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MIRACLE WORKERS

An e-book collection by Keith R.A DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, and Dayton Ward (2002, Pocket Books)
Starfleet Corps of Engineers #5-8

After rescuing an old starship, the da Vinci crew helps DS9, while Gomez tries to get a particle accelerator back on schedule.

 

 

Read October 8th to 18th, 2005  
   

The second book in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series contains three stories, all of which are highly enjoyable from a character point of view. Stylistically, the first story is not quite as well written, and the format of the third story, written in the first person in the form of personal and duty logs, is not to my tastes.

The first story is Interphase, Part II, the conclusion to the story started in Have Tech, Will Travel. Right from the start, I found that the back-story was given in too much of an obvious way, merely restating the events that had occurred in the previous story. Instead, the author could have given that same back-story in the form of dialog or thoughts from the crew, without simply regurgitating up the facts. That is my largest gripe about most books, especially after reading the incredibly subtle backgrounds in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight.

There is more background given in this story, while nothing is happening plot wise, in the form of stuff that we haven't been witness to, either. It's good to know that the da Vinci has missions that we are not part of (or perhaps in comic form?), which we can still hear about in these tales. I just wish they were not given out as a bunch of facts, too. There was Duffy thinking of his father's advice, and the in-joke from the Pakled mission, both of which just seemed to be taking up space for the sake of it.

However, there was a lot of good interaction between the crew, as before. I am starting to see trends in the characters. Stevens and Duffy seem to be good friends and coworkers. Corsi truly believes in safety above all else -perhaps she got tired of lax security killing so many people during the Dominion War. Gomez is very easy going, and very capable. She is the one who can pull the magic on this team. The cultural specialist Abramowicz, Doctor Lense and P8 Blue are more generic at this point.

As for the plot, there isn't much of one. Duffy, in charge of the da Vinci, tries to reopen the rift that resealed the Defiant in nowhereland. Meanwhile, a small fleet of Tholian ships approaches towing a gigantic web with which to ensnare or destroy the da Vinci. Inside the rift, Abramowicz and Patty get back inside the Defiant easily, and Gomez and Patty then rig some generators to give them a small warp pulse to reopen the rift. Really, all of these solutions were given in one of the TV series or another. A warp pulse of some sort was used in The Tholian Web, while the brief momentum burst was inspired by Wesley Crusher's stunt back in a war games episode of TNG.

From the Tholian point of view, I thought back in the first part of the story that Nostrene was premature in trying to destroy the Defiant before it had left the rift completely. I suppose he would have been better off letting the ship get free, transporting the web generator out of the cargo bay, and then firing on them. That would have given him a better advantage, without the risk of sending the Defiant back into the rift. I did like the fact that the Tholians ignored the Defiant as it reemerged, because it was less of a threat. For some unknown reason, so many authors (and especially in the movies) allow their characters to be distracted by the "newer" threat, without doing a threat assessment. In this case, however, ignoring the Defiant resulted in their defeat, because Gomez had been able to reactivate a phaser bank. Miracle workers, indeed!

I guess the Defiant can be in two places at once- the alternate mirror universe in Enterprise, and back on Earth in this universe. I rather liked both versions. The last chapters, with the Defiant pulling into spacedock, were really well written, and seemed very emotional. The author seemed to give a real heartfelt sendoff for the ship, with McCoy (how old is he now?) present, and Scotty, too. I liked Scotty's reassurances to Duffy a lot.

As expected, I liked the Deep Space Nine story a lot. Cold Fusion takes place between Avatar Part II and Abyss, that is, after the fusion core of DS9 was ejected, when Nog and the SCE team tried to gather spare parts from Empok Nor.
The main plot of this story involves another SCE back-story, in which the da Vinci crew tangled with Biron of the Androssi a while back, and beat the guy. He is out for revenge, and he tries to take it out on them at Empok Nor. The Androssi have advanced dimension-shifting technology, which they have adapted to Empok Nor, and which they hide in another dimension when the SCE team beats them again. I expect to see Biron again at some point, either on SCE or DS9.

