FoundationsBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at April 9, 2004 - 1:20 PM GMT
Title: Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers, Book Five: Foundations
Authors: Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
Publication Date: March 2004
Format: Mass-Market Paperback
I've always been a fan of the character of Montgomery Scott and wished there were more novels released that featured him prominently. The first full-length Starfleet Corps of Engineers novel, Foundations, fulfills that wish as Scotty gets a chance to shine in a story that offers something for any fan who enjoys passing some time with a good book.
The main plot is set within a 24th century framing story that sees the crew of the USS da Vinci attempting a dramatic rescue of a runaway vessel. Authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore take the reader back to three key S.C.E. missions set during the 23rd century in a tale that explores the origins and evolution of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers.
Utilizing flashbacks to tell a story certainly isn't original but it definitely works well in this instance. Each of the three flashback stories is a complete and interesting tale on its own. Ward and Dilmore know how to engage your attention from the opening paragraph of a novel and spin a highly entertaining tale.
The relative quiet of the gamma shift aboard the USS da Vinci is effectively shattered when sensors detect a runaway ship broadcasting a distress signal. The ship belongs to a previously unknown alien race, the Senuta. Determined to assist the crippled vessel, the members of the da Vinci's crew find the answers they need in Captain Montgomery Scott's recollections of his own experiences assisting the crew of the USS Lovell, an early S.C.E. vessel.
Those memories take us back to three distinct points in Trek history and the authors deftly interweave those moments of Starfleet history within the 24th century rescue. The first is just before a young Commander Montgomery Scott reports for his new posting as chief engineer of the Enterprise during an emergency mission to repair vital outposts along the Romulan neutral zone. It doesn't take Scotty long to come to appreciate the importance of an organization like the Starfleet Corps of Engineers and the tenacity with which its members tackle whatever is thrown at them.
The second mission revisited is set just after Captain James T. Kirk talks the Landru computer into shutting itself down leaving the population of Beta III in shambles. Starfleet sends the S.C.E. not only to assist in rebuilding the Betan infrastructure, but to help the Betan people rebuild their society as well. Scotty finds himself once again on temporary loan to the Corps when the Enterprise moves on to another assignment. Unfortunately Landru has other ideas and it soon becomes clear that the task at hand will be much more complicated than anyone imagined which leads the S.C.E. to take another giant step forward as an integral part of Starfleet.
The last flashback is set after the Enterprise's refit when Scotty decides to spend his leave participating in the testing of a new engine design. Starfleet has been working with the Kelvans in a cooperative effort to perfect transwarp drive, even providing the decommissioned frigate Chandley for the test. During the test run things go horribly wrong and the Chandley finds itself far from Federation space, staring down the weapons of an alien vessel whose commander is not too happy about finding the Federation vessel in his own backyard.
Originally released as an eBook trilogy in 2002, as a full-length novel Foundations is an even more effective story without the recapping needed when a tale is broken down into individual parts. Well paced and carefully plotted, Foundations is mighty satisfying reading in a number of ways.
The 24th century framing story effectively sets up each jump back to the past while at the same time providing its own interesting dilemma. Using the same characters, the crew of the USS Lovell, in each of the three flashbacks provides continuity and good flow to the overall narrative while at the same time allowing the reader to get to know and appreciate the characters, particularly Commander Mahmud al-Khaled. Al-Khaled, like the da Vinci's Commander Sonya Gomez, commands a crew of unique individuals you can't help but like.
Ward and Dilmore have a real knack for writing dialogue that very effectively brings the individual characters to life. The camaraderie and obvious respect and affection both the crews of the da Vinci and the Lovell feel for their shipmates shines through the written words. As does the pleasure and fulfillment both the officers and civilian specialists take in their work.
If you are not already a follower of this popular series, then give Foundations a try. It's a perfect opportunity to be introduced to a wonderful set of characters that fulfill a distinctive role and provide a fresh and unusual perspective to the Star Trek universe. Best of all, it's a fun read.
Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.