Published April 2012
Read April 2nd, 2012
Previous book (Vanguard): What Judgments Come
Next book (Vanguard): In Tempest's Wake (ebook only)
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"I WAS THERE UNTIL THE END, MATE. THE BITTER, BLOODY END."
Vanguard is under siege. Surrounded by enemies, Admiral Nogura sends the scout ship Sagittarius to find an ancient weapon that might be the Federation's only hope of stopping the alien threat known as the Shedai . . . Qo'noS is wracked by scandal. Councillor Gorkon fights to expose a Romulan plot to corrupt members of the Klingon High Council, only to learn the hard way that crusaders have few allies, and even fewer friends . . . Tholia teeters on the brink on madness. To prevent Starfleet from wielding the Shedai's power as its own, the Tholians deploy an armada with one mission: Kill the Shedai--by destroying Vanguard.
The final novel in the Vanguard saga opens where What Judgments Come left off. Tim Pennington sits in former Commodore Diego Reyes' living room on Caldos II, about to tell him of the final days of Project: Vanguard. The story begins with the enigmatic Shedai massing for an attack on what they call the "Telinaruul," the lower lifeforms such as humans and Klingons inhabiting the Taurus Reach. Meanwhile, on Starbase 47 (otherwise known as Vanguard), Admiral Nogura prepares to send the USS Sagittarius on a dangerous mission to collect artifacts to be used against the Shedai. However, in order to protect the small ship and her crew, an elaborate plan is hatched to sneak the Sagittarius to her target undetected. This plan works, and the Sagittarius and her crew go to work. However, the Tholians acquire access to the same intelligence that led Vanguard to the Sagittarius's target, and they mobilize a fleet to destroy the location. The Starship Endeavour is dispatched to rescue the Sagittarius, which is operating under a communications blackout.
The rescue is successful, and Vanguard is now in possession of a series of devices that can be used to capture the Shedai. Things are coming to a head in the Taurus Reach, and while Ming Xiong, Dr. Marcus, and the rest of their team urge caution, Starfleet is impatient for results. Against their better judgment, experiments on the artifacts go forward, with consequences that are disastrous and far-reaching.
Conclusions are always a difficult thing to manage. Oftentimes, there can simply be no pleasing everyone. Everyone has different expectations about how a long-running story should end, and no matter how hard writers and creators try, there is usually someone who is displeased or disappointed by the ending of a long-running series they have come to love. Just ask the creators of television shows such as Lost or Battlestar Galactica. It is this seeming-impossibility to craft a completely satisfying ending that has left me completely in awe of what David Mack has managed to accomplish. In Storming Heaven, we have a story that is the perfect finish to the wonderful ride that Vanguard has been.
Throughout Storming Heaven, there is this inevitable feeling of ending, an atmosphere that Mr. Mack has managed to cultivate very well. The story-lines of every major character are touched on, and in most cases brought to a satisfactory conclusion. There were smiles of joy, pangs of regret, and, admittedly, tears of sadness at the fates of these characters I have come to love reading about over the past couple of years. Star Trek has, at times, been many things, one of which is a place where bad things generally don't happen and endings are happy. Vanguard turns that on its ear. The outcomes and consequences of the actions of the characters are realistic, and sadly, often painfully realistic and unrepentantly tragic.
Storming Heaven features a great many treasures. From visits by familiar characters to painful and heartfelt goodbyes, this novel touched me in many ways. Sometimes, in the course of only a few pages, I could go from a knowing chuckle to a feeling of deep sadness. It continues to amaze me, this power that writers have of making people care so deeply for characters they have never met, and indeed, are completely fictional. Storming Heaven treats all of these characters with the respect they deserve, and the story of Vanguard is wrapped up in a way that, while sad and tragic, ultimately rings true.
Final score for Storming Heaven: 10/10. It doesn't get much better than this.
Final thoughts on the Vanguard series:
Storming Heaven is, of course, the final entry in the Vanguard series. I can't help but feel a certain amount of sadness at saying goodbye to the characters and situations that have been a part of this series. Any time someone asks for a recommendation about Star Trek novels, I have been invariably forced to recommend Vanguard. It is, in many ways, the most adult iteration of Trek I have ever read. Many franchises and properties, Star Trek included, make the mistake of underestimating their audiences and treating them as children. Not so with Vanguard. Gone is a lot of the naivete and immaturity that much of the franchise falls victim to. Rather, Vanguard assumes its audience to be thinking, reasoning human beings who know that life doesn't always end with happy music and the Enterprise flying off to its next, consequence-free assignment. I will always remember Vanguard as the series that dared to make its audience think, and challenged the idea that the heroes must always be perfect and the endings must always be pat and free of ambiguity. It was a privilege to read this series, and I can only hope that another iteration of Star Trek will come along to take its place as my favorite corner of that particular universe.
To David Mack, Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore: Thank you. It's been a true privilege.
Also by David Mack:
Star Trek: Vanguard: Reap the Whirlwind (2007)
Star Trek: Vanguard: Precipice (2009)
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire, expanded edition (2010)
"The Stars Look Down" from Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified (2011)
Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions (2011)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book I: The Persistence of Memory (2012)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons (2012)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations, Book III: The Body Electric (2013)
My next read:
Reviews are still coming for New Frontier: Cold Wars, TOS: The Rift, Errand of Vengeance #1: The Edge of the Sword and I am now reading Errand of Vengeance #2: Killing Blow. Coming soon!