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Excelsior: Forged in Fire, by Michael A. Martin, Andy Mangels Book Review | SFReader.com
Excelsior: Forged in Fire, by Michael A. Martin, Andy Mangels Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2007 Review Posted: 3/18/2008 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Excelsior: Forged in Fire, by Michael A. Martin, Andy Mangels
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
One of the strengths of many Star Trek novels is the ability to fill in continuity gaps left by the various television series. At times they can go too far, to the point where it's almost "continuity porn," but this isn't always the case. If the book tells a good story as well as filling in the hole, I'm all for it. Thus, when a novel like Excelsior: Forged in Fire (by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels) comes along, I have to stand up and take notice of it. This book is fairly dense, but it is marvelous. I enjoyed it so much that I could hardly find any flaws in it.
Fans of the Deep Space Nine show may remember the episode Blood Oath, where the three Klingons from the original series (Kang, Koloth, and Kor) are shown to have been old friends with a former Dax host, with a blood oath to kill the "Albino" for what he did to their children. This tells that story, as well as the story of how Captain Sulu becomes captain of the Excelsior. There's a peace conference going on between the Klingons and the Federation, one which the Albino (a Klingon who had been born sickly and left for dead, but who managed to survive to adulthood and become a criminal mastermind) is determined to stop. Peace between the two races would mess up his criminal enterprise. When the three Klingon captains, along with young diplomat Curzon Dax, track him down in Klingon space, he vows revenge against them the only way he knows how: through genetic disease manipulation. Can they, along with Sulu and the Excelsior, stop the Albino's mad plan?
I'll get the first and only real criticism out of the way here. The threat to Sulu and his daughter seems tacked on, to make him even more involved in the story than he really needs to be. I think it's enough that he's involved in the events that set the blood oath into motion. Due to his past history with the Albino, he had every reason to take part in the events here. Tacking on the attempt to murder Demora seemed pointless.
That being said, the rest of this novel is riveting. Almost 500 pages, with small text, it has to be one of the longest Trek books ever (certainly the longest not written by David R. George III), yet it's almost impossible to put down. Martin & Mangels' prose just flows off the page. Whether it's a tactical briefing, a discussion between a former first officer and his new acting first officer who doesn't appear to like him, or whether it's an action scene, it all just grabs you and won't let you go. I've always enjoyed their storytelling, and Forged in Fire is no exception.
Even better is the characterization, with not a false note in the bunch. Sulu is his typical self, having learned from Jim Kirk when it's time to go against orders and follow what you believe is right. They get Captain Styles down pat, fleshing out his character from the arrogant boob who was in "Star Trek III" yet still making him recognizable. It seems Starfleet brass has seen fit to force Sulu upon him, despite the fact that it was Sulu's mentor who embarrassed him in front of the entire fleet. Yet despite not liking Sulu, he demonstrates why he deserves at least some respect as a captain.
Finally, Dax and the three Klingons are picture-perfect. They are recognizable as their characters from the original television series, yet they also fit seamlessly into the "new" Klingon honor code. We see the bond of trust form between these four, and we understand why, all those years later, they came to Deep Space Nine to enlist Dax to aid them one last time against the Albino. They even manage to give the Albino a believable and interesting back story.
The best thing about Forged in Fire, at least in my eyes, is the way Mangels and Martin handle the continuity. Filling this many holes in Trek history (Sulu taking command of Excelsior, Dax and the Klingons, they even manage to throw in how these three Klingons went from having a smooth forehead to the bumpy ones between the two television series!), it would be very easy to mire the book in a swamp of continuity references. But they don't do that. In fact, they seem to make a lot of assumptions that readers will generally know all of this stuff. The references are there, but they pass by quickly and then move on. On the other hand, if you're not familiar with the Trek mythos, it's really not confusing. The authors explain everything clearly yet they do it within the narrative, rather than with massive infodumps. I loved it!
Forged in Fire is a must-read for almost any Star Trek fan. Not only does it explain a lot of things, it's just a rollicking good Star Trek novel. Even for those uninitiated into the whole Trek phenomenon, this book would be good. Despite being a prequel of sorts, it's definitely a standalone novel. Though if you find yourself fascinated with this whole situation, you may have to track down the episode to see what eventually happens. All in all, this is a stellar Trek book.
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