FailsafeBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at June 17, 2004 - 11:13 PM GMT
Title: Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers #40, Failsafe
Author: David Mack
Release Date: June 2004
Failsafe is David Mack’s fifth Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella and as usual he pushes the storytelling envelope. As the dramatic events of the narrative race ahead at an almost dizzying pace you can’t help but think of the obvious parallels between the events of the story and our own world today, but as the tale unfolds we are also reminded that things aren’t always as clear-cut as them seem.
When an unmanned Starfleet probe crash lands on the pre-warp planet of Teneb the USS da Vinci is assigned to an undercover repair and recovery mission. Commander Sonya Gomez leads a small team comprised of the ship’s deputy security chief Vance Hawkins, cultural specialist Carol Abromowitz, and tactical specialist Fabian Stevens, who will have to accomplish the mission with limited equipment while cut off from the ship. In true S.C.E. style things immediately begin to go horribly wrong and the team finds itself split up in the middle of a war zone fighting to stay alive as they race to find the probe.
Technologically and sociologically the Tenebians are very similar to twenty-first century Earth. Among the nation states that make up the planets population there are vast technological and economic inequities. There is also a dominate resource hungry super-power. By allowing the reader to experience the story from the point of view of both sides of the conflict through the eyes of those directly involved David Mack eloquently illustrates that the distinction between right and wrong isn’t always as obvious as it appears.
There are few authors who can write action sequences that resonate the way David Mack does. You feel it, you hear it, and you see it. You can almost smell the battle. From the haunting images of the opening chapter to the emotive final pages you are there. What makes Failsafe stand out though is that the author takes perfect advantage of the stories setting to provide action sequences that use contemporary weaponry.
Amidst all the carnage and explosions the characters of Carol Abromowitz and Vance Hawkins get a chance to stand out. Although Chief Petty Officer Hawkins has been an S.C.E. mainstay from the beginning as the security officer most likely to end up in sickbay, in Failsafe he gets an opportunity to shine and I hope other S.C.E. authors will follow up on the development that Mr. Mack provides in this story for both characters.
In each S.C.E. tale he has told, David Mack has left an indelible mark on the series. With Failsafe he has done it again. You’ll have to wait for the final paragraphs to find out what the twist is this time, but the getting there is guaranteed to be worth it and a whole lot of fun.
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.