Mission to Horatius

Mack Reynolds

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline


Although most people would consider James Blish to be the one to first introduce original Star Trek novels to the world, it was actually Mack Reynolds who wrote the earliest one. Mission to Horatius was published by Whitman Books in 1968, two years before Blish's Star Trek novel, Spock Must Die. Although this novel was one of a series based on television favorites and aimed at adolescent readers, it still provides enough action to hold the interest of adult fans as well.

The premise for the novel is simple: The U.S.S. Enterprise is on its way to a starbase for much needed R & R and restocking of supplies when orders for a secret mission are received. A distress call has come in from one of the planets orbiting Horatius, and the Enterprise is ordered to investigate. The starship is soon headed for the distant star system under protest of Dr. McCoy, who fears for the mental well-being of the crew after the first cases of space cafard, a form of insanity due to too much time in space, have been seen. Scotty also protests the assignment. The Enterprise can only make a top speed of Warp 5 due to needed engine repairs that can only be performed at a starbase. With no knowledge as to which of the three inhabited planets of Horatius sent the distress signal, the crew of the Enterprise must stop at each, thus prolonging the mission and allowing other crew members to succumb to space cafard.

The mission soon becomes a race against time: Will the crew find the sender of the distress signal in time to help and will the mission be completed before the entire crew goes insane?

While the plot line is not as strong as some and even seems to have several inconsistencies, it is still an engaging one. Probably the biggest problem is the pacing of the story: At times the action moves along rapidly and at other times it seems to drag a bit. It’s also hard to believe that Captain Kirk would allow an inhabitant of the most primitive planet of the Horatius system to accompany them on the mission, thus violating the Prime Directive by allowing him to see the future, or that the sender of the distress signal couldn’t have solved the problem on her own.

While some might argue that these problems would not be noticed by the audience the story seeks to address, I believe even adolescent readers would have the same reservations. Nevertheless, the attempts to ward off space cafard and what appears to be bubonic plague more than make up for these inconsistencies.

Overall, this is an interesting story that holds a memorable place in Star Trek novel history.

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