The Entropy Effect

Vonda McIntyre

reviewed by Diane Doyle

This novel takes place some time during the "first mission" of the Enterprise under Captain Kirk, after the original TV episodes but before Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The novel opens with the ship orbiting a naked singularity, the first one ever found, while Spock is making observations. Before Spock can finish his studies, the Enterprise receives a priority message summoning them to the mining colony Aleph Prime. Upon reaching Aleph Prime, prosecuting attorney, Ian Braithewaite, denies sending the priority message but since the Enterprise is already there, requests the crew to transport a dangerous prisoner to Rehabilitation Colony Seven. Braithewaite also finds Spock oddly familiar. The prisoner turns out to be Dr. Georges Mordreaux, a brilliant theoretical physicist, who Spock had studied with, years ago. Apparently, Mordreaux has been found guilty of murder and experimentation on unwilling subjects.

As the Enterprise takes off for Rehab 7, Scotty catches a glimpse of Spock in the Transporter Room when he should be on the bridge, with Spock apparently refusing to explain the discrepancy. Mordreaux escapes from confinement and murders both Captain Kirk and Security Chief Mandala Flynn and seriously injures Braithewaite. However, the security detail insists that Mordreaux had never left his cabin. Spock questions Mordreaux who reveals he’s invented a method of time travel that could send his friends back in time but the Federation is suppressing it. Spock travels back in time to try to save Kirk, as well as prevent the universe from being caught in a deadly time warp.

This novel has a very engaging and suspenseful plot and is very interesting to read. It involves unique twists on the effects of time travel. The author also shows her love for Sulu, by giving him the first name of Hikaru, having him involved in a romance with Security Chief Flynn, and describing his experiences living in the frontier with his parents. Because McIntyre later wrote the novelization of The Wrath of Khan, Sulu’s first name of Hikaru was also used there, which eventually led to that name being used in The Undiscovered Country and, thus, becoming canon. This novel is, thus, considered the basic source of Sulu’s first name within Star Trek. Incidentally, McIntyre had a character named Jan Hikaru in her non Trek novel The Exile Waits.

Within this novel, Kirk encounters an old romantic interest; i.e. Captain Joy Hunter, the commanding officer of a ship on the border patrol. The romance is over but his encounter with her causes him to think about the choices he had made with this life. It also deals with Sulu considering a transfer to Hunter’s ship as a career move.

One criticism I have of the story is that relationship between Scotty and the other senior officers. Scott seems to be excluded from major decisions. At one point, when Spock was traveling back in time, he left McCoy, who is not a command officer, in charge of the ship. It would have made more sense to have consulted with Scott who would have helped him engineer a solution to the time travel paradoxes.

In spite of its weaknesses, I would recommend this book to any fan of the original series, especially fans of Spock and Sulu, as well as fans of hard science fiction.

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