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)

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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.

Star Trek: New Frontier – The Returned, Part 3, by Peter David #quickreview #netgalley

About the book, Star Trek: New Frontier – The Returned, Part 3 Star Trek New Frontier: The Returned, Part 3


  • Print Length: 171 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (September 7, 2015)
  • Publication Date: September 7, 2015


The final installment in a brand-new three-part digital-first Star Trek: New Frontier e-novel from New York Times bestselling author Peter David!

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun’s search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D’myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun’s determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

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My Thoughts

Peter David has long been one of my favorite writers of professional TrekFic – there’s a line he wrote decades ago about human male chest hair being for traction that has stuck with me for decades – so when I saw the last installment of the ebook trilogy in the New Frontier universe on NetGalley earlier this summer, I had to read it.

Very quickly, I realized that my habit of only reading TNG novels meant I had no idea what was going on, so I bought parts I and II of this trilogy and binge-read all three volumes. I was not disappointed. This series is phenomenal, and Peter David’s storytelling reminded my why I love his take on Trek. Captain Mackenzie Calhoun is a great addition to the Star Trek universe, and both his family and his crew (which includes someone I can only describe as a demigod) are people I wish we could see on television.

So good is his writing – and this trilogy in particular – that I didn’t mind a completely unfamiliar set of characters, although, technically, Robin Lefler (whom we met in Season 5 of TNG) was familiar, though this is a much matured Robin, one whose personal laws have had to be adapted to address things like lost love and motherhood.

Like all good Trek stories, The Returned (all three parts) isn’t just about space battles and meeting new aliens. It’s also about loss – the loss of home, the loss of family, the loss of love – and how we cope with it – do we commit acts of revenge, or do we rebuild ourselves, or do we allow ourselves to die a little every day, as we wallow in apathy? In the case of the characters in this trilogy the answer is “a little of everything,” but it all fits together in a way that resounds with emotional truth.

(Plus, there are cool aliens and space battles, after all.)

Goes well with sparkling Altair water and oskoid salad.



To The Stars, by George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) #review #autobiography @NetGalley

About the book, To the Stars: the Autobiography of George Takei To the Stars, by George Takei

  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (March 10, 2015)

Best known as Mr. Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise™ and captain of the Starship Excelsior, George Takei is beloved by millions as part of the command team that has taken audiences to new vistas of adventure in Star Trek®—the unprecedented television and feature film phenomenon.

From the program’s birth in the changing world of the 1960s and death at the hands of the network to its rebirth in the hearts and minds of loyal fans, the Star Trek story has blazed its own path into our recent cultural history, leading to a series of blockbuster feature films and three new versions of Star Trek for television.

The Star Trek story is one of boundless hope and crushing disappointment, wrenching rivalries and incredible achievements. It is also the story of how, after nearly thirty years, the cast of characters from a unique but poorly rated television show have come to be known to millions of Americans and people around the world as family.

For George Takei, the Star Trek adventure is intertwined with his personal odyssey through adversity in which four-year-old George and his family were forced by the United States government into internment camps during World War II.

Star Trek means much more to George Takei than an extraordinary career that has spanned thirty years. For an American whose ideals faced such a severe test, Star Trek represents a shining embodiment of the American Dream—the promise of an optimistic future in which people from all over the world contribute to a common destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss To the Stars: the Autobiography of George Takei

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About the author, George Takei George Takei

Best known for playing Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series and six movies that followed, George Takei is unlikely social media royalty. Unofficially dubbed the King of Facebook, he counts 5.5 million fans in his online empire – including Trekkies, Howard Stern listeners, and the LGBTQ community – who devour his quirky mix of kitten jokes, Star Trek references, heartfelt messages, and sci-fi/fantasy memes.

An outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Takei has used his unmistakable baritone in several satiric PSAs, including one in response to Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that encourages viewers to say, “It’s OK to be Takei.”

His current projects include the musical Allegiance, drawn from his experience of growing up in Japanese American internment camps during World War II, and the recently published Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet and Lions and Tigers and Bears: The Internet Strikes Back.

Connect with George

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

I saw this listed on NetGalley, and requested the digital ARC, not realizing this was just a re-release of the same autobiograpy Takei published in 1994, which I have in hardcover already. Still, it’s a good read – Mr. Takei’s life is incredibly rich and interesting and he tells his own story so well that anyone familiar with the cadence of his voice, whether from vintage reruns of Star Trek or from his more recent projects will hear the words in their head, and feel as though they are sitting at the knee of a family elder.

And really, especially since the loss of Leonard Nimoy, that’s what George Takei has become. If Nimoy was the honorary grandfather of all us fans, then Takei is our honorary uncle, the one who has no filter, who looks for the humor in everything, and who, in spite of everything he’s experienced, or seen others experience, still sees hope and possibility and the best in all of us.

