Click Here to OrderPlanet of Judgment
Joe Haldeman

reviewed by Randall Landers

As of late, many of the Star Trek books I've read have been recently published pro-novels. Sadly, the majority of these are overly padded, purple-prose-filled, meandering morasses of what the current clique in charge considers publishable. After finishing one such recent entry, I felt compelled to pick up one of the Star Trek books I first read as a young teenager: Planet of Judgment.

The U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a rogue class M planet orbited by a stable black hole which generates light and heat for the planet. Such a scientific implausibility cannot be ignored, and a landing party is dispatched to investigate. Upon landing on the surface, Kirk and his fellows are instantly marooned as the shuttlecraft and most of their equipment no longer works. Spock mounts a rescue mission, and they too become castaways on the planet. They soon find that the planet is inhabited by a race known as the Arivne who are telepathic giants. These aliens (and they are truly alien in nearly every sense of the word) are aware of the advancing fleet of another telepathic species, the Irapina which are extremely reminiscent of the "Shadows" from Babylon 5, and they need the crew of the Enterprise to help thwart the Irapina's advance through the galaxy.

The book as a whole is very well written. No surprise there; Haldeman is a Hugo-award winning science fiction writer. This is clearly a science fiction novel with the descriptions of the Arivne and the Irapina, the rogue planet and its unique lifeforms. But it's more than that, too. The Arivne subject the Enterprise crew to re-living painful or emotional scenes from their past, and it's here that the book captures the imagination of the Star Trek fan. We are treated to a retelling of "Amok Time" from Spock's point of view, and see the breakup between Leonard and Honey McCoy. Later, we see Kirk, Spock and McCoy conduct a victorious mental battle against the Irapina, the highlight of which has to be Kirk as Horatio Hornblower.

This novel is clearly one of Bantam's best offerings, and should not be missed by Star Trek fans.

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