Review: Star Trek Section 31: Control, by David Mack

About the book, Star Trek Section 31: Control
Section31 - control

  • Series: Star Trek
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (March 28, 2017)
  • Language: English

From the New York Times bestselling author David Mack comes an original, thrilling Section 31 novel set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe!

No law…no conscience…no mercy. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answering to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost. The discovery of a two-hundred-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization. But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves just end up triggering its destruction. Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood. (via Amazon)

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, David Mack DavidMack

DAVID MACK is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of over three dozen novels and numerous short works of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, including the STAR TREK DESTINY trilogy.

Beyond prose, Mack’s writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) and comic books.

Mack’s most recent novels are THE MIDNIGHT FRONT and THE IRON CODEX, the first two books of his DARK ARTS series from Tor Books.

His upcoming works include THE SHADOW COMMISSION, book three of Dark Arts, coming in 2020, and a new STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION novel, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, on October 8, 2019. (via Amazon)

Connect with David:

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melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

This novel is two years old, but I only read it last week, because somehow, I missed it. My timing was not the best – reading this story concurrently with the last episodes of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, which was also about Section 31’s AI Control, though, not the same story (though some themes were naturally similar, as you might expect whenever you deal with a super-intelligent AI) had me wishing the Discovery writers were telling Mack’s story.

Alas, they were not. And Discovery, which I love, is it’s own thing.

So, what about Control. Well, this novel takes place in two time periods. One is at the dawn of the Federation, and involves a civilian scientist who has created a threat assessment logarithm that he sells to the Federation. If you’ve read any of the articles about how the back room folks at Amazon, Google, and Apple work with Alexa, and Siri and such, you can understand where some of the inspiration came from. The characters in that section of the novel, with the exception of passing mentions of Archer, are largely original creations, but they mesh well with the Star Trek universe. I felt the ‘past’ parts of the story made sense, especially given our current level of technology and the growing dependence on “smart” devices.

The “contemporary” part of the story is in the post-Nemesis timeline of current TrekLit canon, and features Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas in their current guise as interstellar people of mystery… I mean special ops agents. I was never a particular fan of Bashir when DS9 was on, but he matured as a character as I’ve matured as a person, a viewer, and a reader, and now I really enjoy visits with him.

Data and Lal (resurrected in previous novels) also feature heavily in the contemporary part of the story, but I find myself never sure I “like” this new version of Data. Yes, this slightly jaded, slightly bitter, lonely, isolated version of him makes sense after all he’s been through – in another novel he, himself, described himself as “Data 2.0” – but there’s something hollow about him that makes him difficult for me to connect with. (I’m sure that’s just a fangirl reaction.)

Overall, I found this novel to be well-paced, balancing the two time periods really well, with the sections in the early Federation really building well to the world we are so much more familiar with as fans.

As much as I found the story interesting and compelling, I also found it a bit prescient. As I was reading it, those aforementioned articles about Alexa and Siri kept coming back to haunt me, but so did the line from Harry Potter about never trusting anything that appears to think for itself unless you can see where it keeps its brain.

Goes well with peach cobbler… and piping hot raktajino, obviously.

Review: STTNG: Cold Equations #3 – The Body Electric

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations – The Body Electric
by David Mack

Product Description (from

A planet-sized Machine of terrifying power and unfathomable purpose hurls entire star systems into a supermassive black hole. Wesley Crusher, now a full-fledged Traveler, knows the Machine must be stopped . . . but he has no idea how.

Wesley must enlist the aid of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew, who also fail to halt the unstoppable alien juggernaut’s destructive labors. But they soon divine the Machine’s true purpose—-a purpose that threatens to exterminate all life in the Milky Way Galaxy. With time running out, Picard realizes he knows of only one person who might be able to stop the Machine in time to avert a galactic catastrophe—-if only he had any idea how to find him. . . .

My Thoughts:
The conclusion of David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy was sort of TNG meets Doomsday Machine with Androids on the Side and a serious callback to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Humanesque!Data, still searching for a way to resurrect Lal, tracks down a splinter group of the group of Artificial Intelligence coalition and has to choose between the guy we originally knew as Flint and the android girlfriend who is “the only woman he ever loved” while saving the universe from a planet-eating monster-machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the return of Data, even if Mr. Mack did choose a book I disliked as his jumping-off point, but his whole relationship seemed so contrived, and Data as he is presented in this book seems so over-the-top with the melodrama that I had a hard time willfully suspending enough disbelief to truly enjoy this last entry in the trilogy.

On the one hand, Mack’s story was a good story, but on the other hand, I just couldn’t get invested in the new characters, which was my problem with the trilogy as a whole.

In fact, I find myself more interested in the story of rainbow-haired Ensign Scagliotti (so obviously an homage to the actress from Warehouse 13 than in Data, Flint, or the AIs.