That sense of hope and possibility is woven into every line of this autobiography. We see young George bond with a stray dog in the internment camp where he and his family were forced to stay, share his first experience with Mexican food (something that impressed me – having grown up in Colorado and California, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reasonably familiar with Mexican food) and culture, feel the nervousness and later the thrill at his first taste of acting, and go through the realization that he’s gay, but even when he’s sharing the darkest parts of his life, there’s still that glimmer of positivity, that ray of hope.

If you, as I did, grew up on reruns of the original Star Trek, came of age during the movie era, and were gifted with TNG only after you were mostly-grown up, you will likely enjoy this autobiography in the same fashion you would any family story, even if that family is only one of spirit, and not blood.

If you are younger, and know Mr. Takei through his activity on Facebook and Twitter (where, I confess, he is a great favorite of mine, even though I’m rarely brave enough to interact with him), you will enjoy this book because it shares where he came from, and adds context to many of the things he talks about.

Either way, To The Stars is an interesting, engaging read, from a man who will probably never run out of stories to tell or silly memes to share.

Goes well with A homemade burrito and a glass of chilled horchata.

Retro-reading: STTNG: A Time To…

It’s no secret that I revel in escapist reading from time to time. Between January of this year, and the beginning of July, I’ve been re-reading the Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Time To… series, a collection of nine novels, the first eight of which are in pairs, that span the time between the last two Next Gen movies (Insurrection and Nemesis).

The specific novels are:
STTNG: A Time to be Born, by John Vorholt
STTNG: A Time to Die, by John Vorholt
STTNG: A Time to Sow, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
STTNG: A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
STTNG: A Time to Love, by Robert Greenberger
STTNG: A Time to Hate, by Robert Greenberger
STTNG: A Time to Kill, by David Mack
STTNG: A Time to Heal, by David Mack
STTNG: A Time for War, A Time for Peace, by Keith R.A. DeCandido

You can read them individually, I suppose but they’re better savored as a whole collection, and while each of them have great moments, together they give a really plausible picture of how Starfleet reacted to the events of First Contact and Insurrection, explain why Data says in Nemesis that he has no feelings after two and a half films worth of emotion chip issues, and set-up the wedding of Will Riker and Deanna Troi, and their move to the U.S.S. Titan.

It’s no secret that I’m a great fan of Keith DeCandido’s work, so it should come as no surprise that his book, the last in the series, is my favorite. His take on the canon characters is always spot-on, but he also adds a political background – think “The West Wing in Space” – that I maintain would be an awesome series in and of itself (he revists the political aspect of the United Federation of Planets in a subsequent novel, Articles of the Federation).

Star Trek novels are my comfort-books, and I often read them when my day job has me so exhausted that I don’t have the brain power for reading deeper fiction, or writing my own stuff. There’s a ten-year span of TrekFic that I think of as the “DeCandido Years” where continuity was followed and all of the writers used some of the same original characters. These are, in my opinion, the best of the genre, and the A Time To… books are the best of the era.

Review: STTNG: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment

ST:TNG Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Keith R. A. DeCandido
Simon and Schuster, 320 pages
March, 2008
Buy this book from >>

Product Description (from Amazon):
A new Federation President has been elected, and his first order of business is to attempt to restore the alliance with the Klingon Empire. To that end, he sends Captain Picard to Deep Space 9, in the hopes that Picard’s relationship with Chancellor Gowron might lead to a normalization of relations.

At first, things go well, as Gowron agrees to meet with Picard and Captain Sisko of DS9 on a neutral planet — but when their runabout is shot down, it’s up to Commanders Worf and Data to find out the truth before their captains are killed!

I hadn’t read a new Star Trek book in a while but I always enjoy Keith DeCandido’s additions to the franchise, and I’d been wanting something that took place post-series but pre-Nemesis, that all my favorite characters. I wasn’t disappointed at all – even though some of those characters were off-screen, their presence was still felt, and while this was essentially a DS9 crossover, it was a legitimate one. Picard and Sisko must team up to fix the Federation-Klingon Empire alliance (I maintain that the best way to lose weight fast is to try and out-fox the Klingons) and of course Data and Worf, working from the Enterprise and the Defiant have to help.

The thing about Star Trek novels is that they’re best when they expand the Trekiverse, giving us glimpses of parts of future life that the shows don’t. This novel was a bit short on that, but still a satisfying read.

Goes well with tea, Earl Grey, hot.

Retro-reading: Star Trek: Traitor Winds, by L. A. Graf

Star Trek: Traitor Winds

Star Trek: Traitor Winds
by L. A. Graf

A few weeks ago, I was desperate for some escapist comfort reading. You might think that reading half of everything Elin Hilderbrand had ever written would count as comfort reading, but it doesn’t. Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels are beach reading. I wanted something light, familiar, and completely unrelated to my real life. I wanted comfort reading. As I often do – and have no problem admitting – I immersed myself in a Star Trek novel. Since I was also feeling nostalgic, I re-read a classic Star Trek novel, from when they were still being numbered: Traitor Winds by L. A. Graf

This is TOS Trek, not Trek 2009, and it takes place between the TV series and the first movie. Newly promoted Admiral Kirk is stuck behind a desk in San Francisco, Sulu is testing stealth shuttles in New Mexico, McCoy is practicing country medicine (when he has to) in Georgia, and Uhura is leading a communications seminar, teaching at Starfleet Academy, and Scotty is overseeing the refit of the Enterprise. And Chekov? Well, he was turned down for command school because he was too young, and chose to enter security school in Annapolis, instead.

