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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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01/18/2005 Archived Entry: "Trek book review: Wildfire"

Wildfire - Book Number Six in the Star Trek SCE Series
By Keith R. A. DeCandido, David Mack, and J. Steven York and Christina F. York
Published by Pocket Books, November 2004

Review by John D. Groper

My editor asked me, rhetorically I think, why it took so many people to write one book of fewer than 400 pages. The simple answer is that the book is a collection of three short stories by different authors. The stories were originally published in e-book format during 2002 and 2003. The SCE series relates adventures of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, a division of Starfleet, the exploratory arm of The United Federation or Planets (The Federation,) for whom the legendary Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and their compatriots of the starship Enterprise served, and whose exploits have been so voluminously recorded. And I do mean voluminously. Have you visited a major chain bookstore recently and seen the number of titles in the Star Trek pantheon? As a point of interest, I searched amazon.com's listings and found more than 900 titles. Quite a collection! Not content to restrict themselves to novelizations based on the characters in the ongoing series of Star Trek television shows, the franchise holders have expanded their cast in much the same manner as George Lucas' Star Wars has also done. You will find many of them reviewed here on the website of the J LHLS.

I am old enough to remember watching the original Star Trek in its first run on NBC, and occasionally still watch the latest incarnation: Enterprise, but I have only read one previous volume in the ever-expanding print series. It was recommended to me by my daughter, and was far better. I expected to enjoy this volume more than I did. The series is about a starship with a crew composed primarily of engineers who travel the galaxy solving problems that "normal" Starfleet ships would find impossible. As an engineer myself, I would probably have titled the series "Star Tech" for all its focus on technology. Technology is, of course, nothing new to the Star Trek series. Many of the "tech toys" from the television series, including replicators and transporters, are now well known - even to many in the general public who don't follow the series, either on television or in print.

Following is a brief synopsis of the stories. To go into greater detail would reveal too much of what happens, and spoil things for subsequent readers. Suffice to say that heroes do tend to win out over incredible odds, although there are losses.

The initial story in this volume titled Enigma Ship is by the Yorks. It tells the story of the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a Starfleet vessel, the Lincoln, from the middle of a convoy. An SCE ship, the U.S.S. da Vinci, is sent to investigate, and presumably to salvage the wreckage of the Lincoln. An invisible, slow-moving "anomaly" has been discovered, and the Lincoln is presumed to have collided with it, and disappeared inside. Given the greatly different velocities of the starship and the anomaly, it is assumed that the starship has been destroyed in the collision. The story continues with the investigation of the anomaly, named The Enigma.

The second title, War Stories, by Mr. DeCandido is a series of shorter tales. The author uses a clever plot device of stolen starship log files to bring the reader a series of adventures focusing on key personnel of the aforementioned U.S.S. da Vinci. We all have our own individual "war stories" that do, in the telling, show who we were at some point in the past, and thus illuminate how we came to be the people we are today. Actors call them "back stories." Mr. DeCandido has written many volumes in the Star Trek oeuvre, and definitely knows lots of the existing "back stories," and how important they can be. As the creator of the SCE series, he is working to quickly create some of them for the characters we will find in this series. As I said: clever.

The third title, Wildfire, by Mr. Mack gives its title to the collection, and fills nearly half the book. Too bad he kills off some of the very characters that Mr. DeCandido so carefully set up in War Stories! But fiction doesn't have to be linear, and we may find some of these characters re-appearing in later volumes. Oddly, another starship has gone missing in this tale, and the U.S.S. da Vinci and its crew are again on their way to help. Space is a dangerous place, it seems. The ship must descend into the atmosphere of a gas giant, encountering clouds of liquid hydrogen in their attempt to reclaim a lost experimental device, a stellar-ignition device, code-named Wildfire. Why Starfleet wants to blow up stars is a good question, but they do. And "something goes terribly wrong," as the saying goes.

All in all, these are easy reads. Perhaps not up to the highest quality of a real good "airplane book," but they would suffice. Also, eminently forgettable. If you need something to read on a plane, you could do much worse (but much better too!)

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