Star Trek: The Original Series – Harm’s Way
Written by David Mack
Published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
“How long until we get inside the caves? This rain is driving me up a wall.”
“The rain is incidental. It is our captors who compel us to climb this wall.”
He couldn’t see her, but some aspect of Spock’s inherited Vulcan telepathic talent felt Babitz’s glare of contempt aimed at his back. When at last she spoke, her voice was as steady as a blade in the hands of a Romulan assassin. “That was a clever mockery of my idiom, Spock. I trust you feel proud of yourself?”
“In general, yes. That particular bit of wordplay, however, was merely adequate, since I can work only with what I am given.”
The last Star Trek novel of 2022 turns out to be its best – and that’s saying something in a year that had an amazing book by Una McCormack (Star Trek Picard: Second Self) and a fun and exciting dive into Trek horror in Alex White’s debut novel (Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Revenant). But David Mack’s Harm’s Way is a home run of a yarn that does everything you’d hope a Trek novel would do, with panache, humanity, and a great deal of humor.
Set shortly after the events of the original Star Trek episode, “The Doomsday Machine,” Harm’s Way balances two parallel storylines: while Captain Kirk, Scotty, and Uhura face off against Klingon Captain Kang in orbit around a hideously inhospitable planet, Spock, Chekov, and Sulu race the elements, time, and a Klingon landing party in a search for alien secrets of unimaginable power. When their search for evidence of the deadly ancient Shedai species becomes more immediate than theoretical, Spock and his party must find a way to work with Klingon Science Officer Mara and her strike team in order to survive.
I’ve not read Mack’s Vanguard series of Trek novels, written in collaboration with Marco Palmieri, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore, but though this book ties into that series, I never felt lost or confused. The characters, ships, and situations are so clearly drawn and so engaging that I was locked in from the start. Mack seems to find the most clever and humorous way of phrasing every sentence, such that reading each page is a joy. And his grasp of the canonical Trek characters is absolute–this is not just Mack’s Kirk, this IS Kirk. This IS Spock. This IS Scotty. Each character has a chance to shine.
Harm’s Way also often feels like an immersion into Klingon language and culture. If there’s a canonical Klingon word or phrase that isn’t used in this book, I would be surprised. Mack’s Klingons come to the story with a definite agenda and point of view, and the battle of wits between Kirk and Kang in space is as delightful as the uneasy alliance between Spock and Mara on the ground. A minor point that TrekMovie editor Anthony Pascale often mentions in his Trek reviews is that there is a difference between science and engineering. Mack understands that difference, and when Scotty and Spock interact, the difference is clear.
“They tell us our enemy has no honor. Yet what is honor if not courage free of the expectation of reward? What is honor if not the willingness to sacrifice all for a principle?”
This final Trek novel of 2022 checks all the boxes for what I come to Treklit to find. Our favorite characters handled well, new characters that sparkle and have their own lives, rousing action, humanistic philosophy, cool ships and technology, an alien menace, Trekkian diplomacy, a large dollop of humor, and a compelling climax. What else could you ask for?
It is also available as an audiobook at Amazon and Audible, ready by Robert Petkoff. Listen to a sample below.
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