Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answering to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost.
The discovery of a two-hundred-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization.
But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves just end up triggering its destruction.
Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood.
Dedicated “for all those who dare to oppose the invincible in the name of freedom,” author David Mack prefaces his latest novel set in the Star Trek universe with the preceding sentence before Section 31: Control even begins. It is a telling sentence that prepares readers for the 352-page journey they are about to begin. Then, all hell breaks loose.
Crafting a masterful spy thriller in the vein of Three Days of the Condor, Mack peels back layers upon layers to reveal the far reaching impact of Section 31’s true origin. Control is a terrific spy novel that includes clandestine meetings and old friends, with dramatic and far-reaching revelations for the Federation, its allies and enemies, and humanity today.
Immediately thrusting the reader into the action, Control opens as Bashir makes his final attempt to take down his foe. The former Chief Medical Officer of Deep Space 9 is face-to-face with his final obstacle, a familiar visage that ultimately proves his undoing. Before the climatic struggle, Mack flashes the novel back ten days earlier, as readers learn of the events that led to this moment – turns out taking down Section 31 will be more difficult than defeating the Borg or the Dominion.
Marveling at all the possibilities Section 31 presented when Luther Sloan first appeared and uttered its name, fans relished the history of the organization when the Enterprise NX-01’s armory officer, Malcom Reed, was approached to join its ranks centuries earlier. Mack takes full advantage of the intelligence agencies past as he reveals each layer of the onion from the early days of Starfleet, the formation of the Federation and its logical conclusions, all in service to the goal of its creation.
Weaving a narrative between the 22nd and 24th centuries, Mack discloses the true origins of the mysterious Federation intelligence agency that appears to answer to no one. Readers soon learn at the middle of the agencies efforts is control – think of Hal 2000 on steroids. While Julian Bashir possesses a genetically-enhanced intelligence, even his mind might not be enough to allow a favorable outcome. In the end, Bashir is only human.
I’ve known your greatest weakness from the beginning. You’re a romantic. A fool governed by your passions.
Bashir remains the same idealist he was on DS9. But now he has been hardened as he continued his shadow war on Section 31. While his humanity might be an asset, it also becomes a hindrance, as he struggles with doubt for putting his former patient, Sarina Douglas, on their current path. What’s worse, Mack will elicit that uncomfortable dread Bashir experiences in his readers as they feel Sarina’s pain during one particular harrowing moment she must endure.
Familiar faces appear as Bashir must solicit the help of longtime acquaintances and one unexpected face from the long-destroyed Enterprise-D. Both bring unique skills and perspective to the proceedings and Bashir’s mission. Fighting a covert intelligence agency with an artificial intelligence at its core will require individuals who know a thing or two about each.
If you want to kill Section 31, you’ll need to turn their greatest strength against them – transform it into their most dire weakness. They thrive on secrecy, on anonymity, just as the Obsidian Order once did.
Bashir receives sage advice from the former plain and simple tailor of DS9, now the Castellan of Cardassia, as his mission and struggle continue. Safeguards thwart Bashir and friends plans at every turn, leaving him and the others on the run, playing defense for most of the novel.
One of the more fascinating chapters comes near the end of the story as Mack pens it in easy to read, digestible computer code. It’s a wonder to watch the story’s antagonist determine threats to its existence and its logic in its actions to neutralize said threats.
Enjoying Section 31: Control should not be difficult for all readers, those familiar with Star Trek and not familiar alike. However, Mack does write to his audience, rewarding longtime fans of the franchise and current ongoing novels with numerous references – many of which have been impacted by the revelations in this novel. It’s this type of narrative that allows the story to take on more of an epic feel and would make a terrific television mini-series.
Efforts to destroy Section 31 will come at a price, which is one of the true enjoyments of Pocket Book’s ongoing Star Trek novels set post-Voyager. There are long-term consequences to each adventure and decision made by characters that only DS9 truly enjoyed during its seven-season run; now all three of the 24th century based series boast long-lasting repercussions that affect each future novel in the series.
Fallout from the culmination of events to take down Section 31, including the previously noted opening to the novel, will leave mouths agape at what has occurred and what it means for the future of the characters. Heartbreaking might be the word best to describe Control’s epilogue, none no worse than on the story’s protagonist.
How much of the final outcomes were destined to play out as it does? Who were the pawns on the chess board, and more importantly, who was playing the game? While Section 31: Control appears to wrap up nicely, Mack leaves readers with something to think about as they read the final pages of this story.