What Judgements Come
by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore

This is the next to last book in the Vanguard story arc, and while it moves along nicely… if you haven’t read the previous books, you’re going to be lost. Sort of.

Background: Vanguard is the brainchild of author David Mack and (at the time) editor Marco Palmieri, with contributions along the way by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. Set on a remote space station near the Tholian border, the series follows the mystery of an area of space known as the Taurus Reach. A place so mysteriously spooky, even the Tholians give it a wide berth. And for good reason, because there’s an ancient race of beings who used to live there and who are now looking to come back and claim what’s theirs.

What follows is action, drama, romance and intrigue that involves not only the Starfleet personnel on Starbase 47, but also the Orions, Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, the Tkon Empire, and the Shedai. Along the way, we get cameos from Dr. Carol Marcus and her son and the Planet of Galactic Peace, Nimbus III.

And in this book, we’re very close to seeing what happened to the USS Defiant just prior to the TOS episode “The Tholian Web”. I imagine that’s coming in the next book, which is the last book.

So, in this one, we’re catching up with the fallout of former Commodore Diego Reyes’ actions in aiding Klingons attack the station, while the USS Defiant is responding to a distress call, and Ambassador Jentanien tries to make peace on Nimbus III, all the while the Shedai Wanderer – a superalien – tries to escape her crystal prison aboard the Corps of Engineers ship Lovell.

Reyes is aboard the Orion Syndicate ship run by Ganz, who would like nothing better than to send the ex-Starfleet officer out the airlock without a spacesuit. Reyes, in the meantime, has been “activated” by his former intelligence officer, Lieutenant T’Prynn, into spying on Ganz and infiltrating the ship’s computer to find out where they picked up a certain Shedai artifact. This is in the aftermath of the Shedai pretty much wiping out an entire star system by some mysterious means.

The whole story is told in flashback, with bookend scenes that involve Reyes and freelance reporter Tim Pennington. I’ve never been a fan of that kind of story-telling, and I still wrinkle my nose at it here. But Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore still tell a fine tale, and it moves along at a pretty decent clip. I never got bogged down in the minutiae of exposition, and the plot is solid all the way through.

I especially like that they, along with Mack, are incorporating other elements of TREK lore while still respecting the continuity of the original series (yeah, I’m looking at you, JJTrek). And while this is not the book to pick up first, it’s well-crafted for everyone who’s read the story thus far. I’m intrigued that this is all building up to a climax that’s going to include the Defiant, and the clever rationalization for why Nimbus III is called “The Planet of Galactic Peace”.

Mostly, though, I like how Ward & Dilmore craft their characters and give them voices unique and distinct from main canon characters. The Vanguard cast is mostly original, and I’m glad they’re not carbon copies of Kirk, Spock, and the rest.

What Judgments Come sets up quite a few story threads that David Mack is going to have to neatly tie together in Storming Heaven (March 2012). I’m sure it’s all going to come together nicely. So far, it’s been a fun ride.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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