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Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind, by David Mack Book Review | SFReader.com
Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind, by David Mack Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2007 Review Posted: 8/6/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind, by David Mack
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
One of the more original concepts in the Star Trek novel line has been the Vanguard series. Set in the very beginning of the original television series, with completely new characters (except one minor character who's only familiar to fans), this exploration of an ancient mystery has turned a lot of readers' heads and impressed them as well. The third book, Reap the Whirlwind by David Mack, carries on that quality and also reaches a new high. This book is fantastic, a worthy sequel to Summon the Thunder and probably the best in the young series so far.
Secrets can ruin relationships, but they can also ruin lives, and possibly end them. Starbase 47 (Vanguard) commander Commodore Reyes has a hard decision to make. A Federation colony on Gamma Tauri IV has decided to turn down Federation protection, mainly because Reyes can't inform the colony leader (his ex-wife Jeanne) what the real reason for Starfleet interest is on the planet. Signs of the meta-genome that Reyes' group has been investigating are on the planet, but that's highly top secret. Small comfort when the ancient race known as the Shedai, former rulers of the Taurus Reach, wake up and want to eliminate this mortal pestilence from their old haunting grounds, including this planet. Meanwhile, the USS Sagittarius is investigating Jinoteur, a focal point of the former Shedai empire, which could bring wrath of its own. Not just from the Shedai, but from the Klingons who have already lost a ship there. More and more information about the Shedai and the meta-genome (as well as its connection to the Tholians) is coming out, but at what cost? And will all of this start a war?
Mack ratchets up the tension until it gets to a breaking point, with jaw-dropping action sequences and beautiful characterization that brings everybody to life. As with most Mack books, the death toll rises, and not all of our favorite characters are spared. The fact that we've gotten to know some of them throughout this series, or even just in this book through the depths of Mack's characterization skills, makes it really hurt when one of them dies. And Mack doesn't shy away from the consequences of this either. Each death will ring throughout the story, causing other characters to change their perceptions and even do something they couldn't have even imagined themselves doing earlier in the book. Reyes is a perfect example of this, as he goes through monumental changes in Reap the Whirlwind.
Told with Mack's usual rich prose (nobody in the Trek stable of authors writes and action scene like him), the story just flies off the page and immerses you in it so that you can't put the book down. He also does the humorous scenes quite well, as those between trader Cervantes Quinn and his friend, journalist Tim Pennington, who are tasked by T'Prynn (the Vulcan agent from Starfleet Intelligence) to help the Sagittarius when it's in trouble. Their conversations are always funny, but yet they're also deep when Quinn realizes just the depth of friendship he feels for Pennington because of what they've been through. The characterization of the Sagittarius crew is phenomenal as well, making their sequences well worth the read.
Mack also gives us scenes from the Shedai viewpoint, further illustrating the trouble that the Federation (as well as the Klingons and Tholians) are in as we see the divisions between the two Shedai factions. I think this was greatly needed as it gives us a face to the implacable enemy we've been reading about the last two books, and it gives the story new branches to move along with the next book. Mack gives them distinct personalities, and my only fault with them is that the battle sequences involving their internal dispute started to get a bit confusing at the end.
"Summon the Thunder"'s main problem was that it took too long to get moving, but Reap the Whirlwind does not suffer in the same way. Things are frantic from the very beginning, even while the various characters discuss what's going to happen in the book. The pace is frantic, and only gets worse as events happen and everybody's in danger. It's almost impossible not to read through this book with breakneck speed as you have to discover what happens next. It kept me reading far into the night when I should have been in bed.
The problem with many Trek books is the seeming need to include continuity references to other books/episodes, many of them needlessly. Mack certainly avoids that problem, and the continuity references he does include are delicious, tying this series into the second movie, "Wrath of Khan" with the inclusion of Carol Marcus and Commander Terrell. It's a wonderful tie-in between what's happening with the meta-genome and what ultimately becomes the Genesis Device in the movie, but Mack doesn't dwell on the "oh cool, we know these characters!" effect. He introduces them as if they belong there (and they do) and then moves the story forward using them. The added "cool" factor of seeing these characters 10-15 years before the characters we're familiar with hits the reader initially but then the depths of Mack's characterization skills cause them to just become another set of characters to tell the story.
It even includes a Minipedia for Vanguard at the end of the book for those who can't remember specific details or characters in the series. Just make sure you don't read that until after finishing the book (or just look up a specific entry without actually browsing it), as it is complete up through Reap the Whirlwind, so it will have spoilers for this book.
I think it's obvious that I really enjoyed Reap the Whirlwind. The Vanguard series keeps getting better and better, and I don't know how they're going to top this one. From the stunning cover of a Klingon ship intimidating the Sagittarius to the final pages with the jaw-dropping revelation of what's going to happen to Reyes, this book is a keeper through and through. If you're a Trek fan, especially one of the original series, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
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