Click Here to Order This NovelThe Starship Trap

Mel Gilden

reviewed by Carolyn Kabeline

While the crew is enjoying a well-deserved shore-leave on Starbase 23, an emergency message arrives: The Enterprise and its crew are to leave immediately for Pegasus IV with orders to follow “without question the instructions of Conrad Franklin Kent or his representative.” It soon becomes evident that following those instructions will not be easy. Kent, well-known for his dislike of Starfleet and his desire to become Federation president, manages to irritate most of the senior staff in record time. In addition, he makes it known that his aide, Hazel Payton, is a “woman who gets the job done.” The job? To have the Enterprise test a new shield developed by Professor Omen, the Federation’s foremost weapons’ expert, upon the ship’s arrival at Starbase 12.

While en route to the starbase, the Enterprise is confronted by a Klingon ship whose captain accuses the Federation of causing Klingon ships to disappear. Kent’s allusion to a secret weapon in the hearing of the Klingon captain almost starts a battle before the Klingon ship departs. Although Kirk has heard nothing about any Klingon ships disappearing, he soon learns the truth: Not only have Klingon ships in the region been disappearing, so have Romulan and Federation vessels. After the test of new shields prove successful, Professor Omen is recruited to help find out who’s behind the ship disappearances. Despite Omen’s status, it isn’t long before the Enterprise crew finds that he’s the one they’re after: He wants to avenge the death of his only daughter by getting rid of all the ships of war. He’s specifically requested the Enterprise for the shield tests knowing it would no doubt be assigned to solve the mystery while there. And if the flagship should disappear...well, what better way to keep new ships from being built?

Gilden has done an excellent job in creating a plot with many twists and turns. He’s especially good in presenting details that bring the characters to life. By providing small details, like the way Kirk eats a roast beef sandwich or the attitude that Kent projects, his characters become three-dimensional and people we can identify with. In his portrayal of Omen, we see a character who desperately wants to end the deaths of people through war, but doesn’t seem to see the irony of the huge number of deaths he’s causing as he tries to reach his goal. We also have a chance to see our main characters “fleshed out” in attitude more than is usual in many of the novels. We see, for example, Kirk’s mixed reactions to Payton and his growing respect for her. The alternate universes that Gilden creates are also interesting. Fans of the series will easily be able to correlate the pocket universe with the one containing a giant amoeba in the series. Their escape from the proverbial frying pan into the fire sends them to a second universe where they find Klingon-like warriors who have a new weapon that proves quite effective against the Enterprise. The Alephs are well described, but a bit contradictory as well. Spock believes the one that sends them to another universe will last for only another hour or two; yet the Enterprise is it forced to destroy it quite some time—perhaps days—later. Despite this contradiction, if you want a good read with some unique plot twists and strong characterizations, plan on picking up a copy of The Starship Trap.

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