06 November 2023

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Armageddon's Arrow

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Armageddon's Arrow
by Dayton Ward

early January 2386
Published: 2015
Acquired: December 2021
Read: July 2023

What's this... a Star Trek book about... exploring space!?

Armageddon's Arrow finally delivers on the premise promised some fourteen books ago(!), that Starfleet would get back to exploration. It's a decently enjoyable book that takes the Enterprise out into a totally new area of space, where they encounter a derelict planet-destroying weapon from a century in the future, its crew still in hibernation. It's got a bit of a classic TNG procedural feel, as the crew works to uncover what it is and what's going on... only then things begins to escalate as the enemy of the civilization who built it turns up and demands it as the spoils of war.

Like Force and Motion, I kept thinking what a strong Star Trek Adventures RPG scenario it would make: it's got basically three acts, and it piles on the complications. My complaint, though, would be that the opening act is a bit of a plod, because the reader knows more than the characters because of a totally unnecessary (and incredibly dull) two-chapter prologue about the launch of the weapon. (Similarly, the back cover probably gives away more than is strictly needed.) Strip that out and you'd have a tighter mystery. I also felt that the book kind of ignored the potential complications at times: I didn't think it was obvious, for example, that Picard ought to hand the Armageddon's Arrow over to the enemy species, but he did; wouldn't timeline contamination worries trump Prime Directive worries? Maybe not, but this is TNG—I expect a nice meeting scene where the characters debate all this! This skipping over of what seems like an interesting decision happens a couple times, and I kept thinking that in my putative STA game, I'd make the players hash this stuff out a bit more. The temporal issues mostly come in form of the characters repeatedly (too repeatedly) worrying about what the DTI will say about this, rather than worrying about what's happening in the present of the story.

Still, it's got some fun twists and turns, and Ward has a good handle on the characters. Nothing here will knock your socks off character-wise, but they also don't feel forgotten as they did in Takedown. Lots of characters have little arcs and stuff to do; it's the first time the TNG books have actually felt like an ongoing series since Losing the Peace! Hopefully we can get more of this going forward. I found that I'd actually missed T'Ryssa, for example, and Tamala Harstad has more to do here than in all her previous appearances put together. That said, some of the new characters are still a bit nothingburger (who cares about Dina Elfiki? and I guess only Una could make me care about Aneta Šmrhová). On the other hand, Worf gets some truly hilarious one-liners; my poor wife had to listen to me try to explain the one about time travel.

So yeah, I don't think this will set the world on fire... but if I wanted my world set on fire, to be honest, I wouldn't be reading Star Trek books! This is largely what I want out of my tie-in fiction, and I look forward to more TNG books in this vein.

Continuity Notes:
  • The reference to the events of Takedown is so vague it seems pretty clear that Dayton Ward had literally no idea what it was about.
  • The book carefully references a bunch of previous planet-killer-focused stories: "Devices and Desires" from Constellations, Vendetta, and Before Dishonor. Perhaps a bit too carefully; I got confused by the detailed recap of Vendetta, and I've read it. (Though summarizing Vendetta after summarizing Before Dishonor was disorienting.) The book even claims the idea that the Preservers built the doomsday machine (from Vendetta) is still the going theory; I'd thought modern Star Trek fiction had been a bit more attentive to the fact that the only confirmed Preserver intervention in canon was in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, not the one hundred thousand years ago that the planet-killer dates from, so I was a bit surprised to read this.
Other Notes:
  • Picard lampshades that the Xindi weapon test in "The Expanse" makes absolutely no sense, which amused me.

I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: Titan: Sight Unseen by James Swallow

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