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John Vornholt

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

The Enterprise is in hot pursuit of Auk-rex, one of the foremost pirates in the galaxy. When the speedy and highly maneuverable pirate craft heads into unknown space, Mister Spock comes up with a theory as to its destination: The fabled planet Sanctuary where all who are being persecuted, whether justly or unjustly, are welcome.

When Auk-rex’s craft prepares to land, Kirk makes a decision: He, Mister Spock, and Doctor McCoy will continue the chase in a shuttlecraft while the Enterprise remains in orbit. As they enter the atmosphere of the unknown planet, Kirk and his companions take note of numerous other ships representing many planets in orbit.

As the pirate ship races along the surface of the planet, it is unable to avoid a mountain and crashes with only a fiery explosion to mark its resting spot. Kirk manages to pull the shuttlecraft up at the last possible moment, thus avoiding the same fate. After managing to successfully land their vessel, the Federation trio begins a search for the pirates, only to find they’ve seemingly disappeared.

Walking along a river and heading to a nearby town, the three soon meet Zicree, a Senite inhabitant of the planet, who tells them that all those who come to the planet are welcome, but no one ever leaves it. This is the final spot for all persecuted individuals who take refuge there.

Despite Zicree’s harsh words, the first town the trio comes to seems most welcoming, providing free food and lodging for all. A trip to a nearby island finds even more gracious hosts. The Senites, seemingly the caretakers of the planet, have a large monastery-like dwelling there, and it isn’t long before the three Starfleet officers and the mysterious and beautiful Renna learn how the Senites deal with those who seek sanctuary on the planet.

While Scotty tries to find a way to free the Enterprise officers before Starfleet orders them to abandon the search, Kirk, Spock and McCoy plan their own escape attempt, despite the fact that no one has been successful to date.

The novel has a plot that quickly changes from the search for Auk-rex to a search for escape from the planet. At times, the story is almost reminiscent of an old “Perils of Pauline” sketch as our command trio seems to go from one disaster to another. There’s also a darker secret at work on the planet that will keep most readers engaged—especially when it appears that the Enterprise trio may fall victim to it.

And although the focus is on Kirk, Spock and McCoy, most of the other crew members receive attention as they try to find a way to help their seemingly lost crew members without breaking the Prime Directive. Their attempts become increasingly creative and even include sending a plague of Regulan locusts, as they strive to find ways to force the Senites into releasing the missing crew.

While the focus is mainly on the Enterprise crew, there are several new characters that are quite memorable. They include Zicree; Billiwog, a fugitive on the planet; and Pilenna, a half-Orion, who is on guard around the planet.

The novel is a fast read and should please most Star Trek fans.

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