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House of Cards

Series: New Frontier #1
Author: Peter David
Review by: Lt. Smiley

Spock! Picard! The Enterprise! A vast area of inhospitable space as yet unmapped by the Federation! Could this maybe be the next Star Trek series? You'd better believe it...well no not quite, you see no sets are being built (unless you believe the rumours floating around various newsgroups), there will be no casting call, I won't be hogging the TV in anticipation of a pilot episode. For you see the adventures of Cap'n Calhoun and his merry crew probably won't see the light of day on the old telly. So you see, technically it is the birth of a new Star Trek series, but not as we know it.

Is it any good? After hogging the TV would I want to see more? The answer is a resounding yes.

These people have a past, something that defines who they are and how they act, even the area of space that is to be our home, the "New Frontier" has a past. Much of this first book is dedicated to the past, character development is something I like to see, and this first book has it in spades.

Case in point, we have one M'k'n'zy of Calhoun, a young rather wild child from the planet Xenex...Problem 1: His homeworld has been occupied by the Danteri, in a similar situation to the Cardassian/ Bajoran conflict in DS9. M'k'n'zy has seen his father tortured and killed in front of his eyes, this enraged him enough to lead an uprising of his people and has became something of a myth. Problem 2: He is being hunted, he is an experienced fighter but still is little more than a boy. You do wonder how this is going to relate to Starfleet, but without giving away too much of the book, M'k'n'zy of Calhoun becomes Mackenzie Calhoun captain of the Starship Excalibur. But enough about that because much of this first book focuses on familiar Trek themes and characters, the ancient Thallonian Empire has fallen, people are running in fear out of the area, and the Federation is giving humanitarian aid, this situation is becoming critical. The Enterprise-E is told to dock at DS5 for a meeting with Admiral Jellico, there some of Picards senior staff hold a meeting with Jellico. Admiral Nechayev (another familiar face), Si Cwan a Thallonian royal (try saying that after a couple of pints) and Ryjaan a Danteri (the baddies from M'k'n'zy's past) all attend. After a few small arguments the upshot is the Prime Directive is to be thrown out the window (Hooray), and a ship is be despatched to Thallonian space, to see what's, what and offer aid to whoever wants it, at the discretion of the captain. But who will the captain be? Shelby, Ms. Starfleet herself? Or the savage Mackenzie Calhoun, not exactly on Starfleets "A" list? Well Picard (cheers from the gallows) wants Calhoun, and Jellico (boo hiss) wants Shelby. Who does it turn out to be? Right.

One of the questions asked is why is Si Cwan at the meeting, I had to ask the same question while reading this...Eventually I came to the answer, convenience. If he wasn't then he wouldn't know about the ship Starfleet is sending in. Then he couldn't ask if he could be on the ship, Nechayev wouldn't refuse him and then...well I'm not going to give the next part away until the next section of the review...

Anyway enough about plot, as I already said I like this book, I like it a lot. I know it's a strange thing to say but it feels like the Original series set in the Star Trek universe we know today. Everything is here from Spock to an Orion Slave Girl (and yes she does dance a bit). There is even a sly reference to Kirk, although his name is never muttered. There is a much larger fantasy quotient here than in modern Trek, some people will like that, some won't, I did. For example the Thallonian Empire feels and sounds like something out of Dune. These fantasy ideas are not as predominant in this book as they are in later ones, but it does mean there is a touch of magic in the air and not just "quasi-duplex flux manifolds" the epitome of Voyager. House of Cards is set-up plain and simple, but it's effective set-up, you do want to read what happens to these people next, and for that and many other reasons I'm giving this book: 4 PIPS.

- Smiley.