David Mack’s Star Trek Picard: Firewall – Book Spotlight

Welcome aboard, Readers! I’ve beamed you here to check out a new Star Trek novel by David Mack. He’s written a bunch of Star Trek stories and worked on the show itself but this is my very first time reading one of his books, so, I was quite excited to pick it up! Plus, this Spotlight goes live around the same time that the first few episodes of Discovery’s final season premiere, so, it seemed fitting!

Star Trek is one of my favorite franchises. I do love Star Wars and many other space-centric SciFi fantasies but there’s just something about that hopeful depiction of our own future that energizes (Pun very much intended.) and inspires me. I know that the fanbase is divided in regards to the newer series post Discovery; personally? I think most of it is just the old guard grumbling about things not being what they were back in the day. Don’t believe me? Look up what discourse you can find about The Next Generation from back in 1987 after Encounter at Farpoint first aired and you’ll see the exact same complaints. “It doesn’t feel like Star Trek.” being the key note struck. And I will admit I DO have a few complaints of my own but on the whole, this new era of Trek is spectacular. I will continue to watch and enjoy it for what it is, as if I feel nostalgia pulling at me? I can always go back and watch the older episodes and enjoy those, too. Let new people tell new stories in this incredible galaxy under the Trek banner, is my point. Like this book, for example!

Let’s see if Seven of Nine’s continuing adventures in the Alpha Quadrant continue to engage (Pun, again, very much intended.) me!

Book Stats

    Author: David Mack.
    Formats: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD, and Audible.
    Price: $27.99 for Hardcover, $14.99 for Kindle, $39.99 for the Audio CD and $16.40 for Audible, or one Credit on Audible.
    Length: 333 pages or 12 hours 22 minutes in audio format.
    Narrator: January LaVoy
    Number of books in the series: There are several Star Trek: Picard specific Star Trek novels but there are literally hundreds of Star Trek novels over all!

Basic Premise

Seven is in a rough place. It’s been two whole years since she, along with Captain Janeway (Now a Vice Admiral) and the rest of the Voyager crew made it back home safely from the Delta Quadrant. It was supposed to be a journey of 70 years or more but by using the Borg technology available to them in the form of transwarp conduits, they were able to shave more than six decades off of that trek across the stars. Seven, originally a Borg drone herself, was instrumental in this effort. Without her, they may not have made it in the same amount of time or at all. And you’d think that alone would allow her some level of respect and gratitude from the Federation government and, at the very least, from Starfleet.

Unfortunately, no. The United Federation of Planets and Starfleet are so scared of the Borg that they deny her Federation citizenship despite her being human before assimilation and Starfleet does not allow her entry to Starfleet Academy despite a Vice Admiral putting in a good word for her. And remember; they allowed a Ferengi admittance to Starfleet Academy on the recommendation of a mere Commander only years before! The Ferengi Alliance couldn’t be MORE diametrically opposed to the post-scarcity, socialist utopia of the Federation if it tried! But while they might cause the occasional Starfleet officer to take up Dabo or Tongo and lose some latinum… I guess they aren’t out there assimilating folks.

This still leaves Seven in a tricky spot. While she’s allowed to live on Earth, she doesn’t feel at home there. Most of her Voyager shipmates have moved on with their lives in the past two years, too, having taken up deployments on different ships out there in deep space, or having families and lives of their own they were so eager to return to. Even her awkward relationship with Chakotay came to an end. Kathryn Janeway is the only one she’s regularly in contact with and while that friendship is very dear to her, it’s not enough to keep her tethered to Earth. And so, she leaves for the stars, hoping to find a place to belong.

After some time spent doing menial labor on a backwater colony she’s approached by a man named Arastoo Mardani. He claims to be from the FSA – an intelligence agendy within the Federation. He has a proposition for her; infiltrate a vigilante peacekeeping group known as the Fenris Rangers, find out about them and report back to him. Upon the completion of this mission, he can guarantee her citizenship and Starfleet admittance.

While she initially refuses, the idea of gaining back the sense of community she felt she’d lost upon being ousted from Starfleet is enough to make her change her mind. She not only tracks down this group, but winds up joining them after saving a prominent member of the Rangers from a situation that would have ended with his death. Harper, being grateful for the assist and impressed by her skills gets her on-board very quickly. However, undercover or not, Seven can’t help but become invested in the mission. Invested in local politics governed by warlords and vigilantes and places that are outside of the Federation’s purview. She’s told as much by a returning character ever DS9 fan loves to hate, but I’m not going to spoil who!

Meanwhile on Earth, Kathryn Janeway does a little more digging into Mardani and finds that no such person exists. At least, not within the FSA. So… who’s really pulling the strings and what do they want with Seven? Can she find a way to help the Fenris Rangers and is that even really the right thing to do? And how does this all lead up to her inclusion in Star Trek Picard, as this is aprequel story!?

You’ll need to read to find out!

My Take

So, right off the bat let me just say that this is a very well written, engaging story. Seven was, and is, a fan favorite and it’s awesome to see her story continued. I will admit I might have wanted to see more of the two years prior to this story starting – I think everyone who watched all of Voyager wanted more stuff set in the time after the ship arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant, right? But… this is a book aligned with the series Picard, not Voyager. It makes sense to me but still left me wanting a little more.

One thing I’ve read in regards to Picard (Referring here and from this point on to the series, not the character.) is that its depiction of the Federation is a bit dismal. A bit pessimistic. Its general abandonment of the Romulan situation – the inciting incident for Jean Luc resigning his commission – does NOT seem very Starfleet even within the context of the synth attack on Mars. Their exclusion of Seven, likewise, is something less than I would expect from an organization that champions diversity in infinite combination. This theme continues into Starfleet’s refusal to intervene in local politics to save countless lives. This isn’t even a Prime Directive issue – many of the people in danger come from Federation worlds! The idea of Starfleet becoming insular and paranoid isn’t one I’m exactly fond of.

These would be my only gripes, though. The book itself is fast paced and satisfying – fun heroes, despicable villains and tons of action make for a very fun read.

The narrator for the audio version is January LaVoy and she’s fantastic – I had to double check and make sure Kate Mulgrew didn’t sneak in to record Janeway’s lines. She does a range of accents and a range of characters from battle hardened old guys to feline Caitians and more. I’ll be on the look out for more audiobooks read by her in future.

All in all, if you like Star Trek, especially if you’re a fan of Seven of Nine, or you want more insight into the series Picard, this is a recommended read from me.

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