Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Anger Of The Ages, The Battle Without Special Effects: Vendetta Soars!

The Good: Action-packed, Well-conceived, Good character development, Generally well-written, Narrative voice
The Bad: Editing, Repetition of title in work
The Basics: A MUST for all lovers of science fiction, Star Trek The Next Generation and people looking for a good, thought-provoking, action/adventure book!

Had I written this review five years ago, perhaps even a year ago, I probably would have given this novel a perfect rating. Having just finished rereading it, I'm forced to lower my rating to a little off perfection.

My perception of this otherwise extraordinary novel sank based on two things I picked up in my latest reading. The first is some serious sloppy editing. There are quotation marks missing, the identification of some starships is reversed and there was even a spelling error (unless focused is now spelled with two s's). I'm a novelist, I get how hard it is to catch all of the mistakes; I don't blame Peter David. I blame his editor for not catching these. The other troublesome aspect of the novel was the sheer repetition of the word "vendetta" in the novel. Large chunks of the book read like a station i.d. reminding you what book you're reading. While I can certainly understand the power of the word vendetta and its importance in this novel, it comes up way, way too much. In fact, a far more clever technique - and I know Peter David is big on clever - would have been to entitle the novel Vendetta and then use every possible word for hateful obsession but vendetta. As it is, the word becomes an auditory clue between events in the past and present of the characters and by the end of the book, the word is being thrown around way too often; it loses its impact.

That said, Vendetta accomplishes what the writers of the television show Star Trek The Next Generation never were able to do. It follows up the events of the episodes "The Best of Both Worlds Parts I and II" with a positively frightening return of the Borg. While the television show did the competent, if philosophical and damning of the concept of the Borg, episode entitled "I, Borg," Peter David presents his version in Vendetta. In order to fully understand an appreciate this novel, one must watch the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine" and the Next Generation episodes "Q-Who" and "The Best of Both Worlds I and II."

In Vendetta, Peter David defines the Borg perfectly; they are a cybernetic (half organic, half mechanical) race of beings working with a hive mind, living only in the present. The do not dwell on the past, they do not imagine a future, they are the omnipresent NOW. To that end, David keeps the enemy brutal and scary. While Next Generation would remove a Borg from the collective mind and make an individual, and while Voyager would rehabilitate a Borg drone into a supposedly sexy, articulate human, David is far more attuned to the idea of what it is to be a drone. In Vendetta one of the plot threads is that the Enterprise rescues a drone. Unlike the television episodes, David is astute enough to conceive that such a being would lack language and basic motor impulse functions after having shared collective thoughts with a hive mind for so long. He recognizes that the Borg drones are tools and as such, lack language, imagination, even response, when separated from the hive mind.

What Vendetta is is an epic. In his academy years, Jean-Luc Picard theorizes that the planet eating device the original Enterprise encountered originated only a short distance outside the galaxy, an idea that sparks the interest of a Mysterious Stranger. She leaves Picard and goes to find the origins of the first device. She is obsessed. As it turns out, she has been victimized by the Borg twice and she has . . . a vendetta against them. Determined to destroy the Borg once and for all, she enters the galaxy with a new, improved, vastly more powerful doomsday machine and goes hunting the Borg.

Interestingly, David postulated that Geordi would be interested in helping out the Borg drone years before the writers of Next Generation produced "I, Borg," where he does the same thing. Vendetta is the evolved Roddenberry ideal of human encountering the nightmare which wronged him and Peter David captures Picard well, maintaining an enlightened attitude while exploring the pragmatic benefits of the new weapon against the Borg.

The problem is nothing is ever as straightforward as all that with Peter David. So when the Borg almost obliterate a planet, the Enterprise arrives to aid survivors. In the process, they rescue the Borg drone. At the same time, Picard's old Academy nemesis arrives on the scene feeling animosity toward Picard and the soon to arrive doomsday device. The Borg, for their angle in the novel, are mostly unchanged. Having lost Picard, they've decided to assimilate another person as their spokesBorg, this time a Ferengi. The novel brings all of these threads together quickly as the planet killer heads off toward Borg space, the Borg ships prepare to mount a defense, and the StarFleet crews get caught in the middle!

Often funny, often action packed, this is a darker work of Peter David's, up to its last lines. What works best about Vendetta is it reads picturesquely and the characters sound like the established characters of Star Trek The Next Generation. Even a casual fan of Star Trek would enjoy this novel. It has something for anyone craving an action adventure fix and not wanting something trite and banal.

For other works by Peter David, please check out my reviews of:
Triangle: Imzadi II
I, Q
Star Trek Archives 1: The Best Of Peter David


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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