Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Straight to the Tip: Armageddon's Arrow from Dayton Ward

+Daniel Adams takes us out with the Enterprise-E as it returns to its core mission of seeking out new life and new civilisations. Catchy line that - they should use it....

I’d argue that a lot of the 24th Century novels are like the Marvel Cinematic universe. 

There are Avengers-type series like the Destiny, Typhon Pact and The Fall sagas, epic stories that have implications for the quadrant, and so our captains and other main characters have to put their heads together and work to solve the problems, in the same way that Iron Man and Thor team up. However, in the same way that each individual Marvel hero’s supporting cast is given brief, if any appearances in the Avengers, the junior officers of the various crews – most of which have never been seen on screen, are often briefly mentioned, but don’t really get involved. 

Armageddon’s Arrow is a return to the basic form of Star Trek, in the same way as say, Iron Man 3 or Thor 2 focuses on the relevant heroes instead of a mega team up. Dayton Ward’s novel is set mostly on Picard’s Enterprise-E, which has returned to Starfleet’s core mission of exploration. Therefore, by focusing on the one ship, the next generation, of er, The Next Generation all get a moment to shine. For those who don’t know, Picard is still sticking to Captain Kirk’s advice, and remains a Captain. Troi and Riker, were on the Titan, but now Riker is an Admiral, Crusher is still on the ship, as is La Forge. Worf is the first officer, and numerous posts are filled by crew that are entirely created for the novel continuity. 

While charting a previously unexplored area of space, The Enterprise stumbles across a time ship from the future, created by the Raqilan to bring an end to their decades long war with their neighbours the Golvonek. As intended, the ship, based on a familiar planet killing design, was designed to destroy the home world of the Golvonek, thus ending the war before it began. The plan was derailed when the ship was attacked before it jumped to the past. The damage to its systems meant that the ship failed to revive the crew from cryogenic stasis when it arrived at its destination. The war began, and the crew were revived by Picard decades later than planned. 

In the present day, the contemporary versions of the Golvonek and Raqilan want to get their hands on the weapon from the future. Picard finds himself balancing not only the Prime Directive, but the Temporal Prime Directive as well. In the meantime, things are further complicated when the revived crew have an agenda of their own. 

The novel starts slowly, but eventually picks up speed as we learn more about the craft’s occupants, and the two races trying to take hold of it. The two species are actually pretty well rounded, rather than being one race of ‘goodies’ and one race of ‘baddies’, instead they come across as two three dimensional species in their thinking. Indeed, there is no real ‘villain’ of the piece, just soldiers following orders. 

During their investigations, the crew discover that the ship is linked to the Planet Killer from The Original Series episode The Doomsday Machine a nice nod to the past and gives Picard another added layer of pressure has he desperately strives to stop the weapon being seized by one side or the other while working within the confines of Starfleet regulations.

The good captain continues to be a much more mellow character than the man we saw on the TV series, his dedication to duty tempered with fatherhood and marriage However, he has the same angst about sending crew on dangerous missions, even more poignant when one of those crew-members is his wife, the returning Doctor Crusher. 

The doctor, Worf and La Forge are faithful to their screen counterparts as well. Crusher still has the same passion for saving lives, whereas La Forge gets some new developments with a romantic partner, sickbay’s Dr Harstad. First Officer Worf is a particular source of delight as he shows a playful spirit through his traditional dry delivery, almost as if there is a touch of Riker in the way that our favourite Klingon performs as First Officer to the crew. 

An exciting plot development comes from the Vulcan Engineer Taurik. The character, who had a role in The Next Generation’s Lower Decks, comes across information concerning the Federation in the future ship’s database. True to Vulcan form, he refuses to divulge the precise nature of that information, seals it away so that not even Picard can access it, and we never find out what the information means. It’ll be interesting to see where this information goes.

Of particular note is T'Ryssa Chen, the reverse Spock, a half Human/half Vulcan that has chosen to reject her Vulcan heritage. Although I find the concept of the character interesting, In I have to say I didn't care for her much in her earlier appearances, but subsequent writers have succeeded in making her more and more likeable. 

If I had one problem with this book is that I though the pacing was a bit out. I thought the last few chapters were very busy and it was exciting, particularly the sequences where our heroes are fighting to escape and/or rescue other crew from captivity, but the process of getting there seemed to be quite slow. Again, perhaps this is a consequence of the reduced cast of characters. 

Overall, while the idea of time displaced castaways being woken up in the present isn't a new one, the but the concept that they are from the future instead of the past is a novel spin on the idea. The return to one ship and one crew is a welcome change in scope, as more characters get a chance to shine, and it makes for a nice rest before the next cross franchise epic.

Armageddon's Arrow is now available from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99 ISBN 9781476782690.

Agree with Dan's review or did you have another opinion? Drop your thoughts below!

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