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New Frontier: No Limits, edited by Peter David Book Review | SFReader.com
New Frontier: No Limits, edited by Peter David Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Simon and Schuster Published: 2003 Review Posted: 10/3/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
New Frontier: No Limits, edited by Peter David
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
I haven't been keeping up on my New Frontier reading, the series of Star Trek books by Peter David about Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and his crew of the starship Excalibur (which has recently been split up into two ships, I understand). Nevertheless, I decided to ask my library to get a copy of the New Frontier short story anthology, No Limits. The series is exclusively written by Peter David, so it was interesting to see how these characters would be handled by other writers (though edited by David).
Perhaps I expected to be able to catch up before it came in to the library, I don't know. But it didn't, and I realize after finishing the book that it may have been a mistake to read this book first. It doesn't contain many spoilers for the book series (except for the New Frontier timeline at the back of the book), but it tells some of the back story of a lot of the New Frontier characters, some of whom I haven't met yet. These stories also give us history to some of the conflicts that are currently taking place in the series, such as that between Kat Mueller and Cray, the Andorian. Of course, I haven't encountered either one of these characters before, so the story ("Performance Appraisal," by Allyn Gibson) lost a lot of its impact. It's still a well-told story, and I did enjoy it, but the nuances were completely missed.
That being said, the anthology was a hit and miss affair, but most of the stories were at least entertaining. In the aforementioned "Performance Appraisal," we get the story of Kat Mueller when she was still an assistant chief engineer on the Grissom as she vies for the position of "nightside" commander. She has developed a new method of detecting cloaked Romulan warships that they are testing near the Neutral Zone. Unfortunately, they come upon a Romulan ship that claims they have crossed the border and threatens to blow them to pieces. It will take quick thinking from Mueller to save the ship and prevent the Romulans from figuring out exactly why they were there in the first place. Even without knowing the characters, the story is still extremely well-written and fun (especially seeing the Romulan commander, Tomalok, again). Cray's malevolence is palpable, especially in the final scene which obviously leads up to what's happening in the book series now.
Another good story is the first one, "Loose Ends," by Dayton Ward. This tells the story of an intelligence mission when Calhoun was working for Starfleet Intelligence, involving the aftermath to the "Next Generation" episode, "The Pegasus." Picard has agreed to turn over the illegal Federation cloaking device that as on the Pegasus. Calhoun has been tasked with infiltrating the Romulan ship and destroying it. The way he does so is quite ingenious, and Ward's story is definitely a great way to kick of the anthology. The story has an energy and a wit that is very much in the vein of Peter David, though it doesn't sink into silliness as David's work sometimes can. I did think that Calhoun succeeded a little too easily in his task, but that would be the only fault I can think of. The writing is crisp, the story moves quickly, and Ward packs a lot into a few pages, showcasing Calhouns sense of loyalty (to Picard, who sponsored him for Starfleet).
The best story in the anthology, though, is David Mack's "Waiting for G'Doh," or "How I Learned to Stop Moving and Hate People." This is an early story in Zak Kebron's life. Zak is a Brikar, huge and rock-like, with a wicked sense of humour (though it's not really in evidence in this story). He's assigned a mission of staking out a park on the planet Iban, where a Federation bureaucrat named G'Doh is meeting some Cardassian agents to pass on some secrets. Zak, being rather conspicuous, is going to be beamed inside a statue in the park, where he will have to remain motionless until the meeting takes place. His only point of contact with the outside world is Sotak, the Intelligence agent who communicates with him about the constant delays in the meeting. Poor Zak suffers all the indignities, including having a bird do its business on him, all of which he has to suffer silently. This leaves nothing but his thoughts, and those are hilarious as told by Mack. This is one of the few stories in the book that really seems to capture the Peter David humour. From the title of the story to all of the jokes inside, to the seemingly never-ending wait for the arrival of the G'Doh, this story doesn't miss a beat. Even more surprising, since nothing actually happens in the story until the end (which, I guess is probably more than happens in the original play). I couldn't stop laughing while reading this story.
The rest of the stories in No Limits are range from fairly good to pretty good. Some of the stories seem quite inconsequential while others obviously set up parts of the book series. For me, the least interesting stories were "Redemption," about the origins of the god of the Redeemers, Xant, and Terri Osborne's "Q'uandry," where Dr. Selar meets the female Q entity from the Voyager television series. Osborne's writing was fine, and tried to salvage the story, but it used one of my least favourite episodes from the series (the Q civil war) and was based on the in-joke that Selar and the female Q were played by the same person. It just didn't grab me. Xant's story might have if I were more familiar with the Redeemers.
Ultimately, I am glad that I read No Limits. I may have to reread it once I have caught up on the books, to see if it resonates a little more with me. On the other hand, I was gifted with being able to read some good stories by a lot of the current crop of Trek writers, in addition to a few I had never known before. If you're a New Frontier fan, you definitely have to pick this up.
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