Star Trek: Vanguard: Storming Heaven is the first Vanguard book I’ve read, though it’s the eighth – and final — installment in the series. As I began reading Storming Heaven, I couldn’t help but wonder, where has this series been all my life?
The Star Trek books I’ve read before mostly centered on the crew of the original series, and for some reason, I was under the impression that the Star Trek: Vanguard series contained all new characters with no one from any previous Trek movies or television shows. Man, was I wrong. While Vanguard does introduce a lot — and I mean a lot — of new characters, there’s plenty of familiar faces as well, including Captain James T. Kirk, as the events take place in what would be the second half of the original television show’s third season.
But Kirk and crew are not the center of the Vanguard story, though if you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ll recognize several other people in Storming Heaven, including Dr. Carol Marcus, the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (when he was Councillor), and the Klingon General Chang (when he was a Captain), all in their pre-Star Trek movie incarnations. This is something about the book that I absolutely loved, because we got to learn about significant events in their lives that lead up to the events of the movies.
Since I came into this final novel fresh without any knowledge of storyline or even which characters would appear, I didn’t realize at first what I was getting into with this intricately detailed world. I was about 70 pages in when I realized I was still being introduced to new people, places, and things. The book’s 35 chapters are kept brief and author David Mack made it a point to give background information on each character as they began to appear in the book, so I feel as though I got to know everyone easily enough. It was how all of these characters fit together and what their alliances and motives were that I didn’t quite grasp right away, even though that information is included in a well-crafted way, too. I attribute this to the fact that I hadn’t read the previous books, so I felt there was a lot for me to remember (yes, after a while I jotted down a few notes). Storming Heaven is not a book you grab at the airport for some light reading; there’s a lot for you to learn, so you’d better pay attention because once the story gets kicking, shit gets real, as they say.
Starbase 47, otherwise known as Vanguard, is a Federation starbase out in deep space in an area known as The Taurus Reach. To the public, Vanguard was set up there to help colonization, but in actuality, the facility was put there for a much greater purpose and by the time we get to the events of Storming Heaven, all-out war is about to break out among the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulians, the Tholians, and a mysterious, powerful ancient race called the Shedai, who are capable of destroying whole worlds hundreds of lightyears away with only their minds. As you can imagine, the Shedai are a formidable opponent, and the Federation are forced to take some drastic measures in order to go up against the ancient beings, as well as against their usual foes.
The actions of the Federation are what really threw me in this story. If you’re a Star Trek fan like me, then you’re used to Captain Kirk’s do-no-harm approach and the philosophy that all sentient beings have a right to live in peace. But in Vanguard, no one is safe and your allies will betray you if necessary, especially if the excuse is to maintain the safety of others. Perhaps you know a little too much — you’d better watch your back. Also, most of the characters are deeply psychologically scarred in ways we’re not used to seeing in the Star Trek universe. We’re used to heroes who always make the right decisions and take the moral high ground and think their way out of no-win situations, as unrealistic as that is. With Vanguard there isn’t a winning solution for everything; sometimes the moral road is the road less traveled; and there are grave consequences for people’s actions. They don’t just get over whatever trauma they’ve suffered through on the “previous episode.”
Vanguard felt to me like the rebooted Battlestar Galactica meets Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which made me think that Vanguard would make an amazing television mini-series. I highly recommend checking out the Star Trek: Vanguard novel series.