Star Trek
Corps of Engineers
Grand Designs

Authors: Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson, Kevin Killany, Paul Kupperberg, David Mack, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
Pocket Books
RRP: 9.99, US $16.00, Cdn $19.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 4489 0
ISBN-10: 1 4165 4489 5
Available 06 August 2007

Pocket books continue the rather excellent run of Star Trek: Corps of Engineers door wedges. The new book, Grand Designs, is number nine in the series and showcases another six novellas detailing the continuing voyages of Captain Gold and the Starship USS da Vinci. All the stories are also available as e-books.

In Ring Around the Sky, by Allyn Gibson, the crew are sent to help repair a planet straddling space station which was damage during the Dominion War. The ship is sent to Kharzh'ulla, a Tellerite colony world and home to Mor glasch Tev, a character who is normally regarded as arrogant in the extreme. However, the reader discovers that even the most arrogant person has their regrets and weaknesses. It's obvious from his detailed descriptions that Gibson gets a real kick out of technology as he indulges himself and the reader in descriptions of the station that rings a whole planet. Two plot threads are nicely woven together. On the one hand you have the technological problem of repairing such a huge structure, whilst at the same time you have the planets expert on the ring being, surprisingly, a bit pants for an expert, which makes for a mystery.

Orphans, by Kevin Killiany, and we're into a good old golden age sci-fi plot of a runaway generation ship. Okay, so the basic plot of a generation ship out of control has been used before, but Killiany still finds an interesting twist to this old idea. The da Vinci, with the help of a Klingon ship, must find a way of diverting the ship from crashing into the Klingon home world. Obviously, the inhabitants of the ship have no idea of how to control their flight, indeed, most aren't even aware that they are on a ship. The da Vinci has to contend with potentially hostile Klingons and the indigenous population in a effort to save the day.

Grand Designs, by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, is a tale of subterfuge and duplicity and that's just the Starfleet personnel. In a slight departure from the usual formula of the da Vinci being asked to sort out an engineering problem, this time the ship is sent to mediate between two hostile forces. Ward and Dilmore obviously do not believe in a slow build up, as the reader is thrown straight into an action sequence, before back tracking in time to detail how things had gone so wrong.

Failsafe, by David Mack, sees a Starfleet probe crash landing, intact, on Teneb - a pre warp civilisation. Well there goes the idea of non-intervention. With such a large amount of potentially lethal technology there for the taking, the da Vinci is dispatched on a mission of retrieval. Unfortunately, Teneb, is very similar to twentieth century earth - with a vastly uneven distribution of power and resources between the various nation states. Although Mack has used the story to hold a mirror to our own world, he also produces an even handed story, showing the tale from various viewpoints which prove that right and wrong more often are determined by who and where you are, rather than being universal standards.

Bitter Medicine, by David Galanter, sees the ships medic Dr Lense taking centre stage as the da Vinci finds a ship which contains a virus which could potentially wipe out whole planets. The problem is that the ship has a single survivor, a child, Dobrah, who is immune. If Lense cannot find a cure the child will have to be abandoned - condemned to live out the remainder of his life alone in a decaying ship. As Lense struggles to find a cure she finds herself inextricably drawn to Dobrah. It's another departure for the series, being mainly a character study and medical mystery. This is not a complaint. One of the nice things about the series is that there are no boundaries as there is no TV canon to constrain it. Therefore, the stories have a greater feeling of freedom than the novels which use the characters from the shows.

The last story is Sargasso Sector, by Paul Kupperberg, who takes the idea of this freedom and runs with it to produce a tragicomic tale. The da Vinci is sent to clear a path through the junkyard that is the Sargasso Sector so that a bunch of colony ships can have clear passage. As usual things start to go wrong very quickly.

So six great tales, without a dog amongst them. For less than a tenner, what more could any self respecting Trek fan want?

Charles Packer

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