Robert E. Vardeman
reviewed by Randy Landers
Have you ever seen Galaxy of Terror? It's a B-movie from October 1981--coincidentally enough, the same month and year The Klingon Gambit was released. In this Roger Corman-produced film, a ship in trouble sends a distress signal, and a rescue ship is sent to help. Unfortunately, the would-be rescuers find themselves the subject of severe mental stress as an alien relic on the planet, a collosal black pyramid, causes them to face their deepest fears. Most of them do not survive, and it turns out that the device was designed to help alien children face and conquer their fears, somewhat like the plastic educator of the Krell in Forbidden Planet which helps develop the IQ of those being tested. If you'll recall, Doctor Morbeus' exposure to that device enables his id to wreak destruction on spaceship C-57D and its crew.
Vardeman's The Klingon Gambit has almost identically the same plot. A Vulcan ship is found adrift, its crew dead, and the Enterprise is dispatched to investigate the mystery of Alnath II. Once they arrive, they discover the Andorian archaeological team feverishly investigating the mysterious black pyramid on the alien's surface, looking for an underground city while completely unconcerned about the Vulcan ship. A Klingon dreadnought is detected in orbit, and Captain Kirk actually is about to order a pre-emptive attack until he gets a visit from the Andorian scientist. As their investigation continues, the Enterprise crew is clearly being affected by something. McCoy becomes paranoid about technology and Klingons; Kyle abandons his transporter post to take up sculpting; Chekov becomes a war-monger; Scotty becomes more obsessive about his engines; Captain Kirk wants to slug his first officer; and Spock, well, Spock becomes one horny dude. All this is clearly out of character for our heroes, and they seem to realize it, but they're unable to determine the cause. The Klingons, too, are having their own problems. The captain of the Klingon ship reports executing twelve mutineers, including his own daughter! The Klingon first officer is clearly planning to "retire" his captain, too. Eventually, despite all these characterization bastardizations, James T. Kirk determines the cause, and puts an end to situation relatively peacefully.
Story-wise, the plot is practically identical to Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden Planet. Part of the pyramid is causing the stress which actually helps bring about the deep secret desires of the Klingons, Andorians, Vulcans and Humans. The Klingons are killing each other. The Andorians actually find their underground city which was created by their own desires through the alien device. The Vulcans achieved incorporeality, and the Humans simply became what they wanted to be. (Apparently Kirk is just secretly wanting to hit Spock, Chekov is a war monger, Scotty is an obsessive-compulsive, McCoy is a luddite/technophobe, Kyle is a sculptor, etc.)
Frankly, it's not a good read. One quickly grows tired of the characterizations. I don't want to see a whole novel with our heroes acting so unheroically, so out of character. If you do, then this book's for you. If not, skip this one altogether...
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