christopher L. Bennett has crafted a rich set of stories about the Department of Temporal Investigations in two novels, Watching the Clock and Forgotten History, as well as three (so far) e-book novellas, The Collectors, Time Lock, and the subject of today’s review, Shield of the Gods.

In canon Trek, Dulmer and Lucsly are the only people we've seen from the enigmatic Department of Temporal Investigations, but author Christopher L. Bennett has fleshed out the department and introduced us to a variety of characters who work to maintain the Federation's temporal integrity.

Shield of the Gods continues the story from Time Lock, in which a former Aegis agent, Daiyar, stole an untraceable temporal warp drive from the DTI's vault containing temporal artifacts from across the galaxy and throughout history. The agents of the DTI must track her down and stop her from completing her plan, whatever it may be!

What follows is probably the most introspective, character-driven story so far in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. Christopher Bennett has an uncanny ability to lay bare a character's deepest feelings and motivations in a way that is surprisingly moving. Rather than being a one-note villain, Daiyar is a complex character who evokes real emotions from the reader. I found myself sympathizing with her in her motivations, if not necessarily in her means. She also has a well-defined character arc, which is doubly impressive given the fact that the page count for this novella is significantly less than the average Star Trek novel.

Similarly, this novella dives deep into the character of Ranjea, a Deltan agent of the DTI. This is a character who has been around since the first DTI novel, and whose story comes to a very interesting conclusion in this installment. His ultimate fate feels very Doctor Who-ish, which is certainly appropriate with a series as timey-wimey as this one!

Like Lt. Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (pictured), Agent Ranjea is a Deltan, possessing very strong sexual drives.

Having the e-book-exclusive novellas has been a boon to the more obscure parts of the Trek universe. I don't know that Department of Temporal Investigations is a "big" enough title to maintain an on-going series of full-length novels, but the e-book novella format seems perfectly suited to it. We can only hope that this format will continue after the successful re-negotiation of the Simon & Schuster Star Trek books license (fingers crossed)!

Final thoughts:

There is a lot to recommend this latest entry in the Department of Temporal Investigations series. A huge plot in which civilizations hang in the balance is the backdrop to a very human, introspective story about how individual lives are affected by galaxy-spanning decisions. Overall, a lovely story that makes the reader empathize with the characters in the most surprising ways. An unexpected but touching resolution caps off the story, making me eager for more tales set in this somewhat unorthodox corner of Trek continuity!

More about Shield of the Gods:

Also by Christopher L. Bennett:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Next up is a classic from the Trek literary universe: Prime Directive by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens!

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