Tuesday, December 6, 2022

[Review]—"Star Trek: Vanguard—Harbinger" by David Mack (The Original Series)

The greatest thing to do during a blackout is read, provided you have a flashlight on hand or, in my case, a Kindle Fire. In early November, when the power went out for many hours without any apparent cause, I used my Kindle Fire to read "Star Trek: Vanguard—Harbinger" by David Mack. I decided to read the first book in the 2005–2014 spinoff series since David Mack's impending publication of "Star Trek: The Original Series—Harm's Way" incorporates several Vanguard characters.

Harbinger is set shortly after the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Returning from their voyage to the edge of the galaxy, the Starship Enterprise journeys through the Taurus Reach, an unexplored region of space between the Klingon Empire and the Tholian Assembly, where they unexpectedly come upon the newly constructed space station Vanguard.

The Starfleet Corps of Engineers constructed the watchtower-class starbase Vanguard, also known as Starfleet Starbase 47, in the Taurus Reach between 2263 and 2265. Commodore Diego Reyes is in charge of the station, which has three spaceships stationed there: the USS Endeavour (Constitution-class), the USS Bombay (Miranda-class), and the USS Sagittarius (Archer-class scout ship).

Captain Kirk asks Vanguard to permit the Enterprise to dock for urgent repairs because he is perplexed as to why Starfleet would build a starbase so distant from Federation space. Commodore Reyes grants the request but issues a stern warning to Kirk and his crew that they should keep to themselves and refrain from interfering in any Vanguard matters—at least until the news gets out that the Bombay was destroyed near Ravanar IV. The Enterprise is ordered to Ravanar IV to search for survivors.  

Harbinger has too much going on; rather than being a novel, it reads more like a "pilot" episode. The rest of the Enterprise crew, including Kirk, Spock, and Scotty, feel like prolonged cameos; their sole function is to introduce us readers to the space station Vanguard and the many, many individuals who populate it. There aren't enough pages to adequately develop these characters. I haven't learned enough about any of the Vanguard crew to form an opinion on them, though I'm hopeful these characters will be fleshed out more in the other Vanguard books.

It's exceedingly perplexing that Doctor M'Benga, a central figure in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and a character who appears in two TOS episodes, is stationed at Vanguard. Contrary to Jean Lorrah's book, "The IDIC Epidemic," where M'Benga bears the first name Geoffrey, David Mack has given M'Benga the name Jabilo. The "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" prequel television series has the character's first name as Joseph. The character's full name in the alternate universe novella "The Tears of Eridanus" is Jabilo Geoffrey M'Benga.

All things considered—"Star Trek: Vanguard—Harbinger" is a fun start to a TOS spinoff novel series. There are just enough minor bits to keep me interested in reading the rest of the series, even if I don't believe the "meta-genome" narrative, as a whole, is that compelling. David Mack is a superb writer, and his depiction of the battle between the Bombay and  Tholian ships was exciting. ╌★★★✰✰

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