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New Frontier: Stone and Anvil, by Peter David
Genre: Star Trek
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 2004
Review Posted: 2/18/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

New Frontier: Stone and Anvil, by Peter David

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

"'Whoso pulleth this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise King born of all Britain.' . . . An ancient legend. The story is told of a mighty sword, plunged into an anvil set upon a stone, which appeared in a churchyard in London during a time of great upheaval and unrest . . . They fell upon the ground and hailed him as the king. Do you understand what I'm telling you Mackenzie? It means . . . that some of us are born to greatness . . . some of us have greatness thrust upon us . . . and for a very few, it's a combination of both."

Peter David continues to keep me enthralled with Book Fourteen of his New Frontier series, Stone and Anvil. The story picks up right where the previous novel, "Gods Above," left off. Peace is restored to the sector and Captains Calhoun and Shelby are about to enjoy one of the benefits of marriage when a body tumbles out of the turbo lift. It's Lt. Commander Gleau and all evidence, including DNA, points to Ensign Janos of the Excalibur.

Security Chief Kebron, a friend of Janos's, doesn't believe the evidence, certain his friend has been framed, but when Janos goes into a feral rage and escapes custody, then later regains his senses with no memory of what he's done, things suddenly reveal themselves to be much darker than anyone had thought.

The Selelvians (Gleau's people) are on their way to collect the murderer, but Calhoun, one of the few Starfleet officers who knows Janos's true origins, thinks perhaps he might know who's behind the Ensign's loss of volition. As any good Starfleet Captain would, Calhoun disregards orders and absconds--David's word--with Janos to track down the man responsible.

The more of these Trek novels I read, the more I love them. And Peter David knows how to keep a person reading. I do think he sidestepped a little too often into cracking jokes, giving the novel a very uncharacteristic feel at times--Calhoun is a Xenexian warlord who led the rebellion that freed his home planet from their masters, so the frequency with which he drops his one-liners is distracting; David wants to paint Calhoun as a no-nonsense straight-talker whose idea of negotiating is to punch you until you give him what he wants, yet he--and the rest of the Excalibur crew in fact--have exchanges like this:

"I need you to access something for mew Morgan." He leaned forward on his knuckles. "And I further need you to understand that whatever services I ask of you are to remain strictly between us."

She looked at him askance. "Are we discussing sexual services, Captain?"

"Wha--? No! Grozit! What gave you THAT idea?"

"No reason at all."

"I meant," he said very deliberately, "that anything we discuss stays within these walls."

"And ceiling," she reminded him.

"Yes, and ceiling."

"And floor."

The exchange was rapidly losing its charm

Actually, that happened back at "sexual services." Anyway, other than a little too much joking, Stone and Anvil was a great read.

David expertly manages to divide the narrative into THEN and NOW sections, as the story really has its roots back in Calhoun's time at the Academy when he, as a third-year-student, was asked to take part in a covert operation to his home planet. So not only is Stone and Anvil the story of Ensign Janos and whether he did or did not kill Lt. Cmdr. Gleau, but also of how Mackenzie Calhoun went from being newly-freed Warlord to Starfleet Academy plebe, and how he first met his future wife Elizabeth Shelby.

Honestly, I can't decide which narrative I enjoyed more.

Peter David really understands what it is people want from a Trek novel (what I want, anyway), and he delivers it tenfold. There's not only an intriguing plot, something that has the potential for a few casualties--and not all of them may be wearing red shirts--but also fully-realized characters in human situations (no matter how alien their origins or physiology), and big friggin' starships doing awesome things in space. What more do you need from Star Trek? Me? Nothing.
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