Book Review: ‘Harm’s Way’ by David Mack

December 20, 2022 at 7:28 am | Posted in Books, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Star Trek | Leave a comment
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Star Trek: Harm’s Way is the newest novel set in the original oeries era by David Mack. It was released by Simon and Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint in December of 2022. 

David Mack has a long and storied career with Star Trek books. He has written over 30 in his tenure there, making him one of the most widely published authors along with Peter David and Dayton Ward. Along with Peter David, Mack is the one other author I’ve heard many many people call their “Favorite Star Trek Author.” 

And for good reason, because he turns in amazing books!

I should preface this review by saying that this book ties into the Vanguard series. That series was completely written and published from 2004-2012, and was for all intents and purposes finished until now. However, Mack and the editorial team have decided to bring back the Vanguard storyline and series for another adventure in this book. If you haven’t read the Vanguard series, I think you can still enjoy this book. If you have read the Vanguard series, you’ll especially enjoy the connections in this book. 

While I haven’t enjoyed the Vanguard series (I’ve read four out of eight of the books), I was still excited for this book for no other reason than it was a brand new Star Trek novel. Interestingly, this novel is now by far my favorite Vanguard novel yet! This book now makes me excited to go and finish the rest of the Vanguard books on my shelves. 

One thing that makes this book particularly special is the way it deals with tone and pacing. This book actually feels like one of the original series movies. I mean that as an absolute compliment, because I love the pacing of the Trek movies more than I enjoy the pacing of the original series episodes (heresy, I know). The pacing in this book started a little slow, but that was fine as it is setting up the rest of the plot. The second and third acts went by fairly quickly and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

This book really reminds me of Search for Spock more than any other Trek material. The third film in the Star Trek universe isn’t necessarily my favorite, but it is the one I think is the most underrated. I cannot get into detail of how this book reminds me of that movie without spoilers, but suffice it to say the Klingon elements in this book gave me all the feels.

That being said, as a science siction story, this is quite entertaining. The sci-si worldbuilding and alien elements were masterfully done and felt totally plausible in universe while also feeling like they were borrowing from 60s and 70s styles. I’d love to pick Mack’s brain to find out some of his inspirations. 

There were a few choices in this book that I particularly enjoyed, especially with the Klingon commander. Klingon’s often talk about honor, but the Klingon commander in this book makes one comment saying that Klingon’s care about honor and hlory, but they care more about huty. This perspective from this character was interesting and gave the book a freshness and added depth that other authors might not include. 

Some of the twists and developments in the book were predictable, two in particular that I was happy I guessed, but that does not speak to David Mack’s inability to tell a good story, but rather tells of his ability to utilize storytelling elements to lay out his story well. 

I enjoyed the character of Doctor Babitz, who gave strong Bones/McCoy vibes. I also thought the idea of pairing Spock with Sulu and (spoiler characters) was well done! A unique take indeed. 

There are many dialogues that Spock has with other characters, that deal with deep moral issues that I found fascinating. As someone who has only seen bits and pieces of the original series, I did not know everything about his background and found these developments highly informative and also served as an excellent way to drive Mack’s themes in the story. The way Spock questions the pure pursuit of knowledge was just tremendous. A very “Star Trek” like discussion indeed!

Characters like Uhura, Chekov, McCoy and Scott get sidelined in this book, but that’s ok because they have major roles in other Trek novels. There were many opportunities that Mack could have cut away from the main storylines to give a fluffy C-plot for those little used characters, but Mack demonstrated the maturity to recognize that it wasn’t needed here. 

If I have one potential quibble with the book, it could have used more flashback POVs from the “macguffin” characters and also could have used POVs from the indigenous characters from the planet in this book. This isn’t a huge problem, but certainly could have been fixed. 

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. I don’t have any major complaints, and the themes, tone, and pacing were all done wonderfully. It’s not necessarily a favorite Trek book for me quite yet, but I can’t look back on this book with anything other than positive feelings. This was exactly the sort of adventure we needed and Mack handled all of the elements rather well. Five out of five. Well done David Mack!

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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