The Wounded Sky
Diane Duane

reviewed by Joanne K. Seward

It has sometimes been said that Star Trek isn't "real" Science Fiction. I've read a decent amount of SF, and I've concluded that Star Trek is too optimistic for many SF fans, too wholesome, perhaps too "soft." Having said this, I must say clearly that it is my opinion that The Wounded Sky by Diane Duane is indeed "real" science fiction. This relatively small book--255 pages in my vintage copy--is filled with big ideas. It takes us to places we wouldn't dream of on our own; it discusses sciences most of us never heard of let alone studied in school; and it gives us the opportunity to consider ethical, philosophical and religious questions we might never encounter in the course of our daily lives. These are all qualities shared by the best science (or speculative--choose your preferred adjective) diction.

Lest you be frightened off by the above paragraph, let me tell you that this book is, in a word, wonderful. The story is relatively simple. Therein lies its complexity. The spider-like K't'lk is a Hamalki architect. For her, building is akin to godliness. She has designed a new type of starship drive--the inversion drive which will finally make it possible for the inhabitants of the Milky Way galaxy to leave home as it were and traverse the enormous distances between galaxies in almost no time. Literally. Time does not exist when the new drive is in use, a state that is called transit. Naturally, the Enterprise is chosen to test the inversion drive. Just as naturally, the Klingons want the inversion drive which, like so many other peaceful inventions, could easily be transformed into a weapon.

Having dealt with the Klingon pursuit in a no holds barred space battle, it becomes apparent that odd things are happening both to the inhabitants of the Enterprise and to objects outside of the ship. After several transits or jumps, it becomes clear that the oddities are not coincidences but are inherently linked to the use of the inversion drive. More alarmingly, it also becomes clear that Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise have to repair the damage they have done or they will not see home again. In fact, there will be no home, no Earth or Vulcan, no Milky Way galaxy to return to.

There is so much to this story that it is impossible to create a true thumbnail. On one level, it is the usual professional Star Trek novel: Kirk and crew find themselves rescuing the world/galaxy/universe as we know it. On another level, Ms. Duane has allowed her inner creator full rein, giving us the glittering K't'lk along with a number of other aliens we've never encountered on the screen, large or small, that we'd no doubt enjoy getting to know. She has taken cutting edge science and math and used them to create a story about accepting responsibility for our actions. She has delved into religion and ethics and philosophy with true reverence. She shows us the crew we have followed through thick and thin and we discover that they truly are as we always knew them to be. The Wounded Sky is a story filled with complexity. I have read it more than once and I still feel that perhaps there are things I missed, things that I seemed to grasp for a moment or an hour but then they slide through my fingers once again. I know this, however: it is a story about love and respect and responsibility and sacrifice and joy. It is a story that stays with you through the years. Oh, by the way, just when you think it's over, there's one more little surprise. So give it a try. You won't regret it.

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