Star Trek Vanguard: Declassified
© 2011 Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, Marco Palmieri, and Dayton Ward
At the edge of Federation space, at its shared border with the Klingons and the Tholian Assembly, lies trouble. The area known as the Taurus Reach brims with mineral-rich planets supporting humanoid life, but has remained curiously uninhabited for eons. The Tholians regard it with fearful reverence, as if something is buried there that should remain so. Here enter Vanguard Station, a Starfleet starbase intended to oversee the colonization of the Taurus Reach — and more secretly, a lab to examine its buried secrets. The ST Vanguard series has combined excellent characters, intriguing scientific mystery and steady drama for five books. Now, in Vanguard Declassified, we find four more stories of intrigue, set throughout the first four books of the series. Three of the authors are familiar for their contributions to Vanguard, but Marco Palmieri is better known as the editor who is responsible for spearheading the Star Trek Relaunch.
In “Almost Tomorrow”, the Klingons enter the scene for the first time, and a spy is revealed. This features our favorite Machiavellian Vuclan, T’Pyrnn, and a sex scene that’s more awkward than most because she has a malevolent ghost in her head who wants to possess her lover. Oh, you wacky Vulcans.
“Hard News” features a world-weary but determined journalist and his girl Friday, developing a story that will expose a connection between the Orion pirates and some Starfleet intelligence ops. Word to the wise, making Orions grumpy is a bad idea. They’re not Klingons and you won’t see them coming, green skin aside.
“The Ruins of Noble Men” is a story set in two different time periods; in one, a Vanguard ship is dispatched to a suddenly isolationist colony world to convince them to come back to the fold. The colony is hiding a secret, though, and in attempting to establish meaningful communications with them Captain Desai finds herself thinking about an episode from her former boss-lover’s youth, when he had an usual run-in with a Klingon named Gorkon. (Casual Trek fans may remember Gorkon as the assassinated chancellor in The Undiscovered Country.)
The last story, “The Stars Look Down”, is by David Mack and involves a secret mission to land on a Gorn-controlled world, infiltrate one of their ships, steal/copy data and compromise the original, then get out before the Gorn reprise Cestus III. Features Quinn, a smuggler-scoundrel in the cut of Han Solo or Mal Reynolds, along with his SF intel partner Bridy Mac. This being a David Mack story, there’s intense drama and tragedy. (If you find yourself in a David Mack novel, pray that you are a one-page extra character who is not important enough to matter, either as a tragic death or as a plot driver. Be the guy behind the desk who nods to the main characters as they are running into action. It’s just not safe otherwise.)
The four stories span the entirety of the first five Vanguard books, and between then feature most of the favorite characters from the series. All four are enjoyable tales; I was most partial to “Hard News” because of the unsusual first-person perspective and the general story: I like the pre-ENT Orion pirates. They got a little weird after ENT, with pheromones making people slaves and such. Fewer sex slaves and more organized crime, please, thank you.