The plot was not my primary interest, however, as the character work was superb, especially when dealing with the only DS9 character in this story: Nog. Nog was treated as an outsider from the moment he arrived, patronized by Duffy and Stevens (who used to work on DS9 at one point), and generally ignored. Nog stands by incredulous as the SCE team bounces ideas back and forth on how to regain control of their communication badges for transport through the Androssi disruptors, knowing that the simple solution is to send Nog back to the da Vinci for some new ones. Nog is definitely the clearest thinker of the bunch, probably because he was not bred as an engineer, and the da Vinci crew tends to over-think so many issues!

They over think the solution to get the fusion core to DS9, as well, although Nog out-does them all by suggesting that they tow Empok Nor to Bajoran space as a spare-parts depot. He gets to talk with Scotty, as well, congratulating him for his audacious plan, and laughing when Nog tells him that nine ships will be enough, even though he requested twelve! Nog plays by Scotty's rules.

Of course, I knew the outcome of the story before it started, as the first chapter of Abyss gives us the surprise on Kira's face when presented with this unusual gift. From the da Vinci's point of view, they take off knowing that Empok Nor is in good hands, after receiving a distress call from Sonya Gomez, who is on a mission in a distant sector of space.

Gomez is on a Nalori planet trying to fix a behind-schedule mass accelerator in Invincible, parts 1 and 2. The first part of this story was very interesting in a technical way. It contained a true engineering nightmare, in that the people had no idea what they were doing. They weren't even running the diagnostics on their load lifters properly, and so couldn't keep anything working. The people wouldn't work on projects that they didn't like, and feared a monster that was supposed to be lurking around killing anyone who landed on the planet.

The planet itself was crystaline, with silicone-based life that was quite tame, except for the monster. Phasers and tricorders didn't work properly because of all the scattering due to the crystals, which I gather were the commodity being mined and accelerated into orbit.

Gomez did a great job at getting the project back on schedule (or nearly so), and I quite enjoyed the first part of the story. The second part turned into a hunt, and the effect of finding two of the monsters had on the Nalori at the project base camp. This was interesting in a different way, especially given the first person perspective. The technical and personal logs of Gomez, combined with the letters home of a couple of other main characters, allowed their emotions to show through, from frustration, elation, joy, fear and sadness. The first person perspective was also my main complaint, although at times it sounded more like a third person narrative, which begs the question of what the difference was. The letters of the native Nalori were a good idea, as they broke up the monologues that Gomez gave.

The two creatures that attacked the camp were mechanical companions from some alien explorers, who survived by eating cranial matter, which explains why the creatures' caves were so full of skulls. I wouldn't want to come across these aliens anytime, as they don't seem to discriminate between animals and intelligent beings. I can't explain why they didn't show up until Gomez had been there for a while, when the project had been going for some time. Suddenly the creatures are attacking, and the attacks become more frequent.

Still, the point of the story was how Gomez handled it all, and she did a good job, and it was very to watch her go through those problems. She became a saviour to the people there when she killed the first creature with her sonic rifle, though she berates herself for allowing it to be killed before talking to it. She tries to reason with the second creature, but is forced to kill it when it refuses to listen. She and the only remaining member of the construction project use the completed accelerator to send the creature into space. The rest of the project members were either killed by the creatures or managed to activate the marooned starship and leave while Gomez was away from camp. Of course, days later, the da Vinci arrives, too late to be of any help...

This was the first story from the point of view of a single member of the da Vinci crew, isolated, and it worked quite well. Combine that with a great DS9 story, and the adequate conclusion to the Interphase story, and this was a good collection. I think I would like more two-part stories, as they therefore become longer, meaning that fewer stories appear in a single collection. It then becomes more coherent, and closer to the novel form that I prefer. I will definitely continue to read this series of stories.

 
   

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