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By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at August 2, 2003 - 8:10 AM GMT

Title: Starfleet Corps of Engineers #29, Aftermath
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Publication: July 2003
Format: eBook
ISBN: 0-7434-7058-3

Aftermath is an extremely apt title for this Starfleet Corps of Engineers tale. Newcomer Christopher L. Bennett offers up an interesting and highly enjoyable story that satisfies in several different ways. Before you read any farther I must warn you that this review does contain spoilers for the previous S.C.E. tale, Wildfire. If you have not yet read Wildfire I suggest you stop reading now.

It has been a year since the Breen attacked Earth, and the rebuilding efforts continue but the physical and psychological scars left by the attack have yet to heal. The U.S.S. da Vinci has been undergoing extensive repairs in dry-dock; repairs necessitated by the crippling incident at Galvan VI. Now it is ready to launch and the new personnel have assumed their posts. Before the da Vinci can depart, a huge blast rocks San Francisco, apparently caused by the sudden appearance of an alien structure.

Chief Miles O'Brien and Captain Montgomery Scott join the da Vinci's S.C.E. team to investigate the structure in an attempt to determine where it came from and why. To complicate matters, representatives of an alien race, the Nachri, who have in the past been antagonistic toward the Federation, claim to have knowledge of the mysterious aliens and proof that their intentions are hostile. But can they be trusted, and can the S.C.E. unravel the mystery before time runs out for the inhabitants of Earth?

The main plot of Aftermath is enormously interesting. A mysterious alien structure, seemingly uninhabited, appears out of nowhere. How did it get there and why is it there? A nifty little science fiction puzzle to be solved. Add to this is the human drama of a crew still recovering from the loss of so many of their colleagues, a crew who are now forced to work for the first time with the crewmembers who are replacing their dead friends. All of this taking place on a planet still trying to recover from a devastating war. As fascinating as the plot of Aftermath is, it is the human drama unfolding between the characters that makes the story so rewarding to read — by working together with their new crewmates to solve the puzzle of the alien structure, the characters are able to take the first tentative steps towards moving beyond their persistent angst and self-doubt.

The new characters are an interesting mix. While Aftermath briefly introduces us to several, we really only begin to get to know two in this particular story. Lieutenant Commander Morglasch Tev, a male Tellarite, is the da Vinci's new second officer, replacing the deceased Kieran Duffy. Tev is a pretty typical Tellarite, abrasive but efficient and somewhat of a perfectionist, almost the total opposite of Duffy. While he doesn't earn himself many friends with his attitude, you've got to grudgingly respect the guy's skill as a problem solver. Then there is one of the new security officers, Rennan Konya, a gentle male Betazoid, with a refreshing attitude about security work.

Author Christopher Bennett's story compels you to want to get to know these new crewmembers better, no mean feat considering the beloved characters they are replacing. But at the same time their introductions are an inherent part of the plot, never overshadowing the story itself. When you finally get to meet the mysterious aliens that inadvertently caused the whole dilemma in the first place, the Shaniel, you find yourself drawn to them, just as you find yourself ultimately vindicated by the inability to feeling anything but suspicion about the motives of the Nachri.

A new author needs to give you a reason to want to read his work again. Bennett amply illustrates that he really knows his Star Trek with several clever references while at the same time demonstrating a writing style that is both droll and stimulating. Most importantly, with Aftermath, Bennett exhibits the ability to push all the right buttons by creating great characters as he tells a story that you can feel was well worth reading.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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