Friday, March 1, 2013

March 2013: "Devil's Bargain"

Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent to evacuate the Federation mining colony Vesbius, a frontier settlement that is on the brink of an extinction-level event, threatening the lives of all the colonists and the disruption of ore production vital to Starfleet. However, the colonists refuse to abandon this settlement, not wanting to leave their claims. It is after these irrational decisions that Spock suggests that perhaps an unexpected ally could aid the colony and help complete the mission....STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES

by Tony Daniel
Mass Market Paperback – 303pages
Pocket Books – March 2013 - $7.99

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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