Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2013: "The Weight of Worlds"

The Ephrata Institute is an intellectual think tank at the outer fringes of the final frontier. Dedicated to the arts and sciences, the Institute seems an unlikely target for an invasion, but it proves easy pickings when the Crusade comes from beyond, determined to impose its harsh, unbending Truth on all the worlds of the Federation. Armed with weaponized gravity, the alien Crusaders will stop at nothing to rescue the universe from its myriad beliefs… even if it means warping the mind and soul of every sentient being they encounter.

Responding to an urgent distress signal, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise soon find themselves in conflict with the Crusade, and facing individual challenges. When Kirk and Spock are transported to the Crusade's distant homeland to confront the source of the invasion, Sulu finds himself trapped behind enemy lines, while Lieutenant Uhura is faced with possibly the most difficult decisions of her career. 

As the Crusade sets its sights beyond Ephrata IV, it is up to the Enterprise and its besieged crew to keep freedom of thought from being crushed beneath the weight of worlds!

"The Weight of Worlds"
by Greg Cox

Greg Cox is well known to fans of Star Trek literature. His ability to spin a satisfying and unconventional yarn featuring old friends is one of the reasons readers tend to anticipate his books. In his current release, “The Weight of Worlds”, Cox takes a slightly different tack – telling a more straightforward Trek tale – and he does so with satisfying results.

As the story opens, what seems to be a meteorological or astronomical catastrophe reveals itself to be crusading forces from the planet Ialatl making a most unconventional entrance on Ephrata IV, as they prepare to bring their unconventional Truth to the Federation.

The Enterprise responds to the crisis, only to find itself poised on the beachhead of an invasion from beyond, one with amazing forces at its control, and the fervent desire for ‘evangelism’ abiding in the minds and hearts of pretty much all of the Crusaders.

As you can bet, our intrepid heroes aren’t terribly enthused with the concepts they encounter, by Cox takes what might otherwise be a predictable story and turns it on end with elements of mind control, inter-dimensional journeys, and, of course, the humor that has become his trademark.

Though the outcome is pretty much what you are expecting from the opening of the story, Cox’s writing style leads to a page-turning romp through the Enterprise, Ephrata IV, and even the Ialatl home world that manages to punch a few surprises through the inevitable ending. Now, please don’t mistake me – I am not criticizing the fact that we all know that Kirk and crew are going to exit stage right alive… they have to (well, since this isn’t a Myriad Universes tale they do!). The fun is seeing how we get from point A to point B.

While laying out a thoroughly entertaining tale, Cox also tackles a bit of social commentary in “The Weight of Worlds”, exploring ‘truth’, it’s ‘possessors’, and its manner of manifestation in an isolated people-group, or in converting form. Whilst the Ialtal ‘truth’ has some help in its manifestation, the story can provide an interesting starting point for discussing issues surrounding individual liberties and group-consciousness on a wide variety of issues which impact our own world today.

Among some of the more admirable moments in the story – and in no way do I intend to detract from any other story line present – is Cox’s handling of Sulu and his new friend, Ensign Yaseen. Sulu gets plenty of interesting action and a lightly humorous romantic subtext throughout the story, one that feels far more appropriate to his character and to the scope of original Trek than did the skewed focus in January’s “Allegiance in Exile”. Far from being a wasted b-story, their exploits – while a part of a wider series of threads in the book – were well composed and complimentary to the overall narrative at large.

With “The Weight of Worlds” you get a classic Trek story that is definitely worthy of your time, and one which may instigate some thinking about wider concepts as well… which, as we know, is one of the hallmarks of Gene Roddenberry’s vision – one that is alive and well after nearly fifty years.

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