Margaret Wander Bonanno
reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
Set sometime prior to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are back on Earth awaiting news of their next assignment. Hoping for a chance to explore a newly opened sector of the galaxy, Kirk soon finds his meeting with Admiral Cartwright is not what he expected. With the President of the Federation also in attendance at the meeting, startling news is presented: The Romulan Praetor has just died, and those newly in power have extended a peace overture.
Of course, several conditions have been presented before a peace conference can take place: the conference will occur over Temaris, an uninhabited planet deep inside the Romulan Neutral Zone, with the diplomatic meetings alternating between a Federation starship and a Romulan ship. Musicians have been chosen from both the Romulan Empire and the Federation to entertain during the conferences, while archaeologists from both sides will be allowed to explore the mysterious ruins on the planet at the same time. The Romulans have made certain requests concerning those who will attend, asking for Doctor Andrea Benar, who had escaped from an earlier attack by Romulans while on a dig, to be on the archaeological team, and that Ambassador Sarek not be among the negotiators.
While all parties agree to the terms, it appears that the conference may be doomed from the start due to the Romulans choice of a militaristic ambassador, Tiam, who up until recently was a minor official at best. And with the Enterprise in charge of the Federation personnel, its also up to Captain Kirk and his crew to see that things run smoothly.
While Captain Kirk and Captain Hiran of the Romulan vessel Galtizh seem to strike up a friendship, friction between both parties seems to mount: Tiam refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Probe that almost destroyed Earth and is now traveling through Romulan space; a plot to kill both Kirk and Hiran and make it look like they killed each other almost succeeds; Doctor Benar has a flashback to the massacre that killed the rest of her team and was led by the brother of the Romulan that has been assigned to work with her; Tiams wife, a skilled musician, and her brother defect to the Federation and are given refuge on the Enterprise. And to make matters even worse, the Probe has turned around and is on its way back to Earth.
When the Enterprise leaves Temaris and seeks to stop the Probe before it can reach its destination, the Romulans also seek to head it off before it can do the Federations bidding. However, both ships are soon captured by the Probe as it takes off for its home world at speeds of up to Warp 30. Thoughts of a peace conference are soon forgotten, as finding a way back to familiar space takes precedence.
While this novel is fairly long (344 pages in the paperback edition) and the action is a bit slow as all aspects of the conference are discussed as it progresses, the novel manages to hold the readers attention throughout due to the strong characterizations and the building intrigue. Not only do the descriptions and actions of the Enterprise crew hold true to form, the main RomulansTiam, his wife Jandra, her brother Dajan, and Captain Hiranare also presented as real individuals and not simply caricatures of their species. And while it appears that a new day is dawning in the Romulan empire, the political intrigue seems to have left Romulus and moved to the Galtizh. While Sarek is disallowed as negotiator, his aide Kevin Riley who was part of the Enterprise crew for some time, takes over, and readers can now see him in a new light.
Although the peace conference is center stage in the plot, the return of the Probe and the attempt to communicate with it also provides plenty of suspense. And when readers learn that the Probe was damaged in the far distant past by "cube dwelling mites," they can only speculate as to whether this was an early encounter with the Borg. Equally suspenseful is the trip to the home of the Probes creators where it looks like neither ship will ever return to familiar space: Their fate lies strictly with learning to communicate with it, something that seems almost impossible to doespecially since it will require the cooperation of the crews of both ships.
While the novel is an entertaining read, its one weakness lies in the seeming quickness with which the problems are solved. The ending is satisfying, but readers will no doubt feel that it came entirely too quickly considering the magnitude of problems faced. Billed as the continuation of Star Trek IV: The Journey Home, the novel does not disappoint as it provides another look at the entity that almost destroyed Earth.
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