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New Frontier: Gods Above, by Peter David Book Review | SFReader.com
New Frontier: Gods Above, by Peter David Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Simon and Schuster Published: 2003 Review Posted: 2/6/2008 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
New Frontier: Gods Above, by Peter David
Book Review by C. Dennis Moore
Have you read this book?
In all my years of reading and writing, there are a few things of which I am absolutely certain. One is that, no matter what anyone says, "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" are two of the most boring books you'll ever read. Two, no matter the subject or author, the only thing likely to truly scare me in a novel is ghosts. And three, no matter how outlandish or bizarre a situation you can dream up, someone, somewhere is bound to turn it into a Star Trek plot.
ds Above, Book 13 of Peter David's "New Frontier" series, is a shining example.
Capt. Mackenzie Calhoun of the U.S.S. Excalibur has just brought his ship, barely, through a battle with a group of beings known as "The Beings", a race who purport to be the Greek and Roman (and Norse and whatever other pantheon you can name--one of them even claims to be not only Zeus AND Woden, but also Santa Claus) gods of Earth history. They don't necessarily want to harm anyone, they only want what any god wants: to be worshipped.
Calhoun, however, is not one to bow easily to anyone. We join the crew of the Excalibur as the battle is ending and another Federation ship, the Trident (captained by Calhoun's wife, Elizabeth Shelby) arrives just in time to save them and tow them back to a Starbase for repairs.
Meanwhile, the Beings settle on the planet of Danter and what they couldn't get from the Excalibur, they'll get here. Worship in exchange for Ambrosia, a substance guaranteed to not only cure what ails you, but also cure everything else as well, including all your doubts, fears, and general concerns about any- and everything you can imagine.
The Federation isn't sure just what this Ambrosia really is or what it can do, so they send Ambassador Spock, along with the crew of the Trident, to Danter to get a sample. Determined to make the Beings pay for what they did to his crew, Calhoun sneaks away in the Excalibur, too, and joins them there, luckily, because the Beings aren't content to be worshipped by the Danterians, they're still pretty set on reaching the masses of the galaxies. And any race who doesn't bow to them? They'll be destroyed, simple as that.
Naturally, Calhoun and Shelby do what any good Starfleet captains would, they present the Beings with a unified "We don't think so."
Personally I thought ds Above was a great read, very fun and funny, with all the right ingredients of a good Star Trek story--and then some. The plot itself is goofy enough to make you shake your head but also told just well enough to make you believe it. But the weird doesn't stop there. I'd never met the crew of the Excalibur before this book, but they are one strange group of creatures. There's Burgoyne, a hermaphrodite referred to as "hir" and "s/he". Zak Kebron, security chief with the body made of rock who undergoes an instantaneous adolescence in the middle of the book. Mark McHenry who may or may not be a minor god himself. Si Cwan and his sister Kalinda, Thallonion royals trying to establish a new empire. Lts. Arex and M'Ress, both of whom have come, independently of each other, through time from Spock's days on the Enterprise, to the future and are serving on the Trident now. And then there's Morgan Lefler, who is dead as the novel opens, but we later learn that, as she was hooked up to the ship's computer at the time of her death, is now a part of the computer, a part of the Excalibur itself. Is it hard to tell Peter David is a veteran of comic book writing?
When I started the book and was just beginning to see how outrageous it was getting, my first reaction was to roll my eyes and I was immediately ready to not enjoy the book, but by the end David had done such a good job focusing on the story I'd begun to forget some of the more insane aspects of it. Initially, I'd been concerned all of the insanity was going to be a part of the plot, but as I read on I realized very little of it was important to the plot of ds Above, only that it was just the progression of these characters' lives in general. This isn't a one-off he's writing, ds Above is the 13th novel he's written in this series, it's his baby, so all the crazy stuff that goes on is just part of the natural order of life on the Excalibur. So for that, I can look the other way and just go with it because he obviously knows exactly what he's doing.
I always enjoyed Peter David's comic book work, especially his run on The Incredible Hulk. He not only tells interesting stories, but he knows how to inject just the right amount of humor without overdoing it (okay, a few times his jokes seemed out of place given the situations here, but...). For example, Old Father is telling McHenry the time they've been anticipating throughout the entire novel, he and McHenry, is about to arrive:
"What happens now," said the Old Father, "is that we endeavor to communicate with Captain Calhoun. We step out from the shadows and move toward the daylight. Our time is swiftly approaching."
"Our time. You mean I'm finally going to have a chance to live again?" asked McHenry, his hopes rising.
"You? No. No, chances are you'll wind up completely obliterated."
"Oh." McHenry considered that and said, "Our time sucks."
Or consider this exchange between Spock and Calhoun, proving David knows how to make his own creation a true Starfleet Captain while dealing very well with established heroes.
"Do you have a plan as to how to proceed, Captain?"
"I was considering going in there and hitting people until they give me what I want."
"Ah. The Kirk Maneuver."
Luckily it's not all sarcasm and jokes, though. Peter David can write an impassioned Captain's speech like nobody's business:
"I sat in my ready room and talked to Mark McHenry, and he told me these . . . Beings . . . are not to be trusted. In the privacy of that room, he expressed an opinion. Nothing more. And he died for it, and Morgan died for it, and other good people died for it. These creatures don't walk away from that. I don't care if they're some advanced species. I don't care that they claim they can present us with some sort of 'golden age.' I don't want to comprehend their alien thought process. I don't care that our mandate is to seek out new life and new civilization, because we sought out that new life, and it wasn't civilized and it killed us, and I'm going to kill it back. And don't you for a moment think you're going to talk me out of it."
You tell 'em, Calhoun!
I don't read a lot of Trek, but when I do there are certain things I look for: space battles, awesome aliens, and a captain itching to kick some ass. ds Above delivers on all counts. Very good, and I've got two more Peter David "New Frontier" novels sitting here I'm dying to dive into.
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