Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Red King

Star Trek: Titan
The Red King by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin
Published October 2005
Read May 8th 2019

Previous book (Titan): Taking Wing
Previous book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): Articles of the Federation

Next book (Titan): Orion's Hounds
Next book (Post-Nemesis Continuity): The Next Generation: Resistance

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for The Red King

From the back cover:
Investigating the disappearance of a secret Romulan fleet, the U.S.S. Titan, commanded by Captain William Riker, is unexpectedly propelled more than 200,000 light-years into the Small Magellanic Cloud. One of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, the Cloud is also home to the Neyel, the long-sundered offshoots of Terran humanity, with whom the Federation has had no contact in over eighty years. 
Nearby, Riker's uncertain ally, Commander Donatra of the Romulan Warbird Valdore, rescues a young Neyel, the survivor of a mysterious cosmic upheaval that seems at times to be both unraveling and reweaving the very fabric of space...the fulfillment of an apocalyptic vision that has already claimed millions of lives. Titan's science team soon finds evidence that the ravaging of Neyel space is the work of a vast and powerful intelligence: the stirrings of a dormant consciousness that is maintaining the existence of the Small Magellanic Cloud -- and all life within it -- from one moment to the next. And if it should awaken, the consequences are unimaginable.

As Riker considers his options, his new crew struggles with the scientific and philosophical implications of what they've discovered...while the young Neyel in their midst forges a bond with the captain, conjuring old ghosts Riker has yet to lay to rest.

My thoughts:

At the end of the previous novel, Taking Wing, Captain Riker and the crew of the Titan are assisting Romulan Commander Donatra in her attempt to locate her missing fleet, somehow pulled into an anomaly called the "Great Bloom," the remnants of the destruction of the Scimitar, Shinzon's warbird in Star Trek Nemesis. The anomaly functions as a wormhole, pulling in Donatra's ship, the Valdore, as well as the Titan and depositing them in the Small Magellanic Cloud, outside our galaxy. This region of space is home to the Neyel, descendants of an offshoot of humanity, displaced thousands of light-years thanks to an errant warp field experiment (see: Star Trek: The Lost Era: The Sundered).

The Sundered should be required reading for this novel.

In the course of their exploration of this region of space, the lost Romulan fleet is discovered; however, it appears to be under the control of an unknown intelligence. Our heroes soon discover that a proto-universe is encroaching into the region and will soon wipe out a huge area of space. This proto-universe exhibits a kind of intelligence which is what is in control of the Romulan fleet. They manage to expel the intelligence from the fleet, but the universe continues to expand into our realm, threatening the entire Neyel Hegemony and the other races that populate the region. Riker and his crew, along with the Romulans and the Neyel, must contend with this threat before all is lost.

Ostensibly a two-parter following Taking Wing, The Red King ditches nearly all of the Romulan politics of the previous book in exchange for revisiting the Neyel. Having recently read The Sundered, I really enjoyed this second look at a fascinating concept, but for readers who have not read The Sundered (or even simply haven't read it recently), this novel can be a bit tough to keep up with. While I feel that the authors do a fairly good job of catching readers up, it really does help to have read The Sundered to be familiar with the players featured here.

The Small Magellanic Cloud is revisited in The Red King.

There are a lot of great character moments in The Red King, including some insight into the failed friendship of Admiral Akaar and Tuvok. Both of these characters were present for the previous journey to the Small Magellanic Cloud in The Sundered, so they are essential to that story in this novel. Is this all too much of a coincidence, that two officers involved in the incident nearly a century earlier are present for this diversion to Neyel space? Probably.

I did also enjoy the continued exploration of the Romulans, especially through the character of Donatra. I liked her well enough in Star Trek Nemesis, but I find myself really getting into her character in the novels. While she sometimes operates in a manner that is a help to our heroes, she is still a Romulan, and will engineer situations to be beneficial to her and her long-term goals. Her actions, while they may serve the alliance with Riker and the Titan, are still borderline treacherous, especially where the Klingons are involved!

Commander Donatra continues to be one of my favorite secondary characters in The Red King.

Finally, I want to highlight a scene near the very end of the novel, in which Titan's dedication plaque is finally revealed. This was a lovely moment filled with humor and good spirits, very welcome after some grim happenings in these first two novels. The impromptu party that Vale is credited with planning (even though she was opposed to it and tried to break it up) was a fun addition to the story, and the sentiment of "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination" is a perfect note to end the novel on.

Final thoughts:

While it was a lot of fun revisiting the Neyel, I could see some frustration reading this novel if you haven't previously read The Sundered. However, this was a fascinating story with some great character moments, and a good conclusion to the beginning of Titan's mission of exploration. Some of the science was a bit suspect, and the plot got pretty convoluted towards the end, but overall I enjoyed the story and it made me eager to read on for more adventures of Captain Riker and the U.S.S. Titan.

More about The Red King:

Also by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin:

My next read:

Next review: New Earth, Book 5 of 6: Thin Air by Kristine Kathryn Rusch & Dean Wesley Smith.

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