Aug 10, 2010

[Books] Star Trek: Have Tech, Will Travel (Starfleet Corps Of Engineers Book 1)

Star Trek: Have Tech, Will Travel (Starfleet Corps Of Engineers Book 1)As much as I've always been a huge Star Trek fan for most of my life, I haven't been particularly keen on religiously following the books. I didn't immediately realize why I stopped buying the books but given that I kept on picking up the Star Wars books in contrast, a reason for this quirk began to dawn on me.

I think what has often bothered me about the Star Trek books is that they decided to go for an episodic format instead of longer story arcs. It was their effort to follow the format of the TV series and probably to encourage more writers to offer to write stories for the franchise. This is a good and a bad thing since (1) it means that you can pick up a book without the burdens of overly dealing with continuity apart from that of the show but (2) it leads to a lot of disposable characters and plot lines that will never be explored again in later books. It's the latter item that somewhat frustrates me since it's hard to believe that such amazing and wondrous adventures are easily forgotten and never referenced again in later stories. That's what tends to bother me.

But despite this general bias against the book format, I found myself deciding to pick up this title when I saw it in the sale bin. For the price, it was pretty much a steal and I guess that helped motivate me in that respect. Plus the premise in itself seemed interesting enough and had me wanting to venture into the somewhat geekier side of an already geeky fictional universe.

Star Trek: Have Tech, Will Travel is the first published collection of the tales of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. It contains for separate stories that had been previously released in eBook format as written by different authors. And thus the book is really an anthology that was more tightly knit together than I had expected.

The four stories center around the engineering adventures of the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci - a Saber class starship and the flagship of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. The ship is led by Captain David Gold with Commander Sonya Gomez as his first officer and in charge of SCE team aboard the ship. So yeah, it's not a ship entirely composed of engineers.

Other notable characters include Domenica Corsi who acts has Chief of Security, P8 Blue or "Pattie", an insectoid alien froma race known as the Nasat, 110 the Bynar whose race are able to directly interface with computers through speech and Dr. Elizabeth Lense as their chief medical officer and apparently the colleague of Dr. Julian Bashier of Deep Space Nine who took the position of valedictorian of their batch.

The book follows the team in 4 different adventures. In The Belly Of The Beast, the team are joined by Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge of the Enterprise to investigate a mysterious sphere that attacked a Federation colony. The ship was incredibly large with nearly unstoppable regenerating shields and impressive defensive weapons. Then in Fatal Error, the super computer that runs all aspects of Eerlik life is no longer functional for some reason despite it's automatic repair applications. With things on the planet going chaotic, it's up to the crew of the da Vinci to respond to the computer's distress call.

Hard Crash involves a mysterious asteroid-like ship that has crash-landed on a populated world. The SCE Team are dispatched to investigate the vessel and determine its function and realize there's a lot more to it than how it initially appears. Lastly, Interphase, Book 1 is the first part of a two-part story that has the team trying to retrieve the long-lost USS Defiant, the same ship that was stuck in an alternate reality in the TOS episode The Tholian Web. But the ship has more secrets than just the mysteries behind its disappearance, one that will brings additional peril for the da Vinci.

I enjoyed the stories primarily because of the more mechanical nature to their mysteries. Sure, the Enterprise gets its fair share of adventures, but the focus there has always been variety. In this case, the team only gets sent during situations that require more technically-inclined expertise. Hence the reason why I stated earlier that their missions tend to be a heck of a lot geekier than most. Although I can see that this more narrow focus to things leads to more targeted storytelling that might turn off some readers.

The other great thing about following around the adventures of this crew is how each story seems very well connected to one another. Despite being written by different authors, there was clearly an attempt to give the series a stronger sense of continuity and thus tighter storytelling. Of all the stories, I think I liked The Belly Of The Beast and Hard Crash more than the others. The Belly Of The Beast was a good example of their dynamics as a team while Hard Crash was a nice, well, human interest piece. If you get my drift, that is.

At the same time, the stories did have their fare share of flaws. In the span of four stories, certain tropes have began to take route such as us being constantly reminded of the Bynar's abilities (and his personal plight) or some attempts at banter that feel more awkward rather than endearing. The writers are still trying to get used to handling the characters and determine their dynamics and relationships.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this little collection and wouldn't mind reading other adventures involving the crew. Have Tech, Will Travel gets 3.5 references to the hot cocoa incident out of 5.
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