And yet, if I hadn’t read this trilogy, I’d have missed the return of a beloved character, and I do agree with the choice to have Data NOT return to active duty.

So, overall? Glad I read these books, but kind of wanted something more satisfying.

Goes well with…lemon meringue pie…doesn’t everything?

Review: Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #2: Silent Weapons, by David Mack

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #2: Silent Weapons
David Mack

Product Description (from
The second book in a new trilogy by the national bestselling author of Star Trek: Destiny!

Three years after the disastrous final Borg Invasion, a bitter cold war against the Typhon Pact has pushed Starfleet’s resources to the breaking point. Now the rise of a dangerous new technology threatens to destroy the Federation from within. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew answer a distress call, only to become targets in a deadly game of deception. To protect a vital diplomatic mission, they must find a way to identify the spies hiding in their midst, before it’s too late. But Worf soon realizes the crew’s every move has been predicted: Someone is using them as pawns. And the closer they get to exposing their enemy, the deeper they spiral into its trap….

My Thoughts:
I don’t know how often the second book in a trilogy is stronger than the first. Certainly it’s more likely that second books (like second movies) suffer from “middle of the story” syndrome. In the case of David Mack’s STTNG series Cold Equations, however, did not have that problem in any form. Instead, it’s a rollicking adventure that mixes politics and action in a really satisfying blend of plot and character.

I love that the Orions, whom we are used to seeing mainly as slavers and generally disreputable types are also the galaxy’s strongest defenders of personal privacy (reading this in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook, CT, school shootings was rather eerie), and have the only security system strong enough to host a meeting that involves not just the Federation President, but the leaders of at least one of the factions involved in the Typhon Pact.

As well, I like that this novel acknowledged the Typhon Pact series, which spans all of the modern era Trek series and also combines political intrigue with really lovely action, whether it’s on land or sea, or in space.

Is Data’s presence a bit contrived? Maybe a bit, but after all, the trilogy is about his return, so it would be weird for him to NOT be in the novel. Still, his new appearance and abilities are used well, and this new FullyEmotional!Data is one I wish we could get to know a bit better in a slower, gentler story…just so that we (well, I) are a bit more invested in THIS incarnation of the character.

Goes well with: espresso con panna and cinnamon rolls.

Review: Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #1 – The Persistence of Memory, by David Mack

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #1 – The Persistence of Memory
David Mack

Product Description (from
A BRAZEN HEIST Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew race to find out who has stolen Data’s android brother B-4—and for what sinister purpose.

A BROKEN PROMISE One desperate father risks all for the son he abandoned forty years ago—but is he ready to pay the price for redemption?

A DARING MISSION Against overwhelming odds, and with time running out, Commander Worf has only one chance to avert a disaster. But how high a price will he pay for victory?

My Thoughts:
By now, more than ten years after his on-screen death in Star Trek: Nemesis, fans have accepted that we’re unlikely to see Brent Spiner portray Data ever again. Nevertheless, the character has a couple of different resurrection stories, one that bridges the alternate timeline established by the 2009 film Star Trek (which film, I might add, made me love Captain Kirk again), using the Star Trek Online RPG (and tie-in novel) and the Countdown comics to bring the character back, looking essentially like the Data we know and love.

With this, part one of David Mack’s new STTNG trilogy, the android is back in a different way, though both involve the copy of the Data-matrix that was uploaded into B-4 in that last NextGen movie. While this novel explains how that happens – and why – a healthy chunk of it is really the story of Data’s “father,” Noonien Soong, told in first person, and spanning the time from before the android’s creation, to what happened after Soong’s supposed death in the episode “Brothers.”

In truth, I had to force myself to read those chunks, not because Mack is a bad writer (he’s actually pretty amazing) but because I’m just not all that interested in Soong. As well, I gathered fairly early on that these books were an indirect sequel to Jeffrey Lang’s offering from 2002, Immortal Coil, which, some of you may remember, didn’t impress me much. (I actually stopped reading this book to re-read that book, and found that I liked it a little more upon a third reading.)

Still, the Soong story informs the rest of the novel, and sets up a lot of information that the reader needs to have.

And ultimately, it paid off. I mean, yes, I would rather have had more time with Picard, et al, but Mack’s writing is so good that he made characters I’d never really cared much about sing on the page, while managing to stay essentially true to both TNG and TOS canon, and Mack’s version of Data (yes, this is a spoiler, of sorts, but did anyone look at the cover art and NOT expect him to be somehow resurrected?) feels credible. I would buy his dialogue coming from Brent Spiner’s lips.

Bottom line: If you haven’t read Jeffrey Lang’s Immortal Coil, do so before this, and now that the two remaining parts of the trilogy are also available, buy all three and read them in order, back-to-back-to-back. You’ll be glad you did.

Goes well with: Iced tea. And trail mix. Lots of trail mix. The kind with m&ms in it.