A massive scandal, rogue players exasperating tensions, and innocent civilians in the crosshairs. It may be current events to some, but this time out at Treksphere it’s how we see David Mack’s new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel “Collateral Damage.”
The following review contains general spoilers for several books in the current post-Nemesis literary continuity. Every effort has been made to keep spoilers concerning “Collateral Damage” itself to a minimum. You have been warned!
For the past twenty years or so, Simon and Schuster (the publisher behind Pocket and Gallery Books) have given fans of Trek literature a pretty solid post-Nemesis TNG storyline. Elements of TNG, DS9, and Voyager are interwoven to form a tight, if not complex, deuterocanon of sorts. With the premiere of Star Trek: Picard only three and a half months away, David Mack visits the TNG era with “Collateral Damage”.
In the wake of recent TNG books, in which Section 31 has been exposed, a high-level purging of Starfleet leadership is underway. Caught up in the midst of the purge is Jean-Luc Picard, whose role in a crisis on the planet Tezwa years earlier (established in novels “A Time to Kill” and “A Time to Heal”, published in the summer of 2004) brings him into a courtroom to determine if he will face a general court-martial. In his absence, Commander Worf serves as acting Captain and must bring forth all of his Starfleet and diplomatic training in a quest to save an endangered colony and restoring the honour of the Fleet in the process.
The Nausicaans, lead by the reflective and aggressive Kinogaur form the backbone of conflict for the Enterprise crew, while Phillipa Louvois, now the Federation’s Attorney General, leads the charge in the courtroom seeking the end of Picard’s career.
The role of Kinogaur is written from a unique perspective, giving his story a powerful yet reserved tone befitting of the de facto leader of an annihilated people (Nausica was destroyed during the Borg Incursion in the Star Trek: Destiny miniseries). Mack’s choice of perspective lends an expansive quality to the story of Kinogaur and his people, one that pays off later in the story as Worf and the Enterprise crew begin to understand just what is going on, and what it might take to liberate from the ashes the potential destruction of many worlds.
A surprise for me (and, honestly, an unwelcome one when I saw the name) was Thadiun Okona, the rogue from TNG season 2’s “The Outrageous Okona”. Though he was featured in four TNG-era comics back in the 1990s (DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation issues 25 through 28), and in an alternate universe story (Myriad Universes: “The Embrace of Cold Architects” as Guinan’s replacement after Picard is killed on the Borg cube), I have never found William O. Campbell’s character to have much useful value outside of the humour he brought to a bottle episode. I’ll be darned if David Mack didn’t take this guy and transform him into a compelling and (dare I say it?) engaging presence in “Collateral Damage”.
Like Kinogaur, Okona benefits from a unique writing style, and while his presence might be argued by some as contrived (like by me at first), within a few scenes the reader is really drawn into the seriousness, the humour, and the fun that Okona can bring – even in the midst of his genuinely shady work. While he may not have taken the cake as the character whose storyline impressed me the most, I will say that the overall flow and quality of “Collateral Damage” would be significantly impacted if he were not present.
While the legal drama surrounding Picard is compelling, my true love in this story is Worf’s continued growth. Facing a perilous series of challenges while commanding the Federation’s standard-bearer, our favourite Klingon genuinely earns my respect as he steps out from Picard’s shadow in a definitive way, owning the situation and guiding his crew forward with a warrior’s spirit and the highest ideals. Mack makes me crave a Worf-commanded series all the more, though with Star Trek: Picard moving us roughly twenty years post-Nemesis, it is most likely that we will never see such a thing.
Individuals who have read my reviews over the years know that I love my Star Trek books. I generally consume them pretty fast. Fans of Trek Lit have been given some great tales this year, but far and away the jewel of 2019’s schedule (at least as of this writing in mid-October) is “Collateral Damage”. This was the first book all year that I found myself tearing through forty, sixty, even a hundred page runs at a time. You don’t want to stop reading, and that’s the best compliment I think any author can receive.
“Collateral Damage” is a satisfying, engaging cap to fifteen years of Trek’s literary canon. David Mack brings us back full circle to where he started us in the summer of 2004 and does it in grand style. While the pathway to future stories in this timeline may still be open, October’s release truly feels like the opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the ride that the novels have given us since Nemesis… no matter where they go from here.
Simon and Schuster provided a copy of this book for review. No further consideration or compensation was offered, and the opinions in this review are the genuine opinion of the reviewer.