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Starfleet Corps of Engineers: Blackout

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at February 27, 2006 - 11:33 PM GMT

Title: Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers #59: Blackout
Author: Phaedra M. Weldon
Release Date: January 2006
Format: eBook
ISBN: 1-4165-2043-0

The entire cast of regular characters in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series is well developed and we know a lot about each of them by this point in the series but as Blackout demonstrates, there is always more to learn. In her S.C.E. debut Phaedra M. Weldon’s poignant character driven story focuses on the ship’s cryptographer Bart Faulwell, one of the few ongoing characters in a Star Trek literary series that is gay.

When the new Federation member world Asario suffers a planet-wide blackout, it's the U.S.S. da Vinci to the rescue. While Commander Gomez and her team of engineers try to keep the planet from falling into chaos, the ship's language specialist, Bart Faulwell, is assigned to assist an Asarion linguist named Jewlan, the woman who inadvertently triggered the blackout while working at an archaeological dig.

The Asarion people have a unique biology that causes random shifts from male to female. Faulwell's friendship with Jewlan, and her crush on him, is nothing more than a minor distraction at first, but when Jewlan becomes Jolen, Faulwell finds himself facing a difficult decision as they race to find a solution when the power outage worsens and threatens to destroy not only Asario, but the da Vinci as well.

Weldon’s narrative style is casual and easy to read and her use of Bart Faulwell in this story is wonderful. We’ve known from early in this series that Bart has been in a stable, long-distance relationship with Starfleet officer Anthony Mark for some time. Bart writing letters the old-fashioned way with pen and paper to Anthony was one of a myriad of little touches that has crept into this series over time, something that regular readers began to take for granted.

It was back in S.C.E. #48, Creative Couplings, Book Two that Anthony mentioned the idea of marriage to Bart, a subject that put strain on their relationship and an abrupt end to the letter writing, so for series regulars it was nice to have the issue addressed at last and I particularly enjoyed the sensitive way Weldon handled telling this story.

The circumstances of the mission Bart finds himself heavily involved in Blackout force Bart to address the current state of his relationship with Anthony and compel him to come to a decision about how much of a commitment he is capable of making to another individual. But as you read Blackout you are reading a story about a character that is at a crossroads in his life, not a story about a gay character that is at a crossroads in his life. You could substitute a heterosexual couple in place of Bart and Anthony in this story and it would still work.

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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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