Monday, May 13, 2013

The Belly of the Beast

Star Trek: S.C.E. #1
The Belly of the Beast by Dean Wesley Smith
Published August 2000
Read January 18th 2013


Next ebook (S.C.E.): #2: Fatal Error

Originally published as an ebook. Later published as part of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers compilation Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002.


Compilation of the first four SCE stories
Original ebook cover



This week, on Trek Lit Reviews: reviews of the first four books of the S.C.E. series, starting with The Belly of the Beast today (Monday), followed by the next three novellas released on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!

Spoilers ahead for The Belly of the Beast!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Enterprise has defeated a gigantic marauding starship from parts unknown. Now that the immediate threat has been neutralized, the S.C.E. has been called in to probe the vanquished hulk in search of both new technology and the secret of its origin. Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge has temporarily transferred from the Enterprise to assist Captain David Gold and the crew of the S.C.E. ship, the U.S.S. da Vinci, on this fascinating mission. LaForge works with Gold and his top-of-the-line group of technical specialists to unravel the high-tech mysteries of the supposedly dead alien vessel, only to discover that the real danger has just begun!

My thoughts:

The Belly of the Beast is the first novella in the originally ebook-only series, SCE (Starfleet Corps of Engineers). The first I had heard of these stories were when the first dead tree-format omnibus was published. I was curious, but apparently not curious enough to pick it up and give it a try. I'm happy to be rectifying that lapse in judgement now!

The inaugural story itself is an interesting one. The SCE team is confronted with a massive mystery ship, its origins unknown. It has attacked a Federation colony, and the USS Enterprise was just barely able to escape destruction and disable the mysterious juggernaut. As the Corps of Engineers investigates further, they discover the original purpose of the ship, as well as the original company and crew. However, something sinister has taken control of the vessel. Originally thought to be neutralized by the Enterprise's attack, the horrific threat remains to terrorize the da Vinci's away teams.

Sonya Gomez in TNG's "Q Who," now
 the commanding officer of the SCE
contingent aboard USS da Vinci.
The SCE series highlights a few of the background crew we've seen in other Star Trek series. The head of the SCE contingent aboard the da Vinci is Commander Sonya Gomez, originally seen as a newly-minted ensign in season two of The Next Generation. Originally a shy, nervous junior officer, she has matured into her role as the leader of the SCE troubleshooters. Several other crewmembers we've met over the years are also a part of the da Vinci's crew, but we don't learn much about them in this volume. I'm looking forward to more stories in the line to see if they are as ably fleshed-out as Sonya Gomez is in this novella. I really enjoyed reading about her character as I have always lamented the fact that we only got to see her in two episodes of TNG. Also, something that came as a bit of a surprise to me: The Belly of the Beast marks the first appearance of Christine Vale, security chief of the USS Enterprise in many of the TNG novels leading up to Star Trek Nemesis, and later Captain Riker's first officer aboard the USS Titan. In this novella, we learn a lot about her, and hints about more of her story are dropped.

The SCE series marked Pocket Books' first experiment with ebook-only sales. Sadly, this series has been on indefinite hiatus since 2007. 2007-2008, however, saw the release of another ebook-only series: Slings and Arrows, which I haven't read myself yet. Prior to that, in 2006, an Original Series-era series of ebooks were released. Mere Anarchy was later re-released in a trade paperback omnibus. After a couple of years without an ebook exclusive release, Pocket has once again begun experimenting with ebook-only publications, with the release of 2011's Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L. Bennett and last year's Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake by Dayton Ward. In addition, March of this year saw a Next Generation ebook by James Swallow, entitled The Stuff of Dreams.


Final thoughts:

A fascinating beginning to this anomalous series in Trek Lit. The mystery is well done, and the conclusion is exciting and unnerving. The story has piqued my interest enough to make me want to read more about this crew and their missions. I'm looking forward to continuing with the SCE story and learning more about the interesting group of people that have been assembled for this series.


Also by Dean Wesley Smith:

Star Trek #78: The Rings of Tautee with Kristine Kathryn Rusch (1996)



My next read:

S.C.E. week continues with #2 from Have Tech, Will Travel: Fatal Error, by Keith R.A. DeCandido.