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June 25 2024


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Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at August 7, 2005 - 11:07 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger
Author: David Mack
Release Date: August 2005
Format: Mass-Market Paperback
ISBN: 1-4165-0774-4

The Klingons call it the Gonmog Sector. The Tholians refer to it as the Shedai Sector. Within the Federation the same area is known as the Taurus Reach, a vast and unexplored region of space that is home to a new space station, Starbase 47, also identified as Vanguard. Few literary based Star Trek series have generated as much pre-release speculation and higher expectations than Vanguard so I'll cut right to the chase -- Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger is superb.

Returning to Federation space after the events seen in Where No Man Has Gone Before”, Captain James T. Kirk is surprised to discover a Federation space station. Puzzled by the Federation's interest in an area so far from its borders and so near the xenophobic Tholian Assembly and Klingon Empire, Kirk orders the Enterprise to put in for much needed repairs.

As Kirk ponders the mystery of the enormous base, he begins to suspect that there is much more to Vanguard than meets the eye. It is a suspicion shared by the Tholians, the Orions, and the Klingon Empire, each of whom believes that there are less than benign motives behind the Federation's sudden and unexplained desire to explore and colonize the Taurus Reach.

When a calamity deep within the Reach threatens to compromise Starfleet's continued presence in the region, Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise must assist Vanguard's crew in investigating the cause of the disaster and containing the damage. In the process, they learn the true purpose behind the creation of Vanguard, and what the outcome of its mission may mean for life throughout that part of the galaxy.

Penned by best-selling author David Mack, Harbinger is an outstanding novel in its own right and the perfect introduction to a series with lots of promise. Given Mack's background in writing screenplays for television, it's not surprising that Harbinger reads like a novelization of a television pilot, a pilot that that presents an extremely interesting premise. The story has all the necessary elements to hook you and hold you; a great concept and fascinating characters you want to know more about, whether or not you personally find them likable.

As you read you begin to realize that there are a multiple mysteries being set up within the narrative, the most obvious being what's so special about the Taurus Reach. By the end of the first chapter you are already intrigued by the ambiguities surrounding the station and as the story continues to build, the more you read the more you want to know.

Vanguard has a large cast of characters, both principal and supporting, most of whom are all trying to get to the bottom of what's going on, each for a different reason. Mack takes his time introducing the main characters, continuously building up an ever evolving picture of them as individuals. The mix of characters provides a nice balance. They aren't all Starfleet and they most definitely aren't what you'd expect. This approach to 'casting' the series provides the reader with multiple points of view as events unfold. The various characters feel real in their responses and reactions to the events they find themselves caught up in. Some of the characters you'll like, some you'll loathe but they are individually and collectively a fascinating bunch.

As Harbinger opens only four people assigned to the station are aware of the secret aspect of the Federation's mission into the Taurus Reach: the station commander, Commodore Diego Reyes, a thirty-year Starfleet veteran with a smooth, decisive command style, Lieutenant Commander T'Prynn, Vanguard's intelligence officer, a young Vulcan whose perfect poise can't quite mask the fact that she is deeply disturbed, the Senior Federation Diplomat assigned to the station, Ambassador Jetanien, a Chelon with a passion for history and the station's archaeology and anthropology specialist, Lieutenant Ming Xiong.

Rounding out the main cast of Starfleet personnel are Dr. Ezekiel Fisher, the station's CMO, a man marking time before retirement, and Captain Rana Desai, the resident JAG officer whose personal relationship with Reyes complicates both their lives.

Also principal characters are a handful of 'outsiders'. You'll meet journalist Tim Pennington, a frontier correspondent for the Federation News Service. Ganz, a formidable Orion merchant prince. The requisite spy, a Klingon female named Lurqal, who has been surgically altered to appear human who and goes by the name of Anna Sandesjo and my personal favorite, the trader Cervantes Quinn.

The time frame for Vanguard is firmly anchored by the use of a major point in Star Trek history, the Enterprise's disastrous mission to the barrier. While Mack does sprinkle in various homage's to the TOS era, and address some discrepancies seen on screen between “Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Corbomite Maneuver", he never allows the Enterprise crew to take over the story, they are very much supporting characters in this first novel.

Harbinger has it all; adventure, suspense, nail-biting action, characters you very quickly come to care about and the occasional twist to keep you on your toes. Based on what has been set up in Harbinger for future authors to expand on, I have no doubt that the Vanguard series is going to be a sensational addition to the Star Trek universe.

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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.

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