SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: S. C. E.: #1 The Belly of the Beast by Dean Wesley Smith

The Belly of the Beast - Dean Wesley Smith

This is the first part of an e-book series, launched in 2000, that describes the adventures of the crew of the U.S.S. daVinci - a highly competent team of engineers under the command of Sonya Gomez (who we remember spilling her cacao on Picard's uniform in "Q Who") whose task is to investigate alien technology, and any other engineering problems.

 

This time, the "Starfleet Corps of Engineers" is called in to investigate a giant spaceship that attacked the Enterprise and was barely overcome. Geordi joins the team and serves as a prop to introduce its members. There's Gomez, who now outranks Geordi (which admittedly is kind of strange - but then, so is the stagnancy of ranks on the Enterprise from season 3 onwards... with the exception of Troi's promotion in season 7), her second-in-command Kieran Duffy (also formerly on the Enterprise, and in an on-and-off relationship with Gomez) - others are mentionned, but only a Bynar pair is worth expanding on here, since one half gets killed off in this mission. Whether the remaining one will continue on the daVinci is not really in doubt, but his development could get interesting. The daVinci itself is commanded by Captain Gold, the SCE itself is headed by Scotty.

 

I'm not sure why nearly every ST-series needs visitors from other series to sort of give them their blessing. And in this case it was even more annoying than usual, since Geordi didn't really contribute anything else than, "Wow, what a crew", "They are sooo competent", etc. Either you achieve showing that the new crew is something special via your story-telling, or not - but as a reader I don't need to be indoctrinated on such things. I like to form my own judgment. And given the fact that a novella is short enough, I definitely don't need to spend pages on Enterprise, Geordi and/or his opinions.

 

The investigation on the giant spaceship, which gets the nickname "The Beast", is a bit slow in coming - only the last few chapters gain some speed and suspense. The imagery in the "big reveal" (which is quite disgusting and horrifying) is pretty poignant, but I would have wanted the threat to have been better developed and introduced earlier. This way, though, the threat is barely shown (f.e., the telepathic interference is only mentionned, solved by Geordi-technobabble, and henceforth forgotten, even when the bugs are grown up and in direct contact with the away-team), the Bynar 111 bites the dust, everything goes kaboom - the end. That's not a very sophisticated build up with a gripping plot and a satisfying ending.

 

Nevertheless, I think I'm going to give at least the next few books a chance to introduce the "cast" further and perhaps improve on the story-telling. Of course, a pilot always has its problems doing both, telling a good story and introducing the characters, which later parts don't have. So, I guess, even with the flaws that I mentionned, Smith did his job well enough, because my interest is peeked - for now.