Friday, 8 November 2019

Tying Up Those Threads: Section 31: Control

Ahead of the rise of Picard in January, I've managed to cram in some reading and that's included the rather brilliant Control.

Section 31 have played a huge part in the franchise since the late 1990's. Entwined with the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine we thought we had explored some of their origins with Enterprise, were a little befuddled when they turned up in the Kelvin Universe for Into Darkness and have stamped a firm foothold in the second season of newbie Discovery.

Lo, the novel series likewise has paved a dark path thanks to the dealings of one Julian Bashir especially in the last couple of years since his involvement with curing the Andorian people and then working as a double agent to get to the heart of the organisation through The Fall and then Section 31: Disavowed.

Now we've reached an impasse and Control finally takes us to the very beating heart of Section 31 in the 24th Century and also back to the very spark of its origins in the 22nd Century.

Not to give too much away but this is a must read in every sense and I kind of kicked myself for not having read it a lot sooner. Section 31: Control slips the story back into key Federation moments from the foundation of the galactic organisation and how it became a key component of the Alpha Quadrant.

David Mack is an unquestionable master of the Star Trek literary universe penning many of the finest instalments of the franchise but my god has he ramped it up again. What it doesn't feel like is that the stories are being over stretched and with the impending Picard and Discovery time jumping there's a palatable feeling that we are reaching the end of a journey - and that's very real in another sense that we will no doubt touch on in a future post.

Control maxes out on its tying of loose ends with the return of Sarina Douglas plus assistance from the resurrected super-Data and his daughter Lal in finally attempting to shut down the secretive/disruptive organisation.

The action here is brilliantly free-flowing and by keeping the story to a minimal amount of characters we aren't lumbered with anything excessive. I would warn that you will need to have a decent knowledge of the existing literary Star Trek universe to get a good hold on events. The paralleling of the 22nd and 24th Century stories does help to remove some of the potential confusion but there's a lot of "inside" Star Trek information you'll probably need to be at least aware of to truly appreciate the impact made by Section 31 and not just inside the Federation.

Considering how the onscreen Star Trek universe is about to take onboard a big jump and the return of Jean-Luc, it does feel that the literary series is beginning to tie up some of its more ongoing loose ends as well as perhaps explain some of the bigger TV elements of the franchise which fans have been asking about for many years, especially the increasingly popular Section 31.

Mack's characters too continue to be believable with Bashir a far cry from the stuttering youngster of Emissary and a fair distance away from the more arrogant "superman" of the latter Deep Space Nine years. His experiences since then as part of the books series has had a great impact on him as has his relationship with Sarina turning Bashir into even more of a torchbearer for the upkeep of Federation standards. 

Nor is he vehemently against Section 31; his visible distrust of the organisation seen on screen has become more channelled and focused to resemble a more tangible plan but one he will sacrifice all to complete.

Data on the other hand continues to be something of a mystery. His rebirth in the android body used by Noonien Soong to escape following his critical assault by Lore in Brothers has been a bone of contention with me for nearly six years. It was one of the first stories I read (the Cold Equations trilogy) back in 2013 with Data's resurrection seeming to be an unavoidable part of the Star Trek story whether we wanted it to happen or not.

Here he and Lal are more human than ever and almost unrecognisable from their TV personas. Lal is perhaps excused since her appearance was limited to one 45 minute story but Data's journey to become more human is more complete than ever with him distinctly different to the being we knew. For me, however this character is written he is not "that" Data. For better or worse the original wasn't brought back exactly the same instead with some significant character trait leaps which even now are fairly jarring.

Section 31: Control however must be viewed in the bigger scheme of things and perhaps not have as much drawn from it to parallel to upcoming franchise events. Whether I'm a fan of Human Data or not, this is one of those Star Trek novels that you have to get hold of and is well worth a read. While Deep Space Nine: Gamma might have taken a long while to get through, this was a page turner without doubt. 

One more winner from David Mack. Looking forward to seeing how his upcoming work from the franchise pans out!

Section 31: Control is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £7.99 

What's been your favourite part of the novels story? What do you think will happen going forward into 2020?

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