Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski
reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
While Across the Universe is an enjoyable read, its also a very predictable one. The story begins with the Enterprises rescue of the Stephen Hawking, a colony ship that left Earth prior to World War III almost 200 years previously. However, the small relativistic ship has had several systems failures. In fact, several of those on the ship have died and the rest are not far from death when the Enterprise comes upon them.
While a few opt to return to Earth when they find out what life is like there now, the vast majority wish to proceed to their destination. However, when the Enterprise crew investigates that first location, all planets of that star system are missing; theyve been destroyed by the alien planet killer that also claimed the life of Matt Decker. However, Starfleet has suggested the Hawking and its inhabitants travel on to Merope IV, a recently colonized planet with a small population.
However, as Kirk and the Enterprise escort them to their new home, an armed thermonuclear weapon is found on the Hawking. In addition, their stay on Merope IV may be very short-livednot only are they reluctantly welcomed by the planets leader, some type of vegetation is rapidly destroying many of the planets population centers. Its now up to the Enterprise crew to find a solution to both problems.
While theres a reasonable amount of action in the novel and the characters are believable, the story is lacking in any real suspense: Once again theres a rescue of ship full of colonists; once again a home needs to be found for them; once again that new home is threatened, and its only when they help stop the menace that they are they welcomed to the planet.
To top it off, while the novels "bad guy" is a fast growing vegetation of some sort, even it falls under the predictable category: It was willing to share the planet with the human settlers until they built too close to its home grounds, and as soon as Kirk realizes that, hes able to negotiate a treaty between the settlers and the alien life form.
Perhaps the only "twist" to the novel is finding a relative of Chekovs among the Hawkings passengers. Through him and Leander Cortes, the captain of the Hawking, we get a glimpse of what Earth was like prior to the creation of the Federation and Starfleet. But even here, we have some predictable lines about learning from the past.
While Sargent and Zebrowski have explored original themes and ideas in many of their novels and short stories, that originality is missing in Across the Universe.
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