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Star Trek New Frontier: Fire on High
Peter David
Pocket Books, 272 pages

Star Trek New Frontier: Fire on High
Peter David
Peter David has written approximately two dozen novels and hundreds of comics books, including The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Star Trek, Aquaman, X-Factor, Sach&Violens, Soulsearchers&Company, The Atlantis Chronicles, Dreadstar, Wolverine, and The Phantom. He has written several popular Star Trek novels including Q-Squared, Rock and a Hard Place, Vendetta, Imzadi, and Q-In-Law, many of which have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. His other novels include Knight Life, Howling Mad, the Psi-Man and the Photon adventure series and novelizations of Batman Forever, The Return of Swamp Thing, and The Rocketeer. David has written several episodes of the popular TV series Babylon 5.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

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A new Star Trek novel by Peter David is always a good bet, and Fire on High meets the standard for strong writing that he has shown in the past. The "New Frontier" series describes the exploits of the USS Excalibur under Captain Mackenzie Calhoun; this allows a consistent setting which isn't bound by the limits of existing television series. David has made good use of minor characters from the Star Trek universe, including Lieutenant (formerly Ensign) Robin Lefler, Dr. Selar, and Commander Elizabeth Shelby.

This book has a visual, episodic feel; it does seem like a transcription of a television episode, though the pacing is better than the average episode of Voyager. The author also gives the story more emotional impact and interaction than is common in Star Trek, as the crew have to deal with issues between themselves, not just having to cope with external problems. This being the sixth book in the series, some of the relationships have matured from the initial stage of uncertainty to the later stage of complications. At one point, in fact, the Vulcan science officer, Soleta, complains that everyone seems obsessed by romance. The Excalibur is run on less formal lines than other Starfleet vessels, to the annoyance and confusion of the stern Commander Shelby. An interesting subplot is Dr. Selar's experience of the Pon farr, more specifically with the morning-after consequences of pregnancy and a lingering emotional connection after what she expected would be only a few days of madness. The liaisons of the hermaphroditic security officer only complicate matters further.

The primary plot revolves around the discovery of Lt. Lefler's mother in a distant star system; Morgan Lefler (or "Primus" as she now prefers) vanished in a shuttle accident off the New Jersey shore, so her appearance here is unexpected. Lefler's mother has been searching for an advanced, ancient race known as the Prometheans who practise a sort of reverse Prime Directive, giving technological advances to various civilizations without taking responsibility for the consequences. One such Promethean device is a sentient weapon which, in an effort to protect its guardian, destroys every other being on a planet. Lefler has to deal with the inverted grief of finding that her mother had not died, but had merely abandoned her family as Robin had always secretly feared. Meanwhile, an embroynic energy-being, offspring of the thing which destroyed the Thallonian homeworld in a previous novel, is using the Excalibur's warp core as its birthing nest; it consumes the ship's energy the way a baby bird consumes nutrients from its egg before hatching. At Morgan's suggestion, the Excalibur is forced to seek out the Prometheans as the only people capable of saving them from the entity.

Fire on High is a very readable novel which is very much in the tradition of Star Trek. The mysteries of the universe combine with the discovery of the self to expand our understanding of both. The book's main flaw is just that it's short; the reader is left wanting the next story.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.


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