Star Trek New Frontier Book One: House of Cards
by Peter David,
Review by James Walton

I've been wondering for years (30?) why Paramount licensed novels based on the Star Trek television shows only. With the vast implied history of the Star Trek universe there is a wealth of un-mined material at any point on the Trek time-line.

Paramount chose to set their new series in the "present" that is, the same time period as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. This gives them the advantage of being able to use characters, places and events familiar to the Trek audience. It also restrains them to the characters, places and events familiar to the audience.

House of Cards reads like it wants to be a TV script when it grows up. The various sections of the book are like scenes from a show. I suspect this was done purposefully, to help fans of the various TV series feel comfortable.

In House of Cards we meet our new captain and crew, but they do not meet each other. Each section shows us the past of a different character, establishing something of their personality and their qualifications to serve on a starship, the newly re-fitted Excalibur.

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun is a natural leader whose exploits as a teenager brought him to the attention of Jean Luc Picard, then captain of the Stargazer.

Soleta, a very inquisitive half Vulcan female, always follows her curiosity, never mind the danger. Mr. Spock recommends her as the Excalibur's science officer despite her apparent lack of common sense.

Selar is a Vulcan physician who served under Beverly Crusher on the Enterprise D. Her terrifying pon farr causes her to dedicate her life to science. She vows to become the perfect Vulcan and never allow emotion to touch her.

The most interesting character may well be the New Frontier itself. The remains of the Thallonian Empire is full of planets and people savoring their first taste of freedom in generations. They are eager settle old scores and create their own empires. (Sounds very familiar, doesn't it?)

The Excalibur will be the sole starship in the quadrant, playing the role of marshal/knight-errant/peacekeeper/diplomatic mission/humanitarian aid/target/scapegoat.

House of Cards doesn't end, it quits. This is the first episode in a continuing series and the story lines will evolve along with the characters. As mentioned above, this is merely an introduction to the characters. We suspect they will have interesting problems in the future, but we don't know what.

I will admit to enjoying House of Cards, mostly because it reminded me of the original TV series. (I was even amused a couple of times, when Mr. Spock was "on screen.") I don't know if I will bother with book 2 since the plot develops so slowly, but I will probably "tune in" again around the 4th or 5th book.

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