Fans of Deep Space 9 know all about the relationship between the clandestine organization called Section 31 and the relationship it has with Dr. Julian Bashir. During the television series, it was not good and in the books, it has only grown worse as time goes on. Well, due to some shady business that Bashir got himself into while working to save the Andorian race, he finds himself defrocked, demoted, and disavowed by Starfleet, but he still has one goal, to once and for all bring Section 31 down and expose all of it’s illegal and immoral activities for all to see.
Control opens with Bashir, beaten and battered, trying to insert a chip into a console at Memory Alpha for as yet some unknown reason. What follows is an incredibly fast paced story that is so Orwellian in nature that it can be quite disturbing if one thinks about it too long.
In April of 2141, Dr. Aaron Ikerson introduces his invention that he calls Uraei, a computer program that is designed to monitor and record activity; everyone’s activity. It does this by inserting itself into devices that have become part of everyday life in homes, on starships, or anywhere it happens to touch. The purpose of Uraei is to ensure the safety of the people by watching activity and making analyses of the activity to determine a threat level. It isn’t designed to take any action, but as time goes on Uraei becomes more and more intelligent and begins making decisions that include some very bad things.
In the meantime, Bashir, Sarina Douglas and a reporter are on the run from Section 31. They meet up with Data and Lal who agree to help them in their fight to stop the clandestine agency from continuing their own terrible activities. The story winds through several locations, including a meeting with the now leader of the Cardassian Government, Elim Garak. The only problem is that it seems that no matter where they go, or how careful they are to cover their tracks, Section 31 is always a step ahead of Bashir and his group.
Control is one great story, but it is also a very dark and foreboding story, for sure the darkest Trek story I have read or watched since the DS-9 episode “In The Pale Moonlight.” It is not only dark, but it is also quite disturbing as what Mack has composed seems all too plausible given the current technology that we have available. I can only but wonder if there is an Ikerson out there somewhere right now, working on a project to monitor us through the devices we take for granted. Am I paranoid? Perhaps. But read this story and remember that as the imagination of humans reaches into the future with more and more fantastic fictitious ideas, it always seems that reality is just a few steps behind the fiction.
This is a fast-paced story, the action starts with the opening pages and moves at a breakneck pace to the end with almost no time to catch one’s breath between scenes. It is really two stories under one cover and has a sense of futility for the hero, who finds success at the end of his journey, but it comes with a very, very high price. On the surface, Control is just a yarn spun by a great author, but under the surface, he gives a lot to think about and contemplate as technology continues to advance.
At the same time, there is a lot here that any Trekkie will enjoy. There are numerous references to familiar stories that, when I read them, made me smile and remember fondly, but there was also a sense of foreboding as I thought back on the adventures of the past being observed and even influenced by Uraei. I cannot help but admire how cleverly Mack wove his invention so neatly into the stories of the past, going back even before the launching of the Enterprise, or the founding of the Federation for that matter. Simply brilliant!
I give this book my highest recommendations and can honestly say that it is one of the best Star Trek books I have ever read.
Well, there it is…