A few years ago, Pocket Books came out with a series of six Star Trek books that were called Captain's Table, each a story of one of the series' captains at that time (Picard, Janeway, Sisko, Calhoun, Kirk, and Pike). That series was quite successful, but there have been quite a few more captains in the series since then. Thus was born the latest Trek anthology, Tales from the Captain's Table, edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido.
Probably my favourite story in the bunch is "The Officer's Club" by Heather Jarman.
I've criticized Jarman in the past for her two novels, but I greatly enjoyed her last short story (in Tales of the Dominion War), but this one was even better. It's a story of Kira's time in the resistance, where she has to infiltrate an officer's club run by collaborators, apparently including her brother, in order to kidnap one of the Cardassians' greatest communications techs in order to stop the upgrading of communications in the Bajoran sector. What she discovers there is not what she expected, as apparently the club is a front for another resistance cell. Or is it? Who can Kira trust? And is her brother the collaborator she thought he was? Kira will have to sacrifice a lot in order finish her mission, and she will not remain unaffected by it. This story is even better than the previous Jarman story I mention above. It has a completely believable Kira, who hasn't been completely hardened by the circumstances of her life yet, though she's well on her way. It has betrayal, intrigue, and wonderful characters all the way around. It's the longest story yet (though it's not the longest in the book), so Jarman has space to create these characters, manipulate them, and make us care for them. There are also enough twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the very end what the truth really is. This is probably my favourite story in the book.
Another good one is "Pain Management" by Peter David. Shelby is one of my favourite New Frontier characters (what I've read of it, anyway), so I was looking forward to this story. Here, the Trident is in for refit and repairs after being damaged in a massive ambush during the Selelvian/Tholian war. At the starbase, Soleta, science officer of the Exalibur (Shelby's former ship, captained by Shelby's husband) happens to be there for a conference and offers her a ride back to Excalibur to see her husband while the Trident is being repaired. On the way, they are shot down by an Orion ship and crash land. Surrounded by Orions in a cave, Soleta does what she has to do to take them out, knowing that either she will die, or her horrible secret (she's half-Romulan) will be revealed. Shelby must choose between an oath to a friend, and loyalty to that very same friend. And she's not happy about it. This story is also quite good, filling in a little bit of backstory on both Shelby and Soleta, detailing how Soleta's heritage came to be known. There's a little bit of that old "Peter denying Jesus" feel at the end, where Shelby has to choose whether to deny knowing about Soleta's secret in order to save her own career. The action is well done, and David's characteristic humour is there for all to see. He manages to make Soleta both very Vulcan and yet very sardonic at the same time. At times tense, at times heart-wrenching, this story is one of the good ones.
Which brings me to my least favourite. "Darkness" by Michael Jan Friedman. Picard is asked to provide his own tale, and he tells the story of what happened just after he had lost his own ship, the Stargazer. He is very depressed after the inquiry into the loss of the ship, as even though he was acquitted of any wrong-doing, he still feels responsible. He's on a journey to see an old friend, to see if she can offer any solace and advice to him on where to go from here. On the way to her planet, he passes through an ion storm that ends up messing with his engines, forcing him to ditch his ship. The population of the planet he lands on is being subjugated by the Skillig, ruthless raiders, and he ends up getting involved with them. Helping them and discovering a forgotten portion of his past brings him to a decision point about his present and future. As with many of Friedman's stories, I found this one kind of forgettable, though it is well-told. The twist at the end is well done, but otherwise it felt much the same as other stories I've read. There's not really a lot different here. To show how forgettable the story was: most of these min-reviews, I've had to look at the story again to get a detail or a name right. This story, I had to look at the story again to remember what happened in the story. That's not a good sign.
As with most anthologies, the quality of the stories varies. I can say, however, that they are all enjoyable, even the ones from authors I have questioned before. DeCandido does a wonderful job tying all of the stories together, almost giving them a sequence as one captain leaves and another comes to the bar. With a mixture of tall tales, tales of "dubious credibility," and a couple of stories that fill in a hole or two in the respective series, Tales from the Captain's Table is definitely a must read for any Trek fan. Who knows? You may find a series that you like and decide to go read it.