Star Trek: Errand of Fury – Book 1: Seeds of Rage (Kevin Ryan)
Following up on his successful Errand of Vengeance trilogy, Kevin Ryan returns with "Seeds of Rage", the first book in the three-part Errand of Fury series set before the TOS episode "Errand of Mercy."
It’s a difficult time for the crew of the starship Enterprise. With a substantial casualty list in the wake of the events of the preceeding series, Captain Kirk is forced to take on new crew members and consider the futures of some who remain on board. While his security supervisor, Leslie Parrish, struggles with deciding about remaining on duty, Michael Fuller boards the ship, intent on avenging the death of his son. Both situations meet head-on in the midst of the Enterprise’s security department as the crew investigates System 7348 where a primitive Klingon culture is faced with their planet’s impending obliteration at the hand of ‘unknown’ agents.
On the other side of the Kingon/Federation border, the brother of a Klingon infiltration agent finds himself searching for answers to his brother’s fate, and discovers just how treacherous some in the Klingon High Council can be.
Firmly in the midst of the silent, cold war is Ambassador Robert Fox who, together with his ambassadorial team, find themselves biding time for the Federation to prepare for the inevitable war with the Klingon Empire.
Ryan’s use of flashbacks to lay out a back-story for Michael Fuller is, perhaps, one of the best uses of flashbacks in Star Trek literature. The flashbacks, also, are some of the most exciting portions of the book, giving a real passionate look into the animosity between Starfleet and the Klingons, and paving the way for everything we will see in Michael Fuller in this book and its sequel.
Also to be highly commended is Ryan’s selection of nemesis for this tale. Avoiding the obvious temptation to simply make the Klingons the out-and-out bad-guys, he works up something far more sinister and complex. It also exposes us to an alien species that we don’t often get to see in established Star Trek lore, and gives an example of just how low some people will stoop to make a profit.
What is most satisfying about "Seeds of Rage" is the way that Kevin Ryan has managed to intertwine so many varying storylines into an integrated whole. While each sub-plot is interesting in its own right, the sum of the whole is even more pleasurable. In addition to being a self-contained story, "Seeds of Rage" does an outstanding job of setting the stage for the second book in the Errand of Fury trilogy, "Demands of Honor".
Star Trek: Errand of Fury – Book 2: Demands of Honor (Kevin Ryan)
What do you get when a bunch of anti-Federation pacifists try to make nice with the Klingon Empire? Trouble. What do you get when a Klingon officer finds out that his brother was planted in Starfleet as a part of a ploy to drag the Empire to war? Trouble. What is Kevin Ryan’s second book in the Errand of Fury trilogy focused on? "Demands of Honor" is focused on trouble. Lots of trouble. And it’s a rip-roaring good read!
Ryan picks up the story after the events in the previous novel "Seeds of Rage". Set in the midst of the latter portion of the first season of Star Trek, this particular ‘episode’ takes place just before the events depicted in "Errand of Mercy". Kirk and company are on their way to make a follow-up visit to System 7348, the home of a group of primitive Klingons who have just survived an attempt by the Orions to strip-mine their planet out of existence. As they journey to the dilithium-laden planet to negotiation with the local leaders, the Klingons mount a similar mission under the lead of Councillor Duras. True to the family name, Duras has few noble intentions. At the same time, a small band of idealists from the Anti-Federation League try to brandish their own form of nobility, taking a small unarmed transport into Klingon space, and attempting to engage the warrior society in peace talks.
As one could imagine, there is a lot of potential in such a work for boring, placeholder characters, but Ryan manages to strike a pretty good balance between what you expect and what you don’t. While Duras’ scheming and treachery live up the usual expectations any fan would have, the majority of the Klingons in the story behave in a manner both consistent with what we know of their culture and with what we saw demonstrated in the original series. In particular, First Officer Karel was written very well. His passion, his drive, and his determination all come across loud and clear in the story. Koloth, while well written, may strike the reader as just a bit ‘off’ from his presence in "The Trouble With Tribbles" and later episodes.
The primitive Klingon culture in the 7348 system is very well written, even if sometimes succumbing to literary cliché. Adon, the son of the planetary leader Gorath, has a definite Klingon personality. His drive for justice and truth matches that of Karel throughout the book – the two characters compliment one another very well – even if his local opposition is spending just a bit too much time twirling the proverbial waxed moustache. Because this society is new and unique in Star Trek lore, there is a genuine sense of danger for both for Gorath and Adon, as well as for the people of the planet. Ryan’s creativity is fully realized as he continues forging the culture (a work begun in "Seeds of Rage").
The highlight, however, remains –as always- the crew of the Enterprise. Following in the tradition of both the Janus Gate and Errand of Vengeance trilogies, "Demands of Honor" is a ‘lower decks’ story that gives exposure to many redshirts and other players from the days of the Original Series. Michael Fuller takes front and center as the key ‘redshirt player’ in this work. Just as he continued the development of the primitive Klingons from his earlier work, Ryan has done an excellent job providing the background and motivation that drive Fuller – drawing on material published in his previous novel and the "Errand of Vengeance" trilogy. Fuller takes the reader in several twists and turns, and gives a surprise, heartfelt, almost bittersweet ending to the book. At the same time, Ryan deftly handles Lieutenant Leslie Parrish’s difficulties, and carries forth the concern for her that was so expertly stirred in his previous two books. Leonard McCoy plays a very pivotal, albeit small, part in Parrish’s situation, giving us a conversation piece to view some modern controversies. In doing so, Ryan renews in his small corner of Trek, one of the enduring missions of the Original Series.
Kirk and Spock don’t get short-changed, but their parts are definitely somewhat thinner than in your average Star Trek novel. Ryan resists the temptation that many would probably have to allow Kirk to save the day on his own, and in doing so gives an excellent example of Kirk’s ability to truly lead and delegate, making Kirk a more all-around believable individual in the process.
Of unique mention is also the small but vital parts played by Ambassador Fox ("A Taste of Armageddon") and Lieutenant (later Colonel) West ("Star Trek VI"). One wonders, after reading their contributions to "Demands of Honor", just what part they will play in the third book, due out in the spring of 2008.
Of final note are the members of the Anti-Federation League and their idealistic mission to the Klingon Empire. One wonders if this is a deliberate commentary on some of the pacifistic missions to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea of late, but the AFL members are just a touch too perfectly idealistic for full believability. Their motivations are genuine enough, but the way they go about it seems somewhat off. It feels like their decision to visit the Klingon Empire by unarmed transport is a simple concession to Ryan’s needs within the story. In honesty, those who went to Vietnam to protest during the conflict there have more similarities with the Anti-Federation leaguers than do modern pacifist envoys. Whatever the intent, their situation after beginning to broadcast their message of peace is perfectly predictable and strikes no unique chords at any time. Of all the storylines in the book, only this one needed any serious attention, but it is easier to dismiss its weaknesses because of the multiple strong storylines present in the tale.
While the occasional carbon-copy Klingon, the predictable Federation malcontents, and slightly-off take on Koloth are matters of some concern, "Demands of Honor" is a damned fine ride, carrying on the tradition of Ryan’s previous Trek novels. One could also pick it up solo and read it, picking up enough context from the previous works to have a full enjoyment of the tale. That being said, the reader who is truly a fan will want to read "Seeds of Rage" (if not the entire Errand of Vengeance trilogy) first, because the finale coming in Ryan’s as-yet un-titled conclusion to this second trilogy promises to be outstanding.
Errand of Fury Book 3 will be released next February