Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #3 The Klingon Gambit

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home to move in with my grandmother, which means I had to go through the stuff I accumulated throughout the first portion of my life and then abandoned when I went out on my own after college.

There was a lot of it.

A good majority was Star Trek-related–action figures, ship models, tons of roleplaying stuff, and books. LOTS of books. Nonfiction books about how the series were made, nonfiction books like The Physics of Star Trek (and Biology, and Metaphysics…), and most of my collection of the fiction books. Most of mine are Original Series, which was always my favorite series to read from, with the odd one or two from Next Gen or DS9 or Voyager (I did have a lot of the New Frontier books, which is Next Gen era but on a different ship with different characters, though some of them had appeared one off on various episodes).

Actually, until I was an adult, I’d only ever seen one or two Original Series episodes. My appreciation for the series came from the movies and the books. And I did love those books.

But the Original Series books are a mixed bag. Not a lot of quality control. Some are amazing. Some are godawful. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

So this brings us to The Klingon Gambit, Star Trek #3, by Robert E. Vardeman, published in 1981. I admit I picked this one out because it was one of the thinnest of the bunch, but it turns out the font is really small and so it’s somewhat hard to read. I am unfamiliar with Vardeman’s other works (except I’ve probably read his other Star Trek novel) but he’s apparently written quite a few fantasy series (usually writing with other people) and was nominated for a Hugo for best fan writer. If his other stuff is worth reading, let me know–I’m not sure this particular novel was a good display of his potential storytelling.

(I tried to write a Star Trek novel once, when I was 16 or 17 or somewhere in there. Despite my great love of the series, I couldn’t seem to get anyone in character and gave up after the first chapter.)

The premise of this novel is that the Enterprise is sent to Alnath II to investigate the death of a shipful of Vulcans. All the Vulcans are dead in their beds, with no sign of any issues–there should be no reason for them to be dead, but they are. A Klingon dreadnought is in orbit, and the fear is that they’ve developed some new weapon. There is also an archoelogical team on Alnath II, investigating a large, complex pyramid that seems to be the only remains of what was once a technologically-advanced civilization.

This is not one of the better Original Series novels. Several characters feel out of character (there is a subplot where people are acting out of character, but this is apparent even when that subplot is not in effect), and I feel like perhaps the author was a little bit amused about Star Trek in general. I noted, for example, that every time someone uses the transporter, we had to focus on the fact that their atoms were scattered and then reformed back on the planet. In general, some of the terminology just feels slightly off.

Now, this is probably just from me looking back from the future. The Original Series is not the best on continuity, and it wasn’t until Next Gen and later that a lot of the worldbuilding for the universe was solidified. Next Gen didn’t start until 1987, so this significantly predates that. It was probably hard to figure out what exactly was going on back then.

I also found the plot pretty predictable, and also somewhat close to at least one, if not two, Original Series episodes (as a kid, having not seen those episodes, maybe I liked this plot better). Also Kirk seemed to not be suffering from one of the major plot issues despite the rest of the crew doing so, and if he had been, maybe the stakes would have been a little more interesting.

So, would I recommend this particular book? Not really. It’s not great in Star Trek terms, though it does at least use Star Trek plot elements, such as the Klingons and Andorians. It got better as it went on, but it still wasn’t strong in either plot or character. There’s definitely better books out there.

Read this particular Trek novel, Squiders? Thoughts?

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