What Judgments Come - Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore What Judgments Come is the penultimate chapter in the ST: Vanguard series. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this installment but I can’t help feeling that much of it is filler. The only plotline resolved is the fate of Diego Reyes, the disgraced commander of Vanguard who was court martialed, kidnapped by Klingons, and eventually wound up a prisoner aboard the Orion ship Omari-Ekon. The effort to understand the Shedai continues with Ming Xiong’s and Dr. Marcus’ attempt to contact the Shedai Wanderer, who’s trapped in the Mirdonyae Artifact (a relic of the Tkon Empire, see TNG episode “The Last Outpost”). There’s a set up for why the U.S.S. Defiant was in Tholian space and needed rescuing by Enterprise in the TOS episode “The Tholian Web.” And there’s an – IMO – unnecessary digression into why the Nimbus III colony (from ST:V The Final Frontier) was set up and why things went so terribly wrong there (this latter plotline may find a reason for its existence in the final book – Storming Heaven – and if any author can pull it off it’s David Mack but for now it seems a pointless digression).

The series suffers from a syndrome I’ve seen in the Star Wars novels I’ve read – the need to cram every major character or reference from previous stories into the present novel. Thus, not only is Vanguard threatened by the Shedai, Klingons and Tholians (a reasonably threatening and manageable number of villains and logically necessary) but we also have to bring in Romulans and the Gorn.

The Gorn!?

And the Romulans?

The story takes place in the same year or soon after Enterprise’s recontact with the empire in the TOS episode “The Balance of Terror” yet we already have a Romulan ambassador and a long-term relationship between the Fed ambassador on Vanguard and a Romulan Senator. I can’t buy the timeline.

In a previous book, a Klingon assault against Vanguard is conveniently stopped because it happens to take place when Trefayne imposes the Organian Treaty (see TOS “Errand of Mercy”); Heihachiro Nogura, Chief of Starfleet in ST:I The Motion Picture, is the new CO of Vanguard; there’s a digression where the infamous Admiral Komack from TOS clashes with Nogura; and the meta-genome that prompted Starfleet’s interest in the region is a lead in to Carol Marcus’ research into the Genesis Project (and did I mention that Clark Terrell, also from ST:II The Wrath of Khan, shows up as XO of one of Vanguard’s starships?).

Another problem that the series has become increasingly prone to is the phenomenal talent and moral probity of everyone in Starfleet. No one’s even just “average,” nor – outside of Reyes – does anyone have serious problems or doubts about the Federation’s presence in the Taurus Reach. But it goes beyond that. Everyone gets along with everyone else, and every crew works together like a well oiled machine. And a lot of characters are prone to kamikaze gestures – ramming Tholian starships or blowing themselves up to keep Shedai technology out of Klingon hands, etc. It’s tolerable in Mack’s efforts because he’s the most talented writer in the stable but here it rapidly becomes annoying and distracting and unbelievable.

One final discordant note to mention: The novel begins with a framing device where Tim Pennington, the civilian Federation News Service reporter, tracks down Reyes on his planet of exile several years after the events around Vanguard to get his story. This is fine, except that this should mean that what comes between prolog and epilog is told from Reyes’ point of view. But it’s not. We jump from Reyes to other characters just as we have been doing in every previous novel. At the least, if we learn of other characters’ fates, it should be through the prism of Reyes’ experience. This is just a Star Trek novel perhaps but the device smacks of laziness; the authors didn’t think through the consequences of their storytelling method.

I think I may protest too much. I have enjoyed the series and, while this installment seems a bit unnecessary, it is by no means an unendurable read. Considering my experience with Mack’s work, I’m eagerly looking forward to finishing the series when the final book comes out. If I were to judge this book as a standalone, I’d give it two stars, albeit a strong two stars. As a part of the series overall, I’ll be generous and give it three because of the Reyes arc, which I think could and should be much stronger. Reyes has the potential to be a character as interesting as Kirk, Spock or Picard, and I’d like to see some author – ideally Mack – take on more stories concerning him.