Friday, February 3, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown

This week I decided to review Star Trek: The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown by Christopher L. Bennett.

The story starts in the middle of a battle between the Enterprise and a frigate belonging to the Betelgeusians, a predatory species that travels in packs of ships. When the frigate is disabled, its commander contacts Kirk and congratulates him on being both more sporting and more clever then the commander of the Federation ships that recently attacked his pack. After asking for and receiving information concerning the attack, the Enterprise crew discovers that the attacking vessels don't belong to the United Federation of Planets but appear to be much like the ships used by the First Federation, an alliance of species which the Enterprise had made contact with but about which little is known despite an Enterprise crew member being left as an acting ambassador. 

Also, the corpses of the attackers appear identical to the puppet used by Balok, the commander of the First Federation vessel that Enterprise contacted, in his early communications to hide his true form. The Enterprise soon receives orders to travel to the First Federation in an attempt to discover the cause of the attack on the Betelgeusians and similar attacks, as well as learning more about the First Federation. The Enterprise sets out to rendezvous with Balok's ship, the Fesarius, but find it locked in battle with the Dassik, the force behind the recent attacks. 

Enterprise assists the Fesarius but discovers that Balok had fled, leaving behind a set of encoded coordinates. After decoding the message the Enterprise sets out for the destination in the message and finds a solar system containing a once habitable world which had been bombed until it was uninhabitable thousands of years ago. Soon after arrival, a Dassik fleet enters the system and a battle begins. Seeking cover to make repairs, the Enterprise enters the atmosphere of a gas giant and picks up odd readings that lead the ship to the Web of Worlds, a network of massive modules that serves as the capital of the First Federation as well as home to the vast majority of its population. 

After making contact with the First Federation's government, they learn its origins. However, soon after the Enterprise arrives, one of the world modules is severely damaged by the storm and the Enterprise's attempt to stave off the module's pending destruction fails, leading to Kirk being arrested for his ship's role in the disaster. With elements in the First Federation's government fanning the flames against them, and many believing that Enterprise led the Dassik to their home, the Enterprise crew struggles to find a way to convince the First Federation's leadership that dissident First Federation members' belief that the storms damaging the Web of Worlds are stirred by the systems used to conceal the Web is correct, while Kirk finds himself imprisoned with a Dassik prisoner of war, and guarded by a warden who wishes to manipulate the two into killing themselves. The Enterprise also discovers the secret behind the ancient defeat of the Dassik, and the true cause behind the Dassiks' hunt for their old enemies.

I give this book 9 out of 10. It does a great job of providing a followup to the Corbomite Maneuver episode of the TV series and created an interesting culture from what little was shown of the First Federation. I also liked the little tie-in elements to Star Trek: The Animated series. However, I felt some of the plot twists were a little too predictable and there were a few parts that were inconsistent with what was stated elsewhere in the story especially during battle sequences.

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