Star Trek: S.C.E.

Authors: Various
Pocket Books
RRP 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $11.99
ISBN 1 4165 0326 9
Available 06 June 2005

Following the disaster that met the U.S.S.
da Vinci at Galvan VI, the survivors must try to live with what happened and decide how they may best meet the future...

Initially I was taken aback, with so many authors; it looked as if Breakdowns was written by committee, never a good sign. What you actually get is four short stories - one long enough to be considered a novella. If you have not heard of any of the authors they have to a man/woman a considerable body of work in the TV spin off field.

Home Fires follows Domenica Corsi's journey home after the fateful events at Galvin VI, home to a father who for reasons she has yet to discover, hated her joining Starfleet. Every family has a secret and its time for Domenica to discover hers. This is a very poignant story that really revolves around her relationship with her father. Together they go on a trip which is really a trip of discovery about the basis of their relationship and the deep hurt her father still feels about her joining Starfleet. Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore do a very good job of making the love and distance, which exists between father and daughter, real and the resolution of their relationship, realistic and not at all mawkish.

Age of Unreason relates the tale of Carol Abramowitz's mission to Vrinda, where new technology holds out the hope of great good, but is being used as a weapon of war. Although this holds some resonance of what had previously happened on the U.S.S. da Vinci, this is more of a straight forward science fiction tale that would have stood up even with all the Star Trek references taken out. The author, Scott Ciencin, has a very naturalistic use of language and avoids the many pitfalls of adding techno-babble to his story to add it weight. The story is engaging and the ending a genuine surprise. It was a delight to read.

Balance of Nature by Heather Jarman rather stands out from the other three stories, in that it does not directly deal with the aftermath of the Galvan VI mission. Indeed, apart from a few passing references, you would think that it had nothing in common with the books overall theme. Maybe that's why I didn't like it. It relates the story of P8 Blues return to her home planet. What follows appears to be a straight forward ecological disaster, but when it is discovered that parts of the population have also disappeared; things should have taken on a more sinister tone. Unfortunately, the prose is plodding, with way too much exposition and not enough personal insight, making it feel a bit of a fish out of water compared to the other three very personal stories. I did not find the story engaging and the constant change in P8's name throughout the text just lead to confusion. It's not that it's a bad story, as such, it just doesn't sit well with the others.

The last story, Breakdowns by Keith R. A. DeCandido, lends its name to the overall book. At first this started as a rewrite of Families from The Next Generation. The Captain comes home with all his doubts and fears after the conclusion of a tragic mission, into the arms of his family. He even contemplates leaving Starfleet. The truth is with prose you can explore so much more than can be shown on a TV screen and DeCandido does this admirably. The story is, without doubt, the most engaging in the book, and the most realistic in its portrayal of the relative's reactions to him visiting them to explain the demise of their loved ones. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Why should they be in reality?

Overall the book tells very personal stories, I've not read the book which presumably preceded this one, but that's not necessary. These are stories about loss and the need to go forward after a tragedy - themes which are universal to the human condition.

Charles Packer

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