During one of their regular get-togethers for dinner, McCoy suggests that Chekov contact a friend of his who is doing a study of disruptor damage in order to develop treatment. Despite taking flak for it from a more senior student at the Security School, Chekov gets the gig, and winds up involved in a murder investigation, and running for his life, hiding, at one point, among the wild ponies on Assateague Island (apparently Graf grew up reading the Misty books, too).

It’s a novel that takes place in winter, mostly in really cold places, and more than once I wished I was reading it while curled in front of the fire in a cozy chalet filled with log furniture, instead of while curled up in a deck chair by the pool (I know, I should complain, right?), but it was nice revisiting characters I grew up with, in a familiar setting with a twist, and I enjoyed re-reading it immensely.

Star Trek: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Schwartz

Star Trek Exodus
Star Trek: Exodus Book One of the Vulcan’s Soul trilogy
by Josepha Sherman & Susan Schwartz
Get it from Amazon.

Fans of Star Trek have always wondered exactly what it was like when a significant number of Vulcans packed up their belongings like so much Delsey luggage, and moved away to eventually become Romulans. In this trilogy, we find out.

It’s a story that runs in two timelines at once. The first takes place in the days of Surak, and shows us the acts that led up to and caused the Sundering, and the second shows us Spock, Saavik, Uhura, and Chekov rushing off with cooperation from modern Romulans to face down a little known enemy called the Watraii, who are as obscure as they are dangerous.

Both story lines have a mix of action sequences and character sections, which allow us not only to catch up the the characters we know, but also grow to like the original characters we meet.

A further review will be posted when I finish reading the trilogy.

Goes well with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and ice cold milk.

STTNG: Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang

by: Jeffry Lang
published by: Pocket Books
published: February 2002

* * * * *

I originally read Immortal Coil in eBook format on my laptop, sometime last year (I think), but somehow that format just doesn’t do it for me, so when I saw a copy of the actual paperback at Half Price Books, I had to grab it. After all, it’s an EmotionChip!Data story, and there aren’t many of those outside of fanfic.

While I’m not old enough to have watched the ORIGINAL Star Trek in first run, the re-runs were the only show that was allowed to routinely break the “no television before 5 PM” rule in my house, and since my mother was anti-television, I used to watch them on our old black-and-white after school when I was nine and ten. As I write this, I am suddenly remembering an add for a convention in 1979 or 80, in Denver. I was too young, at the time, to know what a con was, or I’m sure I’d have pestered my mother to take me.

I mention this because while, on the surface, this is a TNG story, Immortal Coil is also a sort of quasi-sequel to the TOS episodes “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Requiem for Methuselah,” and while familiarity with them is not totally required in order to enjoy this story, it definitely helps. A lot.

This novel is all about android rights and the definition of sentience, and, more specifically, the distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. It opens with Data returning to the Enterprise with the body of his deceased “mother,” Julianna Tainer, whom we know to be an android. He is dealing with overwhelming emotions, and Picard’s suggestion that turning off the chip would be a bad idea, when a call is received from Admiral Haftel – there’s been an issue at Galor IV, and the ship, and specifically Data, are needed.

What follows is part murder mystery (who tried to kill Maddox, who caused the disappearance of another, legendary and somewhat hermit-ish, cyberneticist?) and part romance (new Enterprise security officer Rhea McAdams has the hots for our Mr. Data, it seems) with a good bit of space epic thrown in.

At times cheesy, at other times sweet, it’s a satisfying romp through the Trekiverse, which wraps up several loose ends in Data’s life.

The first time I read this, I went into it with some skepticism, because a Data romance is a very tricky thing – fanfic authors I respect have argued that he cannot have a plausible relationship. I disagree, but as much as I enjoyed this book for entertainment value, I find that the relationship between Rhea and Data was contrived, and the way Data was written didn’t…fee right.

Goes well with a glass of milk and thin mint cookies.

Tales from the Captain’s Table

edited by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Easing back into the SEO world of cpm and cpa, and various other acronyms, after ten days of beachy bliss was difficult, so I did what every avid reader does: I bought some comfort books. One of these was a Star Trek book: Tales from the Captain’s Table. It’s a collection of short stories from various ship captains in the Trek-verse – Picard, Riker, Demora Sulu, and others, and they’re tied together by the fact that they’re all told in the Captain’s Table, a special bar with entrances from many worlds, where only ship captains are welcome.

Cap, the bartender, is glimpsed in small interludes, and the bar itself reforms to the specifications of whatever a given patron expects. I like storytelling, and I like the concept of the neighborhood cafe / bar / pub, so this book appeals to me on many levels.

While I don’t always like short stories, in this format, they’re the logical choice.

After reading this book, I felt much more at home inside my head.