Without doubt, this is the most important Trek publication since the Encyclopedia 1st came out.
This book features maps of the stars we have heard so much about in Trek, and a lot of others we've never heard of before.
There's a lot to the book, so I'll try to break it down:
The first section is sort of a galactic overview, showing overall maps (which are very interesting, as we see the extent of the Borg transwarp conduits, Vaawaur subspace tunnels and the Hirogen communications array. It then launches into a description of how the galaxy is broken down, and how the 'sector' is dervied. That little explanation is one of the best parts of the book.
We then see a 3D map (the only 3D map in the book) of the 4 sectors surrounding Sol, sectors that feature the major homeworlds such as Earth, Vulcan, Andor, Tellar and others.
The book then describes the classes for both stars and planets, both of which are very interesting and are based on real astrophysics, very well done indeed.
The book then goes on to show the various quadrants. The first quadrant shown in the Alpha Quadrant, and, believe it or not, this is one of the smaller sections in the book. Mandel shows the 'left' of the Federation, where the Cardassians, Breen, Ferengi and various others thrive. While it is a good map, I feel it was incomplete. I was looking forward to a detailed map of the Dominion War, yet Mandel fails to do that, and only designates a tiny area near Bajor as having been the battleground. Also, several important locations from the war are missing, such as: the Tyra system, Starbase 257, not to mention the site of the battle from 'Sacrifice of Angels'. Mandel also fails to show what Sisko was speaking of in 'By the Pale Moonlight' when he spoke of the Jem'Hadar often cutting through the Romulan Neutral Zone to attack the UFP. From this statement, I got the impression that the Cardassians/Romulans shared a common, or at least a fairly close, border. However, for this to be the case, Cardassian space would have to have been further 'north' of the Federation, closer to the Romulan border.
The book then moves onto the Beta Quadrant, the quadrant that includes the Klingon and Romulan star Empire. This section was very well done, but my one real complaint was the size of the Klingon Empire. It was huge, almost as big as the Federation itself, which I found unrealistic. The Klingons may be powerful, but I really cant see them administering such a large Empire. Also, the location of Tygor Kor from 'Apocalypse Rising' was absent.
Both of these sections also paid little to no attention to the adventures of Kirk and Picard. I expected some charts of where those two intrepid adventurers had been around the Federation, yet there was nothing to be found. If anything, both the Alpha and Beta quadrant sections need to be expanded to show more of the Federation. Some worlds were missing, such as Ktaria IV, Beta Antares (where a secret Federation shipyard is supposably located) and El-Auria.
The next section, on the Gamma Quadrant, is the smallest section in the book, and also has a few errors. The scale of the map is obviously wrong, but that's just a typo. Mandel shows the geography fairly well, but he missed the nebula Garak and Worf encountered the Dominion fleet in in 'In Purgatory's Shadow', which was disappointing. Other than that the map was good.
The last quadrant shown in the Delta Quadrant, and it also has the most errors. Voyager's first yeat in the DQ is riddled with errors, and not just small ones. Errors such as putting the singularity from 'Parralax' far ahead of other locations is ridiculous, the black hole was in the 2nd episode! Voyager's trip to Rinax/Talax was totally forgotten about, and I get the feeling Mandel hasn't done his research properly.
The 2nd year is much better than the first, yet still contains a few of the placement errors in terms of Voyager's timeline.
The third year is much the same, but I actually found it very interesting, particularly in how the Nekrit Expanse was shown, well done Geoff.
As far as I can tell, the 4th year is error free, yet I would have liked to have seen Voyager's route through Borg space, and exactly where the 'Northwest passage' was. I would also have liked to have seen Arturis's homeworld, the Cataati homeworld, and the location of the planet species 8472 destroyed in 'Scorpion'.
The 5th season map contains numerous errors, but most of these aren't Geoff's fault. The 5th season episodes were shown out of order, so often the stardates went forward and backwards. Hence, Geoff's maps are out of sync with 'true' stardate time. Normally this wouldn't be such a big problem, but 5th season had nearly 35 000 light years of 'extra' travel, so the difference of a few few stardate units can mean 10 000 ly. Also, some locations were missing, such as Malon Prime, Devore Prime, the ice planet Voyager crashed on in 'Timeless', not to mention the Ankari homeworld (although this world may be somewhere near where Voyager was in 2371). I would also have liked to have seen the location of the Borg unicomplex Seven and co went to, and also the location of the homeworld of species 10026 from 'Dark Frontier'.
Season 6 is shown fairly well, but again has a few placement errors, such as the Vaadwaur homeworld.
Season 7 is relatively flawless, but I would like to have seen the actual nebula Voyager went into in 'Endgame'.
Overall, the Delta quadrant maps contained the most errors of the book, and i got the feeling Mandel really didn't know Voyager all that well, which was disappointing.
One thing the book lacks is a decent index, which is vital in order to find certain planets, and could save hours of map searching for planets that aren't there.
Overall, this is a brillaint book, but is incomplete. If Mandel gets to do a second edition, I hope that he can expand the maps, include more worlds, more trade routes, more starship routes and fix up a lot of his errors, not to mention put in an index.
If you're a trek fan, casual or serious, you should have this book. Despite it's flaws, it's pretty well done, and obviously shows Mandel is one of Trek's new heavywieghts.