Star Trek
Corps of Engineers

Author: Various
Pocket Books
RRP: 9.99, US $15.00, Cdn $19.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2576 9
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2576 9
Available 04 December 2006

There is something quite visceral about reading a book. The quality of the artwork and even the paper can tell you a lot about the quality of the writing and whilst e-books have been available for a number of years they have never really replaced the fun of being able to see your collection in the bookcase. It's most probably this reason that has prompted Pocket Books to reprint a collection of Star Trek Corps of Engineer books e-books in a single volume, even though the individual stories are still available as downloadable e-books.

Aftermath represents the eighth volume in this series, a series which has much to commend it, not least of which is the fact that the new cast of characters has little or nothing to do with Trek canon, therefore you really can kill off characters. This has always been a problem with the main Trek series; we know that they are not dead and that alone goes a long way to stifle drama and tension.

The stories are reminiscent of James White's Sector General series of stories, as both utilise a particular profession as a jumping off point for what are essentially detective stories.

Following the destruction wrought on San Francisco by the Breen attack, Starfleets corps of engineers is helping to repair the war damage. A simple error, with an unknown technology finds a massive domed structure appear right in the middle of the recently reconstructed city...

The first story in the collection, and the one from which the whole collection takes its title is Aftermath. This is not only the first story but it is also the weakest. I say weak because it feels the need to drag in a load of Trek's central characters to justify its existence. It may be that the author Christopher L. Bennett was asked to include these elements as a bridge between traditional trek fans and this new series.

Once more we see that in a universe so vast, few characters appear to exist. So, we have Miles O'Brien, Keiko and Molly turning up to exercise their marital difficulties - difficulties which of course are put into perspective by Boothby. To be honest, their inclusion acts only as a distraction from the unravelling of the main enigma by the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci. The core of the plot is entertaining enough and for those of you unfamiliar with this series of books makes for a good introduction to the crew.

A Federation scientific teams attempt to terraform Venus is doomed to disaster without the help of the crew of the da Vinci...

Ishtar Rising is written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels. Long time followers of this series will know that from time to time crew members are actually killed, I mean really dead, no popping back in time or dodgy reanimations, and as such this has an impact on the stories as relationships are prematurely sundered and new crew join.

I mention this because, apart from the usual puzzle that is at the heart of this story, the main thrust of the story is really about relationships. For many the death of a colleague or loved one has made an indefinable mark on their lives, which hangs over the whole crew like a miasma of gloom, worse than this, they have to come to terms with the new crew members taking the place of their lost loved ones.

Partially central to this theme is Mor glasch Tev, the new Tellarite second officer whose forthright persona is interpreted by the crew as arrogance. However, the main focus is on Soloman, a Binar whose partner has been killed in the line of duty and his attempts to form a new singular identity.

The da Vinci is diverted from its usual routine to investigate a chronotron navigation hazard emanating from an asteroid near Ferengi space. What they find sends parts of the crew back in time, to prevent an unscrupulous Ferengi from making a fortune that would destabilise the timeline...

Buying Time by Robert Greenberger is an amusing tale of time travelling and Ferengis.

Ferengi stories tend to rely on the humour inherent in the diminutive creatures existence and Buying Time does not disappoint in this respect. Amusing as it is, it is not the most complicated of problems that have beset the crew, making the story a more 'lay back and enjoy' experience rather than anything that is going to get your grey matter working.

The crew discover a ship travelling at a tremendous speed; problem is the ship has no crew and no noticeable propulsion. As the Da Vinci closes with the unknown object the crew realise, to their horror, that it is a ship which they though they had previously destroyed, whose destruction had only been achieved at the cost of Salek's life...

The penultimate story Collective Hindsight, by Aaron Rosenberg, is a different kettle of fish altogether. Over and above the required engineering puzzle Rosenberg uses the story to juxtapose the characters of the present crew with those of the past as the story of the ship is explored in two time frames. He uses the experience to show real character growth as well as to highlight the strengths of the new crew. It also shows the strength of this series where characters can really be killed, giving the first attempt to deal with the ship a real air of tension so often missing in Star Trek books.

When the crew of the da Vinci receive a distress signal, they are horrified to discover that it emanates from just inside a black hole. To compound the problem, the owners of the station will do anything they can to prevent the rescue...

Last, but certainly not least, we have The Demon by Loren L. Coleman and Randall N. Bills. The story holds many of the best elements of this series, good character development, a puzzle which will have you guessing and the chance of real disaster. This time it is Tev who gets to do a little integrating as the adventure starts to bring the crew closer together as a family.

Overall, this is a good collection of stories, which, if you are unfamiliar with the series will certainly have you scurrying off to your local bookshop for the previous volumes. Of course, if you are a fan of e-books then they are available to download on-line.

Charles Packer

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