During a visit to an orbital trading post, the U.S.S. Enterprise responds to a distress call from a freighter reportedly under attack from the Klingons, When they arrive at the scene, however, the crew find themselves facing a new threat, one that leaves their ship temporarily crippled. Now they face a difficult journey back while under the threat of a renewed attack, and all while one their chief medical officer, Leonard McCoy is recovering from a trauma that has left him with no memory of the previous 25 years.
While known for her novels set in the Next Generation universe, Carmen Carter's first contribution to the Star Trek franchise came with this 1987 novel, which was her only book published featuring the original crew. To me this fact is regrettable, as her contribution to the Pocket Books series is one of the best in it that I have read. Part of this is that unlike so many others by more prominent authors there is no universe-threatening crisis or other rehash of a series trope in it, just a good, gripping story about a ship overcoming a threat that is nicely enriched by her characterization of the crew. None is better explored than Doctor McCoy, who goes form being the captain's curmudgeonly conscience to a conflicted figure questioning the choices he made. It's an interesting plot device that succeeds better than it should, thanks to Carter's effective development of McCoy's turmoil and his engagement with his surroundings. When combined with one of the more unique threats ever devised for the franchise, the result is an entertaining story that reflects some of the best-realized possibilities of the book format for the Star Trek universe.
For Day 2 of my Seven Days of Star Trek I decided to skip ahead to one of the later books in the series, and I'm glad I did. I'm not familiar with Carmen Carter's work, but she has written as good of a Pocket Books Star Trek novel as I have read over the past year. No universe-threatening crisis or rehash of some other series trope in this one, just a good, gripping story about a ship overcoming a threat and a ship's doctor questioning the choices he has made over his life.
By reading this one so soon after Duane's The Wounded Sky, I think I've realized something about this series. As I review my notes on the first couple dozen or so novels I realize just how hit-or-miss they were, with more of them in the latter category than the former. By the point in the series when Carter's contribution was published, though, the books seem fresher and more inventive in their plotting. Perhaps this is a consequence of better editing or reaching out to a wider circle of writers than the initial group (many of whom famously got their start in Trek fandom), but for whatever reason the later ones don't seemed as burdened by the tics and issues that I found in the first few books. It's probably something I wouldn't have picked up on had I not jumped over the unread books between Duane's first one and this novel, but I'm glad I did as it's leading me to rethink my approach to the remaining books in my stack.
I risked getting to work late so that I could finish this. It was worth it.
This was...very Shakespearean. Which play? I won't say. But I now understand why Leckie chose the Strength and Patience of the Hill as the book's narrator. While I really enjoyed how everything came together in the end, I still feel like this took way too long to get going.
And yes, while this is set in a world that could (and from what I've heard, already does) contain lots of other stories, this is a standalone.
It took about 200 pages (half the book!) for the story to really get going, and I'm finally to a point where I don't want to stop reading. Unfortunately, I have to go take care of some chores and need to switch to audiobooks for a bit. Ugh.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this wraps up. But I'll say this for now: Mawat is an ass and doesn't deserve Eolo's loyalty. All this "he has a temper, it runs in the family" stuff is crap. He's an adult, and he should have learned to control it better than this.