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About the Author
Dayton Ward is the New York Times bestselling author of the science fiction novels The Last World War, Counterstrike: The Last World War—Book II, and The Genesis Protocol, and the Star Trek novels The Fall: Peaceable Kingdom, Seekers: Point of Divergence (with Kevin Dilmore), From History’s Shadow, That Which Divides, In the Name of Honor, Open Secrets, and Paths of Disharmony. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife and daughters. Visit him on the web at DaytonWard.com. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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In this the fourth book in the series, the station's commander, Commodore Diego Reyes, stands accused of violating his orders by allowing the secrets of the station and its mission to be leaked to the media. The whole mission grows far more dangerous as Klingons enter the area, hoping to harness Shedai technology as weapons. In the background the nearby Tholians, once slaves to the Shedai, remain hostile, and powerful remnants of the Shedai have awakened.
A parallel story takes us to Vulcan, where there are ancient mysteries in the desert and a tie-in to Spock and an episode of the original Star Trek.
The nice thing about this volume in particular is that it brings in other elements from this time frame in the original series. The prologue and epilogue refer to Kirk's confrontation with Klingons and the peace imposed by the Organians. And one of the main researchers on the station is Dr. Carol Marcus, with her son by Kirk, David, still a child, but grown up in the film "The Wrath of Khan".
On the other hand one of the frustrating elements about placing a series of different adventures in a familiar time frame is the problem of where did it all go? There's very little here that shows up in other Star Trek, which makes sense because those stories were written first. But if the secrets of the Taurus Reach are so amazing, and the technology Carol Marcus is dealing with has such ability to change science, why are there no traces of it, no references to it, in the later Star Trek time frame? Apparently less than century later the mighty and dangerous Taurus Reach has become a backwater, too familiar and too tame to mention.
It's very possible that what Carol Marcus learns on Vanguard turns into the Genesis Project of "The Wrath of Khan". The Cestus III outpost mentioned in passing here, site of the original series confrontation between the Gorn and James Kirk, has in the time frame of "Deep Space Nine" turned into the only place in the galaxy where baseball is still played. But where's the rest of it? Were all the adventures we are reading about here for naught?
The other frustrating element is the enormous length of time between the publication dates of the books in the series. The previous volume was published almost two years before this book. When you have to wait that long, it's hard to keep track of who is who and what has happened, no matter how hard the author tries to fill in the missing information.
Fortunately the wait for the next volume won't be quite so long, as it's due out about half a year after this one. But one does wish Pocket Books could bunch up such an excellent series a little more, especially when each volume has such a cliff-hanger ending.
Those who suffered through Ward's last Vanguard outing (Book 2: "Summon the Thunder") likely remember an exciting tale marred by sloppy writing. What a great surprise to find the writing this time out is solid and tight, 100% improvement. There's still a habit of mixing too much exposition with the dialog. But while this was mind numbing in StT, it works a lot better here. It's also worth mentioning that the reams of bad Trekno-quips that littered StT are absent this time. Thanks Dayton.
If you're new to Vanguard I'd recommend starting with the 1st book, David Mack's excellent "Harbinger". There's enough backstory provided in OS that you could jump right in here, but you'll definitely miss out on some of this books emotional impact.
Rather than recap all the action, I'll just say that if you are interested in Vanguard then this is worth reading. It's not a bad novel; it just doesn't stand on its own at all. What new material there is seems only prelude for David Mack's Precipice, which will continue the series later this year.
One of the interesting aspects of the series is the way that Shedai technology and the meta-genome are precursors to later events with which readers are already familiar. For example, a man is completely healed much like would happen with a dermal regenerator in TNG. Carol Marcus's very appearance lets us know that this will be an avenue to Genesis, at least to some extent. And Ward helps set the stage for not only the Organian intervention into a Federation/Klingon war shown in the episode `Errand of Mercy,' but also the colony of Nimbus III shown in one of the movies, Final Frontier I believe. Yet rather than this sort of thing being secondary to the story, it seems that Open Secrets is an exercise in reconciliation as story.
The novel also suffers from time lapse between its publication and its predecessor's. Frankly, I had a hard time remembering what happened, even with a short primer at the novel's beginning. It is always a delicate balance between killing a previous reader with unnecessary exposition and helping an unfamiliar or forgetful reader gain some sort of orientation, but I felt Ward erred on the side of too little here. While I have seen his prose style being ripped in reviews, I found it adequate if uninspired. The author likely would be served well by spending a little more time on style, but it was hardly sub-average for contemporary Star Trek fiction.
And with the title of the novel being Open Secrets, one would expect that some secrets would be revealed. Unfortunately, what is revealed leaves the reader with more questions than answers. A novel that seems to just be dealing with the fallout of the previous entry while moving characters around to set them in place for the next, Ward's book is adequate though unsatisfying.