Click on this Cover to Order this BookWorld Without End

Joe Haldeman

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

What seems like routine benchmark survey for the Starship Enterprise soon becomes anything but routine as the ship comes upon what at first appears to be a hollowed out asteroid.

Further inspection, however, reveals this to be a generation ship that has been in flight for more than 3,000 years. Currently, the asteroid/ship appears to be slowing down, and if all calculations are correct, its seeming destination will be more than two parsecs from the nearest star thus leaving the inhabitants with no way to obtain enough heat to survive.

More analysis of the asteroid/ship reveals that it composed of a strange alloy and rotates to provide gravity for its million plus inhabitants through centrifugal force. Most of these inhabitants dwell in a narrow band around the equator where gravity is the greatest. Once it is proved that objects and people can be safely transported to the inside, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Larousse of the science department, and two security men beam inside only to find themselves placed under arrest and presumed to be "magicians." Since they can only be tried by other magicians, they are forced to wait until one arrives. As they do so, they learn more about this society—a society which boasts more than two hundred castes each of which speaks a different language, leaving much demand for a caste of interpreters.

While Kirk and the others find that the transporter can only send objects and people into the asteroid/ship and is unable to reverse the process, those on the Enterprise find the remains of a Klingon ship located on the far side of the asteroid/ship. Closer inspection of the wrecked ship by a small party reveals that the Klingon ship was somehow "caught" by the asteroid/ship and slowly pulled to its surface. It is soon found that the Enterprise has also been captured; now a way must be found to rescue both the captain and the rest of the landing party as well as a method to free the Enterprise.

While this is a very short novel—the paperback edition only has 148 pages, readers will no doubt find themselves fascinated by the world that Haldeman has constructed. In addition, the inhabitants of the strange world are totally unique with each caste reacting differently to the Enterprise officers. And while it may seem that a simpler way could be found for the inhabitants of this world to communicate and conduct business with each other, the book provides a true glimpse of what it means to see "infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

Although the immediate plot seems to be the rescue of the Enterprise and her crewmen on the asteroid/ship, the secondary plot of setting the ship back on its correct course also provides interest. And although this seems to be a plot that can be found in one or two Star Trek television episodes, it still proves interesting here.

While this novel is much more intriguing than Haldeman’s other Star Trek book, Planet of Judgment, it still does not match the quality of his non-Star Trek novels like The Forever War. While this book is an enjoyable read, it at times to be almost a case of science fiction made easy. Despite this simplification, it should hold the attention of most readers.

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