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It is time to catch up on some of the new 2013 Trek novels so today we have two reviews of novels from the original Star Trek series universe: Tony Daniel”s "Devil’s Bargain" and David R. George III’s "Allegiance In Exile."
REVIEW: Star Trek: Allegiance In Exile (by David R. George III)
Let me tell you what makes you live like nothing else… getting tracked down by the twenty-second century equivalent of a heat-seeking missile. Not that I have any personal experience with that sort of thing, but Hikaru Sulu gets that very experience in David R. George III’s latest Star Trek novel, “Allegiance in Exile”.
It all starts with a ruined world… and a girl. Nobody knows how long the ruins have been around, at least not at first, but the key to the mystery lay in the person of Ensign Trinh, the ship’s newly assigned archaeology and anthropology officer. She’s smart, pretty, and she not only figures out a central clue to the happenings on the aptly dubbed planet Agdam, but manages to secure for herself a bridge officer – the afore mentioned Mr. Sulu.
As the story evolves, a twofold emphasis develops – Kirk’s examination of the future, since his five year mission is coming to a close; and Sulu’s contemplation of his own future with Trinh in his life.
Neither of the Enterprise stalwarts, however, can possibly be prepared for what happens to complicate their very different situations – one becomes the subject of flirtation, the other of unexpected joy that leads to an inevitable tragedy and to very difficult choices. Both begin to step, in some ways fractionally, in others whole hog, in new ways as they begin forming in their own minds ideas about the future.
While the Kirk story, in which he makes the acquaintance of one Lori Ciana – and yes, Star Trek fans, you can opine on that choice all you want – is relatively balanced and mundane, it is the Sulu story that exults and declines in grandiose measures… and yet it still falls at the foot of the reader as mundane.
Ultimately, the entire tale feels enmeshed in the Sulu/Trinh relationship, and while I am all for lower-decks types of stories, this one fell completely flat. The romantic relationship fell flat, the aftermath of serious life-changes fell flat… and just when you think that a major decision within the relationship can spark some life into the tale, well, you’d wind up disappointed.
“Allegiance in Exile” is not a risk-taking book. It is a character piece, but a lackluster one. The tone, the bearing, and the execution of the story fall completely flat… even the action sequences aren’t enough to breathe any significant animation into what, otherwise, arrives as a rather lifeless tale of life and love on the Starship Enterprise.
REVIEW: Devil’s Bargain (by Tony Daniel)
When you get what amounts to a distress call from a planet about to be whacked by a perturbed asteroid, and then get told by the local leadership to buzz off, you can tell one thing right off the bat – something is going on down below, and you should probably start looking for the nefarious moustache-twirling baddie to show up, because he’s probably got a lot to do with whatever is actually going on. At first glance, Tony Daniel delivers just that. Well, almost.
As the Enterprise crew gets to know the people of Vesbius better, they begin peeling back the layers on a far more complex issue than mere backwater prejudice and pioneering spirit when science rears her unwelcome head with a reason for the resistance of the colonists to evacuate their doomed world.
Of course, with Spock on the case, all hope is not lost, and a bold plan is soon devised to save the colony. With more questions than answers, Spock convinces the planetary council to approve the mission on their behalf, and the crew heads for the depths of Janus IV to visit momma Horta, and recruit some of her hatchlings for their mission.
If successful, the Vesbians will be saved. If they fail, they’re doomed. And of course, someone obvious – too obvious! – seeks to do something to make sure that the plan does fail.
Now, if this sounds like a stereotypical story, I completely understand. For his first Star Trek novel, Tony Daniel has taken as his base story arc what seems to be a pretty obvious, open and shut case. I found myself having difficulty maintaining interest at parts in the middle of the book, not because it was poorly written, but because I was convinced I already knew how the story would end.
Boy was I wrong.
Daniel takes the stereotype and coyly sets it up throughout to prepare the reader for the unexpected. As the story reaches its climax, the inevitable end everyone is expecting is nowhere to be found… but neither is its natural alternative. Daniel wove for “Devil’s Bargain” an impressive, entertaining, and ultimately, engaging journey for the crew of the Enterprise… a story well worth your time.
Keep an open mind as you get around page 100… resist the temptation to tell yourself that you know how this works out… and enjoy the ride, for quite a ride it is.
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Also out in March were David Cox’s TOS era novel "Weight of the Worlds" and James Swallow’s TNG e-book "The Stuff of Dreams." Look for TrekMovie reviews of those soon. And coming April 30th is another TOS era book: "The Folded World" by Jeff Mariotte.