How does one review a trilogy? Does one take it one book at a time or as a whole, complete work? This review will take the latter approach, as David Mack is the sole author and really - Star Trek: Destiny is one tale; it’s just an incredibly complicated tale, which is why it took three whole books to tell it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the three books - Gods of Night, Mere Mortals, and Lost Souls - were enough. Also, how does one begin to critique this work without revealing key plot points? It’s a tough task, but to make things easy, I’ll warn you now: I’m revealing a couple of surprises, but not revealing anything that Pocket Books hasn’t already announced.
The Destiny trilogy sets out to accomplish what Pocket Books, Paramount, and CBS have been trying do to since the release of the motion picture Star Trek Nemesis, and that’s find a way to reboot the system for the future of Star Trek literature. After reading the Destiny books, believe it or not, I think they may have actually succeeded in that effort. I’m not sure how happy I am with the result, but more on that later.
A panel from Pocket Books had announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 that the Destiny books would shake the Star Trek universe to its very core. Boy, do they ever.
The Destiny books are a crossover of unheard of proportions. Author David Mack was saddled with finding a believable way to bring together the contemporary tales of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as always in command of the iconic U.S.S. Enterprise-E; Captain William T. Riker, in charge of his smaller, yet formidable exploratory the U.S.S. Titan; and the newcomer to all this, Captain Ezri Dax, whose character was recently thrust into the command of the Federation Starship U.S.S. Aventine.
But here’s a spoiler (and one that has already been blown by the publisher’s own media releases) in the middle of all of this, another familiar Captain becomes a major factor. Captain Erika Hernandez, Captain of the Earth Starfleet ship Columbia. You know the one... the NX-02... from the 22nd Century?
Yep. Time travel is involved.
At this point, I have to say something in these books’ defense; time travel doesn’t become the dead weight usually associated with it. Here, it actually works. It becomes a plot device yes, but within the context of the story, it was actually necessary.
The first book takes us back to Romulan War and Captain Hernandez finds herself and her crew (which include a contingent of MACOs) in battle. During this, they stumble upon something much more fearsome than the Romulans, and then they are never heard from again by the people of the 22nd Century.
Back to the 24th Century, those of us who have been reading the Star Trek: Titan series know that the Titan is quite literally months outside of Federation space, doing what we all love about Star Trek: they’re going boldly where no one has gone before.
The Enterprise and the Aventine however, are much closer to home, but keep coming across transwarp conduits that Picard believes, strike that, Picard knows the Borg are using to reach into Federation and neighboring space to instigate a full-scale invasion.
The Borg it seems, have finally had enough of attempting to assimilate humanity and the affiliated UFP species - they just want them dead now. This is not good. Bad guys are coming and Picard knows it. The Borg are set, ready and focused on wiping space clean of the Earth and its neighbors, including anything that’s near it - Vulcan, Qo’noS - it doesn’t matter. They’ve already started to wipe out outlying colonies.
Riker and his crew come across strange and incredible power readings and being the curious Starfleet officers they are, they suspect the Borg at work and go to investigate. Of course, they end up in the very same pickle that the NX-02 encountered. Until they run into a Captain who by all rights should have been dead for over 200 years.
Not only has Mack has been burdened with having to tell this epic tale, in the midst of all of this, he has to handle the “personal” details of the characters as they’ve been left to him at the end of their respective tales from their storylines. Here are a few spoilers, but in the big scheme of things, if you don’t know these by now, you haven’t been reading very many Pocket Books.
Picard is not only dealing with the abject horror of the impending return of his most terrifying enemy, he’s also trying to deal with news that his wife, Dr. Beverly Crusher will be bearing him a son. My personal feelings on this turn of the plot have been difficult for me to bear. I was infuriated with this turn of events long ago when Pocket Books caved to what they thought was the will of the fans by moving forward with this relationship. However, putting those feelings aside, Mack does a fairly good job getting me to believe that Picard might actually be decent father material. Crusher is another story. Unfortunately, I don’t know if it’s Mack’s fault or just the fact that the Crusher character never seems to claw her way out of her own stereotypical traps. Crusher is and always has been whining, ingratiating and teeth-grindingly maternal. Portraying her that way isn’t a fault of the writer, when she is what she is. In any event, imagining her pregnant at the age of 58 kinda grosses me out, and Picard is easily pushing 75 by this point in the Trek timeline. Long-lived humans in the future or not - this story line is utterly ridiculous and thoroughly unbelievable.
Dax is still relatively new at this commanding officer thing and I was fearful that her character would end up being a shrill, self-doubting mop of a pixy - but here I was very pleasantly surprised. Mack handles this personality trait with aplomb. Dax does doubt herself, but never to the point of collapsing or being irritating. She’s finally beginning to rely on her symbiont and begins to accept the knowledge that has been literally injected into her, but she never gives up that spunky attitude. While this could have been a really annoying trait about her, I ended up appreciating the fact that she was a strong female character that was a little more Mary-Lou Retton. I ended up smiling more and more as I read about her and her team’s efforts on the Aventine.
And finally to the Titan: Those of you who have read the first four Titan books already know that Riker and Troi have tried to have kids, and after a failed first pregnancy were pregnant at the end of the last book, Sword of Damocles. I won’t spoil the plot for you, but the pregnancy is facing serious problems. Mack goes back and pulls out the plot from the The Next Generation episode ‘The Child’ and surmises that the genetic problems Deanna is facing were caused by her first pregnancy with the alien entity in that episode. Riker and Troi are dealing with this bit of news as the horror of the Borg attacks unfold, and whereas the Picard-Crusher pregnancy is a chore to get through, Mack deals with Riker and Troi’s fear and pain with real poignancy.
Mack’s depth of Trek knowledge and his clear, quick, and concise writing style were the perfect choice to take on such a huge story. This could have been bogged down by another author, but admittedly there were times I was really hoping to have more descriptive paragraphs to help me understand what was happening.
Here’s an example: At one time Mack went into an extremely detailed paragraph about the grotesque and deeply disturbing scene of an officer undergoing the assimilation process. Yet when it came time to describe the massive and overwhelming destruction being caused by thousands of Borg cubes raging across Federation space, the information - which should have ripped my heart out - fell flat. Too many times the news of the destruction came through as reports to the UFP President Bacco instead of taking me to the scenes and describing to me what the Borg were actually doing. After this happening a few times, I began to feel thoroughly detached from the destruction. This is where I feel the books could have been longer, or that a fourth book might have been worthwhile.
All in all these books leave us exactly where we were told we would be: the Federation and surrounding territories are in shambles. Over 40% of Starfleet is destroyed. Planets have been obliterated. Tens of billions are dead. Vulcan, Tellar, Andoria and Qo’noS are heavily damaged. Risa, Regulus and a host of other planets are essentially decimated.
The Destiny Trilogy ended up being a much better read than I had ever anticipated when I heard what their outcome was supposed to be after Comic-Con. Mack did a better-than-average job telling the tale in comparison to most other Trek books that preceded them.
I have to say though, I hate what they’ve done to the Federation and to the universe of Trek. Pregnant and married Picard who no longer gets to explore seems like such a travesty. It’s an awfully long way to tear down the years of canon just so they can find something new to write about. But given the task he was laden with, Mack did a remarkable job keeping me wanting to turn the next page, even though I may not have been happy with the story.
That’s saying something.
Buy: Star Trek: Destiny - Gods of Night
Buy: Star Trek: Destiny - Mere Mortals
Buy: Star Trek: Destiny - Lost Souls