First Frontier

Diane Carey and Dr. James I. Kirkland

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

During tests on new shielding technology, everything seems to go wrong, and the U.S.S. Enterprise soon finds itself in what appears to be a time warp around the fifth magnitude blue star Izell. Flying through an accretion disk saves the ship, but leaves it in a totally unfamiliar universe—one that has Vulcans, Romulans, and Klingons, but no Humans and thus no Starfleet.

In addition, a war is in progress between the Romulans and Klingons with the former winning and the latter reduced to suicide tactics.

Captain James T. Kirk, somewhat incapacitated by the bite of a hairy thrillkiller scorpion, at first believes that it is the Enterprise that has somehow caused this change in history, and so tries to find someway to go back in time to correct the timeline. However, there’s no way the slingshot effect can be used to take the whole ship back in time: Passage through time in this fashion would allow the crew to starve due to the length of transit. The only choice then is to visit the Guardian of Forever and take a small party into the past.

The Enterprise soon makes it to the Guardian’s planet but shortly after a landing party consisting of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, a small security contingent, and two Klingon prisoners beam down to the planet’s surface, the Enterprise becomes engaged in a battle with Romulan warships and is destroyed. The only chance for the landing party to survive is to travel through the Guardian and hopefully right history. Their leap into the past takes them back millions of years into the Mesozoic Era when dinosaurs ruled Earth and mammals were just arriving on the scene.

It soon becomes apparent that the Enterprise’s shield tests had nothing to do with the change in history, but were perhaps responsible for it being outside the change. A second Earth species from the future seems to be responsible for the change of events and hopes to keep those changes permanent by destroying the giant meteor responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs. If this is successful, Earth will be without Humans forever, and dinosaurian species will be able to survive indefinitely. Not only is the landing party faced with a deadline to see that the history changing meteor does in fact hit Earth on schedule, they are also faced with another deadline to insure Kirk’s survival—McCoy has only enough medicine to keep him alive for a very brief time before the scorpion poison takes over.

As unlikely as it seems to have the Enterprise crew engaged in an adventure in Earth’s far distant past instead of its future, the story is perfectly plausible as the authors take care to set the scene for history’s change. In addition, the characters of the Vulcans, Romulans, and Klingons of the new timeline retain just enough characteristics from the old for us to recognize them and to feel some sympathy for their plight. And while it’s true that Humans may be a very weak species when compared to others we’ve met in the Star Trek universe, it is, as Mr. Spock would say, "fascinating" to see what the galaxy would be like without them.

When it comes to characterizations as a whole, we are introduced to some very believable additions to the usual crew members. There’s Bannon, an Enterprise scientist who wants no part of this mission after seeing a colleague killed; there is Roth, a new breed of Klingon who only fights against those he perceives as enemies with Humans not on his list; and there’s also Oya, a member of the Clan Ru, a dinosaurid at first desiring the destruction of the meteor so her people can rule earth but then working with the Enterprise crew to insure its impact once she sees what the future holds for her people.

Overall, this is an engaging story with enough twists and turns to keep readers intrigued through the entire 380 plus pages. There are a few spots where some of the scientific explanations do tend to get a little tedious, but these can be easily overlooked with the solid characterizations and unique situations. In short, despite its length, this novel is a good read for all.

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