Barbara Hambly

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

As Captain Kirk materializes in the transporter room of the Enterprise after a visit to the Midgwins of Elcidar Beta III, he realizes that something is horribly wrong: His body is being taken over by a strange entity while his consciousness is forced aside. Spock is quick to realize that something out of the ordinary has happened during the transport and immediately signals for an emergency quarantine. After a thorough examination reveals nothing, the quarantine is lifted, and all appears to return to normal. Or does it?

Crew members feel something or someone near them, only to find upon inspection that nothing is there. Uhura finds herself fearful of traveling familiar corridors as she walks toward her quarters, sensing something following her but yet unable to see what it is. Beakers containing liquids are dumped over in Sickbay, and several experiments are ruined, and yet no cause can be found for these mysterious happenings.

However, the being who inhabits Captain Kirk’s body knows the actual cause of these events and takes steps to destroy the "katra" or essence of Kirk, so that he can carry out his plan of using the Enterprise to destroy one the largest centers of Midgwin habitation on his planet. It is his belief that this destruction will prove to his people that they should not abandon their old ways and accept the advancements offered to them by the Federation. It’s up to Kirk to find ways to save those that he holds dear—especially Spock and Dr. Helen Gordon, a scientist planning to join the Enterprise crew so that she and the captain can continue their relationship—and to regain control of his ship before these plans for destruction can be carried out.

While many Star Trek novels tend to be somewhat predictable, this one has enough twists and turns to hold any reader’s attention. Captain Kirk is often put in the position of needing to save his ship and the lives of his friends, but this time he must save himself first. To do this, he must find a way to regain his body before he faces final dissolution—even though it appears that everyone, including Spock, is doing his or her best to destroy him. It rapidly becomes a race against time to find a way to communicate with the Enterprise crew, before it becomes too late to save himself and the Midgwins.

Not only does this novel contain plenty of suspense, it also introduces us to a unique race that lives off only what grows naturally on the planet, putting them at the brink of starvation. Yet they feel a closeness to their planet and each other that few can imagine. While the species has no weapons and lives in total peace, their location between the Klingon Empire and the Federation seems to spell eventual doom. Yet one member has managed to single handedly defeat a party of Klingons and is well on his way to stopping the Federation as well.

This is a very readable novel that should be a must read for every Star Trek fan.

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