From the back cover:
An all-new Star Trek series begins!
A new mission: The late twenty-third century—Starfleet’s golden age of exploration. Desperate to stay one step ahead of its rivals, the Federation sends two starships, the scout Sagittarius and the cruiser Endeavour, to plumb the secrets of the vast region known as the Taurus Reach.
A doomed race: Drawn by mysterious energy readings to a lush green world, the crew of the Sagittarius find the Tomol: a species whose members all commit ritual suicide just as they reach the cusp of adulthood.
An old foe: The crew of the Sagittarius wants to save the Tomol from their cycle of self-destruction, but first they’ll need to save themselves—from the most nefarious Klingon starship commander in history.
Here it is: one of the most anticipated new Star Trek novels of the year: the first installment of the all-new series, Seekers. How does it fare?
To start with, a bit of history of Seekers. After the end of the incredibly great Vanguard series, David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore were inspired by the art of Rob Caswell, who had done a series of faux covers in the style of the old James Blish Star Trek novels, which he titled The Seekers. These covers featured an Archer-class ship, just like the U.S.S. Sagittarius from Vanguard.
At the end of the Vanguard series, the Sagittarius and the Endeavour were both sent out on missions of exploration in the Taurus Reach. These missions would serve as the backdrop for this new series, Star Trek: Seekers. Because of the inspiration his work had provided, not to mention the high quality of it, Caswell was invited to create the covers for the Seekers novels!
Seekers #1 is an exciting beginning to this new series. Bringing together characters we’re familiar with from Vanguard along with a few new faces, the story serves as an excellent re-introduction to the Sagittarius. Under the command of Captain Clark Terrell (later seen as the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), the Sagittarius is unlike any of the other Starfleet vessels featured in novels or on televised Trek.
Much smaller than the larger Constitution-class starships, the Archer-class scout is only a few decks tall and features some very cramped quarters, in every sense of the word. The crew dynamic is much more laid-back than the reader might be used to. With a much smaller crew, the Sagittarius seems to boast a much more informal command structure. This leads to some interesting interactions among the crew, which some readers may find a little jarring.
The story itself is a fascinating one. We’re introduced to the Tomol, a species with a surprising dark side. Just as its members reach adulthood, they commit ritual suicide by casting themselves into a fire pit. The society teaches that this is necessary, and most of the Tomol don’t question it.
However, one Tomol resists and manages to evade being cast into the pit (with the help of some Klingon interlopers). Turning the Trek trope of “we know better than you, and your quaint beliefs are wrong” on its head, it turns out that this ritual suicide might be a good idea after all; Nimur, the Tomol who escapes the fires, undergoes a frightening metamorphosis that has some very surprising connections to a prior threat from Star Trek: Vanguard.
Mack is a master of writing action and suspense. Near the end of the novel, when the Sagittarius is plummeting towards the planet surface, I was on the edge of my seat. Of particular note is a sequence in which Master Chief Illuci is attempting to get a critical component back on-line, and the bypass line he has rigged is only a few centimeters too short to reach the port.
I was terrified for the safety of the ship! While Mack can also write epic, sweeping stories, it is the very human struggles of the characters in his novels that provide the true drama.
A few months ago, Star Trek book editor Margaret Clark said in an interview that the reason the second Seekers novel was being released immediately after the first was because readers wouldn’t be able to stand it otherwise. After reading Second Nature, I am forced to agree.
An exciting and action-packed beginning to what looks to be an extremely promising new series, this novel earns top marks from me. I can’t wait to read the conclusion to the story in the follow-up release, Seekers #2: Point of Divergence.
– Reviewed by Literature Editor Dan Gunther
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