Star Trek: Vanguard
Reap the Whirlwind

Author: David Mack
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 3414 3
ISBN-10: 1 4165 3414 8
Available 02 July 2007

The mystery of the Taurus Reach is about to be revealed. Ancient secrets lie on the fourth planet of the Jinoteur system, and three great rivals are fighting to control it: the Federation and the Klingon Empire want to wield its power; the Tholian Assembly wants to bury it. But the threat stirring on that distant world is more dangerous than they realise. The Shedai, who once ruled the Taurus Reach, have risen from their aeons of deathlike slumber to take their revenge. To keep Jinoteur from falling into enemy hands, the crews of Starbase Vanguard and the
USS Sagittarius must risk everything: friends, loved ones, their own lives...

Taurus Reach? Sagittarius? This Original Series equivalent of Deep Space Nine is starting to sound like a horoscope! An astrological prediction for the fate of the crew of the USS Sagittarius during this novel might read something like this: "A peculiar conjunction in the Jinoteur system bodes ill for your crew today, so beware of planetary defence systems, sharp alien protrusions, steep cliff edges and crumbling ancient buildings."

Yes, as usual there are casualties aplenty, this time involving the crew of the above named starship, which takes centre stage during the middle, longest and most exciting section of the book, "The Bright Face of Danger".

It's a small ship with an accordingly small and tight-knit crew complement. It's also a crew that has more than its fair share of foibles and neuroses. There's a middle-aged Deltan captain who's undergoing a kind of male menopause, an engineer with a phobia about being on planet surfaces, and a chief medical officer who's obsessed almost to the point of fixation with cleanliness.

The ship's first officer is one Clark Terrell, who film fans will know goes on to attain the rank of captain by the time of his appearance in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. His presence is a double-edged sword: he provides a comforting touchstone of familiarity, but his known future also means that his life is never truly in danger here. Dr M'Benga also reappears, during several of the Vanguard sequences.

The preceding section, "The Brink of Shadow", is mostly build-up, preamble and a refresher on the story so far, though it does introduce an amusing couple of ensigns named Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, who are reminiscent of the characters played by the actors of the same names in the movies Clerks and Clerks II.

Meanwhile, the mighty Shedai play a larger and more prominent role than ever before. I am reminded of the similarly old and powerful races of Babylon 5, the Shadows and the Vorlons, particularly when their factions disagree on how to deal with the encroaching presence of humanoid species.

The concluding section of the novel, "Instruments of Darkness", is all about winding down and tying up loose ends, while still leaving some threads dangling and managing to spring a few surprises. Though the saga is clearly far from over, the confrontation with the Shedai is the most decisive yet, and the concluding chapters bring a greater sense of closure than either of the previous two releases. Indeed, with a few relatively minor edits, this book could have brought the series to a full stop. Perhaps David Mack, co-creator of the Vanguard concept and author of this book, wrote it that way deliberately, just in case the series didn't go down well and Pocket Books needed to bring the narrative to a hasty conclusion.

The author, who returns having penned the first novel in the series, Harbinger, takes a few leaves out of Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore's book, Summon the Thunder, in terms of both the style of the tome's title and its duration. At 409 pages, this is almost as long as Summon the Thunder - even longer if you count the handy "Minipedia" of names and terms at the end of the book.

A word of warning, though: don't dip into the Minipedia until you've finished reading Reap the Whirlwind, as it contains spoilers.

Though never quite as nail-biting as the best bits of Harbinger, this novel reaps the benefits of the series' snowballing mythology.

Richard McGinlay

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