Monday, January 11, 2016

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Quiet Place review

    I created the United Federation of Charles to review Star Trek: Expanded Universe novels. I quickly moved away from this format because, well, I was interested in other stuff and there was a slow plod toward the events of the first Star Trek movie. Still, I've always maintained my love of the franchise and with the discovery Peter David has returned to writing Star Trek: New Frontier novels, I decided to return to my review of said series.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the series: Star Trek: New Frontier is a series which takes place contemporaneously with Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is a series which manages to avoid the almost painfully continuity-obsessed Star Trek Expanded Universe which could really use a book similar to Star Wars: The Essential Chronology by Kevin J. Anderson.

    Instead, the premise of the series is a fairly simple one: there's a starship (U.S.S Excalibur), an area of mostly-unexplored space (The former Thallonian Empire), and a bunch of oddball crewmembers you get to know as the series carries on. Star Trek: New Frontier is the series I tend to recommend for people who want to get into a series without having to know what Y character did in X book as well as Episode 73 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They're also entertaining, funny, and adventure-filled, books.

    The Quiet Place begins with a young woman who has been cursed with visions of the supernatural "Quiet Place" for years on an alien world where she lives as an outcast. Unbeknownst to her, the woman who raised her is a spy keeping her a prisoner. Events conspire to take the U.S.S Excalibur to said world even as a mysterious rogue named Xyon, who steals back cultural treasures stolen from other worlds, finds himself heading that way as well. All of them are in danger of the Redeemers, a fanatical (albeit short) collection of theocrats who will do anything to acquire the Quiet Place. Further complicating things are the Dogs of War, literal dog-men who are some of the most feared mercenaries in the Quadrant.

    This novel takes place away from the U.S.S Excalibur for the most part and focuses on new characters Xyon and Riella. Xyon is basically the Star Trek version of Han Solo but is a good deal less mature, being closer to Luke's age rather than Harrison Ford's. Riella is, as the book's back cover indicates, related to one of the main characters as well as being not who she thinks he is. My favorite element is Robin Lefler, mid-level shipwoman, decides to pledge her love to Si Cwan the Prince traveling with the Excalibur only to have one of the most hilarious moments in the book where she gives it without bothering to check who is in the room first.

    I like the story but it's not the best example of the series and relies a little too much on the new faces to carry the story. Still, I like both Xyon as well as Riella as they're characters you want to see succeed and are entertaining. Star Trek enthusiasts may be a little put off by the focus on action and adventure over science as well as diplomacy but there's room for all four in the setting. Others may dislike the level of supernatural material which exists alongside science in Peter David with the Redeemer's "Words" being the worst example but if you accept science works like it does in Doctor Who (like magic) it's not a problem. It's not like Star Trek isn't guilty of this to begin with. Q is basically God after all and they cloned Klingon Jesus at one point.

    Like all novels in series, the story relies on the strength of the characters and Peter David is a master of crafting quirky but lovable misfits. In a very real way, he's similar to Joss Whedon and one-ups him in several ways. While my favorite character in the series, Mackenzie Calhoun, only makes a couple of minor appearances, I still enjoyed it. The Redeemers and Dogs of War both make good, if two-dimensional, villains who succeed primarily due to the unexpected amount of humor regarding both their appearances. They're immensely funny when they're not being terrifying and that's to the story's benefit.

    Overall, this is a good entry into the franchise even if it's unlikely to blow readers away.


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