“Star Trek: Vanguard” (VAN) is a new book series telling a story about a space station in the timeframe or Kirks first 5-year mission. Starbase 47 “Vanguard” is one of the latest space stations of the UFP build in a border region more or less between the Klingon and Tholian empire called the Thaurus Reach. And no: In my opinion this isn’t really a DS9 clone. True, both are about a space station somewhere on the edge of known space etc. but while DS9 has Bajor to put most of its plot in relation to, Vanguard seems to live from the exploration of a whole sector but with more or less known enemies like the Klingons and the Tholians. But the plot will probably also introduce a new power … In DS9 it was also very clear from the beginning, why the UFP wanted to get a foothold in this sector, while in VAN it’s a secret that only the reader and some people of the command staff know about. VAN in my opinion smells more like a spy/thriller story to me than the more soap oriented DS9 ;-)
“Harbinger” is the first book of the series and takes place right at the - except for a small excurse to the year 2263 - right after the TOS episode “Where no man has gone before” where Kirks friend Gary Mitchell died. During the course of this book, the reader gets to know the personnel onboard Starbase 47 commanded by Commodore Diego Reyes. Actually, from what I’ve seen so far, all the SB47 characters are completely new to the Star Trek universe.
That said, there are quite a few guest appearances in this book. Right in the first chapter Commodore Matt Decker - who was introduced in the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine” - provides the reason for building SB47. Then the Enterprise docks to get some repairs after the incident with Gary Mitchell and Elisabeth Dehner on Delta Vega. These first two chapters are used to somehow put the whole story into a right timeframe followed by an a little bit slow paced introduction of the main characters like the smugler Cervantes Quinn.
But right after these introction chapter the story plays like a spy thriller with more than enough action. And David Mack definitely knows how to write an action sequence. If you’re looking for comedy, you will perhaps be a little bit disappointed, because apart from Kirk’s remarks about the new women uniforms (miniskirts if you don’t remember them anymore from TOS) the whole story is very serious … just like you’d expect from a spy thriller.
I normally don’t like the TOS universe (< the first movie) simply because of the strange … well, let’s just say I don’t like it. But this book was really great. Actually except for the first few pages, the whole story was never boring.