Harbinger - David Mack The promise shown in parts of [b:The Sorrows of Empire Star Trek Mirror Universe] (my review here) is proven in Harbinger. There are still portions that read episodically or as if he were just trying to put familiar TOS characters into a scene but overall the story moves along at a good pace and the writing's solid.

It takes place just after Enterprise's disastrous mission to the edge of the galaxy seen in the TOS episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before." A battered Enterprise is surprised to find a major starbase in the midst of the Taurus Reach, a frontier region between the Klingons and the Tholians far beyond the core systems of the Federation - Vanguard. The base is ostensibly there to protect UFP colonies in the region but its real mission is to trace the evidence for a previous civilization that left behind enigmatic artifacts and traces of advanced genetic engineering abilities. While Kirk and crew provide a framework, the focus of the book is on introducing a new cast of characters: Commodore Diego Reyes, the base's CO; Lt. Cmmdr. T'Prynn, the Vulcan security chief; Ambassador Jetanien; Lt. Ming Xiong, the young "expert" on the aliens; Dr. Ezekiel Fisher, CMO; Capt. Rana Desai, the base's JAG; Tim Pennington, a civilian journalist; Cervantes Quinn, an independent merchant along the lines of Cyrano Jones or Harry Mudd (though the humor of those characters is far more muted); Anna Sandesjo, a Klingon spy in the Ambassador's office; and Ganz, the Orion crimelord.

At the moment, I'm not particularly "taken" with any of them but none are unbelievable, they're all distinctive, and all are potentially interesting. And Mack can be an exciting writer. The doomed battle between Bombay and 6 Tholian ships is gripping and excellently paced.

I'm sure I missed most of the post-TOS inside jokes but Mack manages to almost seamlessly refer to little things that will pop up later in the series. The example I have in mind is a bottle of liquor Scotty picks up that's described by the drunken Orion who gives it to him as "green." As the true Trekkie knows, that bottle will surface in the episode "By Any Other Name," and will prove instrumental in distracting one of the Kelvans while Kirk saves the ship. When asked by Tomar what it is, Scotty replies, "It's green."

M'Benga, the human doctor who served in a Vulcan ward and shows up at least twice in TOS, makes an appearance and is, IMO, one of the less successful scenes - we really don't need to see him and he does nothing to advance the plot.

Of course, the reason I originally selected this novel over the myriad available nowadays is the promised Vulcan/Klingon lesbian sex scene. It's there; it's PG-13 at the most; and, having read Ceridwen's review of Skye O'Malley, I can't hope to compete but here it is:

"`Good evening, Miss Sandesjo.'

She nodded politely, but her throat tightened. `Commander.'

T'Prynn walked in uninvited. The door closed behind her. Standing in front of Sandesjo, she drummed her fingertips once on the closed lid of the briefcase. `Working late?'

`Just finished,' she said.

`Good.' Moving with exaggerated slowness as if to prolong the moment, T'Prynn circled the table, trailing her right index finger along its edge. Her fingernail left a subtle gouge in the table's varnish. `Then I am free to take my time.'

Sandesjo was convinced that T'Prynn's dark brown eyes were staring clean through her pseudo-identity. The lithe Vulcan woman, who was slightly taller than Sandesjo to bein with, took advantage of the fact that the younger woman was seated and loomed over her. `Some things are best done by degrees,' T'Prynn said. `Do you concur?'

Sandesjo stared back with equal intensity. `Absolutely.'

T'Prynn's hand shot forward and grasped a fistful of Sandesjo's auburn hair. Sandesjo grabbed T'Prynn's arm and dug her fingernails into the skin. Twisting Sandesjo's hair as she pulled, T'Prynn yanked her, shrieking, from her chair and slammed her, back-first, against the wall.

The Vulcan woman's kiss was rough and hungry. Sandesjo reveled in it until their lips parted. They both breathed heavily and eyed each other through chaotic locks of ferally tousled hair. Sandesjo gasped for breath through a delighted smile. `You're early, my love.'

Saying nothing, T'Prynn gave Sandesjo's hair another hard, aphrodisiacal twist and kissed her again. Blissfully surrendering into her lover's embrace, Sandesjo savored the irony that not only had she forsaken Klingon tradition for the touch of other women, but that of all the women she might have loved she had lost her heart to a Vulcan.

Breaking free of the devouring kiss, T'Prynn tugged on Sandesjo's sleeve and, moving with the languid grace of a slow-dancing flame, led her toward the bedroom.

The inevitable, eternal reproach of her ancestors haunted Sandesjo's thoughts:
They will never let me enter Sto-Vo-Kor. Sinking into the bed beside T'Prynn, however, she decided that the dishonor of her next life would be a small price to pay for such a love in this one.