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Iím tired of Star Trek books. I freely admit it. After reading an enormous stack of them all through high school (not to mention watching all four series) I find that all of the plots seem to jell together.

One of the few exceptions Iíve found is Peter Davidís Star Trek: New Frontier series. It incorporates several TNG guest stars and an original, hilarious crew, then sticks them straight in the middle of a brand new alien conflict, all set in the beloved Star Trek universe. The author manages to keep his series fresh and laugh-out-loud funny, while producing some of the best, most original Star Trek books on the market.

Anyone whoís read Peter Davidís New York Times bestseller, Imzadi, or his delightfully mind boggling Q-Squared will be thrilled to know that Peter David is also writing an ongoing series based on his own Star Trek characters.

The mighty Thallonian Empire has collapsed and the many planets that it has always ruled are thrown into a state of chaos. Starfleet decides to send in one ship, to render assistance and to investigate the situation. This ship is the USS Excalibur.

Its crew are creative and hilarious in a way that only Peter David and his off beat, dark humor can achieve. The unexpected, unbelievable, and just plain impossible are commonplace on the ship, as the crew encounter one ironic situation after another. Romance blooms in unlikely places, and readers will alternate between wordless admiration and hysterical laughter at the crewís reaction to challenges.

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, formerly known as Míkínízy of Calhoun, is a fearsome terrorist who led the liberation of his planet against superior forces when he was only nineteen. After coming out of a Starfleet tragedy as a hero, Calhoun mysteriously quit his career and went into business independently, only to be dragged back to Starfleet by his old friend and mentor, Captain Picard.

Other characters include Burgoyne, a member of a dual-sexed species who has a crush on the resident Vulcan doctor, and Zak Kebron, who hails from a species that makes the deck tremble when he moves. He has an instinctive hatred for the arrogant Ambassador Si Cwan, just as he did for old academy roommate, Lieutenant Worf. But Si Cwan, a former lord of the Thallonian Empire, will do everything in his power to stay on the Excaliburís crew, since it is his only chance to find his lost sister.

Peter David also introduces old favorites from The Next Generation, such as the promotion hungry Commander Shelby, who happens to be Captain Calhounís ex-fiance, and Ensign Robin Lefler, whose few secrets of her past are hidden even from her. Leutenant Selar is the Chief Medical Officer, despite a personal tragedy in her past that leaves her cold and remoteÖ even for a Vulcan. Her bedside manner is brutal enough to even rival Voyagerís holographic doctor, yet she finds herself in a position where she desperately needs friends to help her with a purely Vulcan problem. The legendary Ambassador Spock and our old hero Captain Picard send the Excalibur on its way, along with the despised, yet newly promoted Admiral Jelico.

This is only a small sampling of the crew, to say nothing of guest stars ranging from arrogant religious fanatics who can kill with a word to the Great Bird of the Galaxy. The Excalibur must defend itself from giant space worms, terrorists, and nearly immortal relatives. Each book ends with an enticing cliffhanger that will have readers biting their nails while they wait for the sequel.

A few fans may object to his trifling with a number of Next Generation characters or protest flagrant Prime Directive violations. But the series has only a few references to the main characters on Next Generation and the other Star Trek series; the new characters and situations are what set these books apart from other, more generic Star Trek books.

There is far more to this series than the usual planetary threat or mysterious alien. In typical Star Trek books, itís well known that the main characters canít die or even undergo significant changes. In the New Frontier series, nothing can be taken for granted. Peter Davidís characters are truly original, and find themselves in all sorts of hilarious predicaments. Everything from pregnancies to a shuttle with two main characters blowing up is within the rules. Yet at the same time, Next Generation characters and species appear, and Captain Calhoun must struggle to work within the Prime Directive.

While Peter Davidís characters are always amusing, or at least have hilarious moments, they are also deep and very real. Each character must deal with their past and sometimes their families as they forge individual relationships with each character on the ship. Even the darkest crew members find time to joke, in their own ways, and even the most cheerful characters have a spot of tragedy hidden in their past and waiting to be rooted out. The characters bluff, take risks, and all-out lie. Peter David manages to slip in explorations of the nature of romance as well as the bonds between parents and children, making the series far more vibrant than a simple comedy.

Despite the humor of the series, the characters are warm and alive, and the readers tend to worry when Peter David shows a conversation between two shuttle occupants and then says "and then the shuttle blew up." With nine books in the Star Trek: New Frontier series (one of which is also a Captain's Table book) and more appearing in the future, this series makes an excellent summer reading projectÖ whether youíre desperately waiting for the next one to arrive, or even if you think youíve read too many Star Trek books already. contributor Valerie Frankel got lucky: no smart-ass byline for her!




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