Click Here to Order This NovelBlack Fire

Sonni Cooper

reviewed by Randy Landers

A long time ago, back in the early 80's, Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster which was owned by Gulf+Western, who also owned Paramount Pictures) took over publishing Star Trek novels from Bantam Books. Fans had grown unhappy with the direction the Bantam novels were going, and had high hopes that Pocket Books would bring intelligently written Star Trek novels.

Their hopes were dashed with a number of Star Trek novels, but most aggregiously by this particular tome.

In a word, it's terrible. The story construction is convoluted in the extreme, and a number of coincidences arise to make it implausible. It fails to understand that space is three dimensional, fails to comprehend the true nature of stars and their planets, and in all honesty, fails in its writing style (juvenile, multiple shifts of perspective even in mid-paragraph, poor paragraph structure).

The story itself begins with a bang as a saboteur destroys the bridge of the Enterprise with an explosive device. With Kirk in the hospital, Spock (who is in need of surgery) and Scotty set out to follow a series of clues that lead them to a hostile alien planet. The population of this planet are an aggressive hirsute race with designs on galactic conquest even though they themselves have no technology other than that which they've stolen from other races. Spock and Scotty are quickly captured, and undergo a lengthy imprisonment during which time the queen of the alien race falls in love with Spock (as does a fellow Romulan commander). During an escape attempt, the Romulan Commander is killed, and Spock is incapacitated by his heretofore ignored injury. Rather than kill Spock, the queen of the alien race has Scotty try to nurse Spock back to health. Spock, on the other hand, wants to do the logical thing and end his own life.

Meanwhile, Captain Kirk recovers and his annoyed to discover that without telling him Starfleet has replaced Spock and Scotty with two new officers. Kirk's disappointment is compounded because these men are not the super problem solvers that our resident Vulcan and our favorite Miracle Worker are. After a while, the Enterprise manages to rescue Spock and Scotty, and the alien queen simply lets them do so. Spock and Scotty are then arrested, quickly tried, and sentenced to a prison planet. By an amazing coincidence, Spock's fellow in-mate is a Romulan pirate, and together they quickly escape their prison and head to a world populated by pirates. Spock then becomes a pirate like his Romulan friend, and dons a disguise to pursue his new career. Eventually he's nearly caught by the Enterprise, when suddenly the Romulan pirate rescues our beloved Vulcan and takes him back to Romulus. Surprise of all surprises, the Romulan pirate is actually a Romulan fleet commander whose sister is in actuality the Romulan Commander of "The Enterprise Incident." Spock and his new Romulan Commander set out to discover the nature of the alien race that's causing trouble. Heading for the alien planet, which--okay, I couldn't make this up if I tried--is on the opposite side of a supersized star (it takes days to get around it at Warp Factor 3) from the pirate planet.

Captain Kirk, being no slouch, goes to the alien planet as well, and after a terse confrontation wherein Spock acts as a peace mediator between the Federation captain and the Romulan commander (whose sister has now disappeared in the vicinity of the alien planet), they set up a blockade. Apparently this star is so massive that's there's no way around the blockade created by the two ships. Eventually, the aliens are forced to capitulate, and the galaxy is at peace. Spock returns to the Romulan Empire but asks that the Enterprise be stationed near the Neutral Zone so peace can be established between the Feds and the Rommies. Although his ship is severely damaged, he agrees. Spock tells the Romulan Commander this will be a perfect chance to capture the Enterprise. Uh-huh. And within a few pages, Spock is aboard the Enterprise facing trial for treason against the Federation. Fortunately, he's soon released and it's revealed that he's been acting as an undercover agent. And they lived happily ever after...except when I think about it, the two guys who replaced Spock and Scotty. Guess they aren't so happy after all...

And neither was I. Fans were so incensed by this book that they were calling for a boycott of all Star Trek pro-novels in the pages of Interstat and on convention floors. Melinda Murdock, who wrote a Star Trek novel that had not yet been released begged that this sort of talk end and to give the new folks in charge at PocketBooks a chance. Fans relented, but never forgave Sonni Cooper for this book. The amazing thing to me is that the introduction is by Ted Sturgeon who wrote "Amok Time" and he praised Sonni (and her book) to high heaven. Guess he never read it.

Pass up any chance to read this book. It's probably the worst Star Trek novel ever written.

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