Star Trek: Vanguard
Summon the Thunder

Authors: Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $10.99
ISBN 1 4165 2400 2
Available 07 August 2006

Deep within the Taurus Reach, an ancient and powerful alien mind has awakened from aeons of hibernation, alerted to the upstart civilisations now daring to encroach upon the worlds in her care. With the stakes for all sides escalating rapidly, the alien lashes out with deadly force against the interlopers, propelling the personnel of Vanguard station and the starships
Endeavour and Lovell on a desperate race to understand the nature of the attacker and to prevent the region from becoming a war zone...

Having greatly enjoyed the previous Vanguard novel, Harbinger, I was really looking forward to reading this follow-up. Unfortunately, this book isn't as strong as its predecessor and takes even longer to get going. Whereas Harbinger took 120 pages for the excitement to kick in, Summon the Thunder doesn't really come into its own until just over halfway through its 416 densely typed pages.

Prior to this point, too many disparate plot strands, including a light-hearted but barely relevant segment in which the privateer Quinn and the disgraced journalist Pennington have to collect a Zakdorn accountant, all jostle for the reader's attention, with the effect of slowing the entire narrative down. The most exciting section of the first half of the book more or less rehashes the most dramatic events of the previous novel: a research team is attacked on a planet's surface, a starship is attacked in space; a female officer aboard that ship receives a nasty dental injury.

However, once you get past the halfway stage, all those various plotlines begin to come together and snowball into a kind of critical mass. From this point on, the novel makes far more intriguing reading.

Though there's no Starship Enterprise this time around, other elements from Star Trek mythology add to the appeal of this 23rd-century-set narrative. As before, Dr M'Benga (who will go on to become a medic aboard the Enterprise) puts in an appearance, as do the Tholians, Romulans, both types of Klingon (smooth- and lumpy-headed), the aforementioned Zakdorn, Andorians, Denobulans and a couple of Tellarites.

Neat little continuity points include a Romulan Commander's appreciation for the reliable, long-lasting design of Klingon spaceships. This not only acknowledges and explains why similar-looking Klingon craft have been seen in three different centuries - the 22nd (in Star Trek: Enterprise), the 23rd (The Original Series) and the 24th (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) - but also sows the seeds for the Romulans' brief adoption of Klingon ship design in The Enterprise Incident.

Summon the Thunder bears investigation - so long as you can summon the will to trudge through the plodding first half of the book.

Richard McGinlay

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