I’m one of those original Star Trek fans. I was there on the night of September 8, 1966, a Thursday, when that episode, the first, aired. It was The Man Trap(though I prefer James Blish’s title, The Unreal McCoy, that he changed it to for the short story version), that tale of the shape-changing, salt vampire. I was there at the beginning and been a fan ever since. Though it’s been many years, I do think I can be positive in saying I didn’t see all the episodes first run(this was in the days of three commercial networks and PBS, no machines to tape or record them when you couldn’t be there; you know, prehistoric days).
I’ve seen them since then more times than I can remember. I enjoyed The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but the quality(i.e. originality) started to fall off on Voyager and Enterprise. The original series remains my favorite of all though.
I used to collect all the fiction. At first they published about four books a year, then it got pushed up to one a month, then two a month. I managed to hang with them for a long while. Then it got even crazier. Two paperbacks a month, three or four hardcovers a year, and sometimes more. The quality got spotty.
My interest fell off. Even the original novels began to be less than sensational, let’s just say. They seem to concentrate on the later years after the movies began. Sequels to the movies and after, filling in the years between. Multibook arcs. It all got too much.
I don’t buy much anymore(and I’ve got way too many unread at home now).
Then I spotted this novel. Set during the original five year mission, pretty much a self-contained story in one book, it caught my interest and I picked it up. I’m glad I did. It’s a Star Trek of the old school, which is just fine with me.
The Enterprise is exploring a new arm of space when they answer a general distress call to find a ship sinking into a gas giant. During rescue operations, they are attacked by other ships, demanding they cease. They just manage to transport the three occupants out before the doomed ship breaks up.
The aliens are humanoid, tall and thin, with bone white skin and a kind of peach fuzz instead of hair. Berlis is their leader and is an instantly likable fellow. Everyone gets good vibes from him.
He’s the leader of Colony One, home planet Isitris Zero, and professes to not know why his fellow beings wants him dead. Talking to the representative from the home planet reveals no more. They want to know why Kirk stopped their justice.
When ships from Colony One pick up Berlis, Kirk and company immediately feel a loss that their firend has gone.
When they go to Isitris Zero, Kirk begins to learn exactly what he’s put into motion. The Isitris are a telepathetic race. With other beings, they communicate with arm/hand signs and wear a wrist translator for hearing beings.
Berlis is what they refer to as a “troublesome mind.” His subconscious mind can control any number of beings, up to a whole planetary population. he doesn’t consciously do it, just puts out feelings of warmth to himself, a self-defense mechanism. People want to do things to help him.
The problem is with the neighboring race in a nearby solar system, the Odib. Many times in the past, one of these troubled minds had put the Isitris at war with the Odib, killing billions of people and destroying planetary economies. Only when the troublesome mind is killed or dies of old age do the Isitris regain their own wills to find friends dead, the planet in ruins, many lost years.
They don’t like it and the Odib finally said. “Enough!” A treaty had been signed that the Isitris would always take care of these troublesome minds as soon as they are discovered, usually prenatal, long before they grow strong enough to take over a planet with a thought.
Occasionally one slips through undetected, though, and now Kirk has loosed one on the universe. The Odib are gearing up for war and the Isitris, with the minds of a population linked by one man, are making great leaps in war technology. One, or maybe both, planets will be decimated before it ends.
Kirk must figure out how to stop two races, one under unwilling thrall, from killing each other. And Spock’s help is suspect, As a telepathetic being himself, he destroys a shuttlecraft, and nearly himself, to protect Berlis before anyone realizes he’s been under the control of the Isitris.
Dave Galanter captures each of the Trek characters’ voices very well, especially the big three. I enjoyed this novel more than any I’ve read recently(recently being the last few years. If you are a fan of TOS, highly recommended.