The mystery of the Taurus Reach is about to be revealed. Ancient
secrets lie on the fourth planet of the Jinoteur system, and
three great rivals are fighting to control it: the Federation
and the Klingon Empire want to wield its power; the Tholian
Assembly wants to bury it. But the threat stirring on that
distant world is more dangerous than they realise. The Shedai,
who once ruled the Taurus Reach, have risen from their aeons
of deathlike slumber to take their revenge. To keep Jinoteur
from falling into enemy hands, the crews of Starbase Vanguard
and the USS Sagittarius must risk everything: friends,
loved ones, their own lives...
Taurus Reach? Sagittarius? This Original Series
equivalent of Deep Space Nine is starting to sound
like a horoscope! An astrological prediction for the fate
of the crew of the USS Sagittarius during this novel
might read something like this: "A peculiar conjunction in
the Jinoteur system bodes ill for your crew today, so beware
of planetary defence systems, sharp alien protrusions, steep
cliff edges and crumbling ancient buildings."
as usual there are casualties aplenty, this time involving
the crew of the above named starship, which takes centre stage
during the middle, longest and most exciting section of the
book, "The Bright Face of Danger".
It's a small ship with an accordingly small and tight-knit
crew complement. It's also a crew that has more than its fair
share of foibles and neuroses. There's a middle-aged Deltan
captain who's undergoing a kind of male menopause, an engineer
with a phobia about being on planet surfaces, and a chief
medical officer who's obsessed almost to the point of fixation
The ship's first officer is one Clark Terrell, who film fans
will know goes on to attain the rank of captain by the time
of his appearance in Star
Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. His presence is
a double-edged sword: he provides a comforting touchstone
of familiarity, but his known future also means that his life
is never truly in danger here. Dr M'Benga also reappears,
during several of the Vanguard sequences.
The preceding section, "The Brink of Shadow", is mostly build-up,
preamble and a refresher on the story so far, though it does
introduce an amusing couple of ensigns named Brian O'Halloran
and Jeff Anderson, who are reminiscent of the characters played
by the actors of the same names in the movies Clerks
and Clerks II.
Meanwhile, the mighty Shedai play a larger and more prominent
role than ever before. I am reminded of the similarly old
and powerful races of Babylon 5, the Shadows and the
Vorlons, particularly when their factions disagree on how
to deal with the encroaching presence of humanoid species.
concluding section of the novel, "Instruments of Darkness",
is all about winding down and tying up loose ends, while still
leaving some threads dangling and managing to spring a few
surprises. Though the saga is clearly far from over, the confrontation
with the Shedai is the most decisive yet, and the concluding
chapters bring a greater sense of closure than either of the
previous two releases. Indeed, with a few relatively minor
edits, this book could have brought the series to a full stop.
Perhaps David Mack, co-creator of the Vanguard concept
and author of this book, wrote it that way deliberately, just
in case the series didn't go down well and Pocket Books needed
to bring the narrative to a hasty conclusion.
The author, who returns having penned the first novel in the
takes a few leaves out of Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore's
the Thunder, in terms of both the style of
the tome's title and its duration. At 409 pages, this is almost
as long as Summon the Thunder - even longer if you
count the handy "Minipedia" of names and terms at the end
of the book.
A word of warning, though: don't dip into the Minipedia until
you've finished reading Reap the Whirlwind, as it contains
Though never quite as nail-biting as the best bits of Harbinger,
this novel reaps the benefits of the series' snowballing mythology.