reviewed by Randy Landers
It's not often that one finds two bad forms of fiction married into one novel, yet such is the case with Death's Angel: a Mary Sue comes aboard the Enterprise to investigate the death of an ambassador; and every ambassador (almost every single one of them) is almost a broadly-drawn parody of bad science fiction. Unfortunately, it's clear from the work itself that the author is completely unaware of the flawed nature of her writing style.
The Enterprise crew is exploring Delta Gamma IV when the landing party succumbs to the spores of the plant/animal lifeform they've cutely named "Oz poppies." How clever it is that the same thing from the MGM Classic film happens to our landing party with a bit of a difference. Some of the landing party die before a treatment is derived. Once treated, though, the landing party (Kirk, Spock, M'Benga and a few others) return to normalcy although they no longer dream...except for Captain Kirk who can't distinguish between his dreams and reality (and for good reason as we soon discover).
Suddenly, the Romulans contact the Federation for creating a state of detente with them, and the Enterprise is ordered to ferry a veritable zoo of non-humanoid ambassadors. Unfortunately, the author has decided to name these creatures with really bad 1950's movie-era sci-fi elements. Let's take a look at the lengths of absurdity to which she aspires:
|NAME||PLANET||DESCRIPTION||PARODY / BAD SCI-FI ELEMENTS|
|Sarek||Vulcan||humanoid||Nothing unusual, of course, other than the planet is named for the Roman god of manufacturing|
|Sirenia||Cetacea||scale-covered amphibian||Sirens are mythic oceanic women
Cetacea is the order to which whales and dolphins belong
|Agnatha||Jezero||lamprey-like alien||Agnatha is the class to which
Jezero is an artifical fish-pond in the Czech Republic
|Neko||Gyuunyuu||cat-like alien||Neko is Japanese for cat or
Gyuunyuu is Japanese for milk, but can mean "ninja awesome" (Neko is always fighting)
|Rovar||Hemiptera||insectoid (bedbug-like)||Hemiptera is the order to which
Rovar is the Hungarian word for insect
|Naja||Dalzell (Elapidae)||feathered snake-like alien||Naja is the genus of cobra
Elapidae is the family to which cobras belong
The Carolina Dragway Cobra Day is an annual event in Dalzell, South Carolina.
|Telson||Manteiga||crustacean-like alien||Telson is the tail of a lobster
Manteiga is the Portuguese word for butter (we all know what lobster and butter have in common)
|Karhu||Hunaja||koala-bear-like alien||Karhu is Finnish for bear
Hunaja is Finnish for honey
|Damu||Chiroptera||vampire-like alien||Damu is Swahili for blood
Chiroptera is the order to which bats belong
|Hotep||Djoser||pyramid-shaped polymorph||Hotep is an Egyptian word for
"be satisfied" or "at peace" (the character is a neutral ambassador)
Djoser was the pharoah who first commissioned a pyramid be built by his aide, Imhotep
|Si-s-s-s(click)||Gavialian||crocodile-like alien||Gavialian crocodiles have very narrow snouts and live in river systems|
|Spiracles||Gyomorian||insectoid (large wings, mandibles)||Spiracles are small openings
that allow air into an insect's trachea (think of them as nostrils)
Gyomor is the Hungarian word for stomach (not sure if this is intended to be parodic)
|Endentata||Tandenborstel||armadillo-like alien||Endentata is the order to which
armadillos once belonged; the order has been revised
Tandenborstel is the Dutch word for toothbrush (not sure if this is intended to be parodic)
The vampire-like Damu even says, "I never drink...wine." There are several "rib-ticklers" like this scattered throughout the novel as well.
A few other problems pop up, including the fact that Doctor McCoy says he can't treat them all and has the ship's veterinarian, Dr. Ruth Rigel, take over in their healthcare.
Since it's a Federation peace mission, sooner or later, one of the ambassadors is going to be murdered, and certainly, within a few chapters*, Ambassador Agnatha is killed. (I must point out that the chapters are generally quite short--a few pages at best, two pages at worst--meaning that there are a whopping 28 "chapters" in this novel, and it makes for episodic reading at best.) Within a few more pages, another ambassador, Neko, is dead, found curled up in a kitty-napping-like position. The ambassadors are all up in...tentacles, mandibles, arms, legs...about this, and demand an SSD agent.
What's that? An SSD agent is a "Special Security Division" agent that is specially trained to act as investigator, judge, jury and executioner for crimes against the Federation. They wear solid black uniforms with a gold-embroidered "scale of justice" over their right breast "to remind others of their ultimate goal in the Federation." In other words, they're more than a little bit like Hitler's SS, and the agent, Colonel Elizabeth Schaeffer, that has been dispatched to investigate the Enterprise is one of the most ultimate Mary-Sues in the history of Star Trek's pro-novels.
Upon her arrival, she orders the "engines turned off" and informs Captain Kirk and Mister Spock that if her ship is tampered with or if they try to disobey her directives, her ship will explode (it's a flying bomb) and destroy the Enterprise. Does this make Kirk and company unhappy? Not at all. The captain is so smitten with her that he often has lunch or dinner with her as she discusses her overly-dramatic personal life with a fellow SSD agent. And she does a lot of talking. She talks with her soon-to-be ex-husband. She talks with Captain Kirk about these problems she has. All the while, she doesn't really do a lot of investigating. One of the ambassadors, Si-s-s-s (click), dons a Sherlock Holmes outfit (she's at a loss--she's never heard of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective) and succeeds in providing some amusement for the reader as Shaeffer muddles along.
She soon suspects Si-s-s-s (click) of the crime, and while she gets drunk with him to see if the crocodile-like alien will slip up and admit to being the "Angel of Death," Ambassador Rovar is found torn to pieces. She decides to get serious and have a few more messages with her soon-to-be ex, discusses Captain Kirk with Doctor McCoy, and suddenly realizes that Kirk's dreaming are actually, get this, "out of body experiences" wherein Captain Kirk is literally asleep in bed while in the hallway, bemoaning the fact that Ambassador Sirenia preferred Agnatha instead of him. She talks with Kirk, and he admits he's not the only one who's been dreaming: Spock has, too.
She goes to Spock and confronts the Vulcan with this fact. He admits to having an out-of-body experience wherein he basically has non-consentual sex with an attactive female engineering officer (poor Nurse Chapel!). He looks into Schaeffer's eyes and sees "forgiveness there." He then proceeds to sob uncontrollably as she wraps her arms around her and consoles him with "It's all right."
The next day, in the dreaded "parlor room" scene, McCoy launches into a tirade, and Schaeffer launches into him. His outbursts have no doubt attracted the attention of the killer, and sure enough, that night, the killer arrives. It turns out that it's one of the landing party members whose love for peace has resulted in a few "out-of-body" murders. She screams mentally for help, and both Kirk and Spok hear her, and rush in to save Schaeffer (and, by the way, McCoy).
Learning the identity of the villain, she decides to go all nice and send him off to Vulcan for psychiatric treatment, and all is well with the Enterprise again. She has lost all interest in the man-child she called "husband," and Kirk at the very end tells her, "remember...I love you!" To which she answers, "I love you, too, James Kirk."
Sky's writing style is, at best, episodic. Her plot is idiotic. And her decision to call the females (Doctor Rigel, Colonel Schaeffer) by their first names is outright sexist. Reading over the review, I realized that I highlighted the importance of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the work. To be honest, there's very little of them to be found. Most of the time is spent with Schaeffer's dealings with her immature husband and wandering around talking with ambassadors.
This was simply the worst Star Trek book I'd ever read before, and sadly, it's only one of the worst these days.
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