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J.M. Dillard

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

When an archaeological expedition returns from Beekman’s Planet, it brings more than ancient artifacts with it: It brings a force that causes madness in all whom it possesses, a madness that leads to murder and destruction. That force is already spreading through the inhabitants of Vulcan, first stop of the archaeologists upon their return, finally infecting Sarek and Amanda. And when the Enterprise carries some of the archaeologists to other planets, crew members soon succumb to the same madness leaving violence in their wake. It rapidly becomes obvious that a cure must be found before the madness spreads throughout the Federation, and it’s up to Doctor McCoy to find that cure to save not only the Federation but his closest friends and those they love as well.

McCoy receives some help in the form of Anitra, a new crew member with the ability to read minds, a talent that allows her to identify those infected by the mental parasites. However, it is this ability that places her in extreme danger; not only can her ability help defeat these parasites, it also can be used to their advantage if she comes under their power. When both Captain Kirk and Anitra fall under the power of the parasites and Spock is injured, McCoy faces the challenge of a lifetime as he seeks to destroy the creatures.

Although there are some inconsistencies in the plot line—there’s no explanation as to why Kirk is able to throw off the creatures’ influence after being isolated for about 28 hours, while Sulu and Uhura are totally unable to do so—the plot will still engage readers. And despite the seriousness of the situation, there’s still plenty of humor as Anitra rigs a microphone in the captain’s shower to spread his off-key singing throughout the ship. Suspense can be found throughout the novel as McCoy must elude both a possessed Sarek and Anitra to rescue Spock before it’s too late to save his life and those who have not yet fallen under the force's spell try to cope with the brutality around them.

Perhaps the best portion of the novel is once again the characterization presented: The round characters are truly round and the flat characters provide the perfect backdrop for the readers to note the changes in the main characters. While it’s hard to picture Vulcans as murderers, the story stays plausible throughout despite the numerous twists and the few inconsistencies. And perhaps it is these inconsistencies that give credibility to the story line.

Readers looking for an intriguing Star Trek novel will find that J. M. Dillard’s novel is one they shouldn’t overlook.

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