While waiting the release of the new "Star Trek" film, I found myself yearning for a new adventure of the classic crew. Enter Kevin Ryan's latest installment of the "Errand of Fury" series, "Sacrifices of War."
The series is part of Pocket's on-going attempt to have "Trek" novels that boil down to little more than crew comes across problem, crew solves problem, crew head on out for more adventures. I commend them for this and it's been remarkably successful in a lot of the other on-going "Trek" series. So why hasn't it worked with classic "Trek"?
Part of me says that a big reason was the original series was intended to be episodic. But so was "Next Generation" and the movies set post-"Nemesis" have incorporated an arc and new characters rather successfully. Another part of me wonders if it isn't that the calibre of talent and the potential to mine new and interesting stories isn't richer in the more modern Treks, simply because they've had less time for novels to be published. I think that's a huge part of it.
And then you've "Sacfices of War." I can see what the novel is trying to do. It's trying to offer some kind of build-up to the events we see in "Errand of Mercy," making the potential war with the Klingons not just come our of nowhere. So, we have a novel where various parties are getting ready for war and we see the Federation in dire straits, facing an overwhelming enemy who is predicted to defeat them unless something drastic occurs. The story is full of minor characters, introduced mainly for this series and it allows us to see the world of classic Trek through eyes other than those of the main characters.
I didn't find that all that compelling. Part of what drew me to classic Trek (and still does) is the main characters. I like to see them in action and to have new adventures with my old favorites. And this story had the potential to give us some depth to the characters, especially Kirk as he faces the burden of being on the front lines of a potential war. Instead, we have the first two-thirds devoted to a Kirk-led mission to destroy a Klingon weapon's stash and prevent it from being used against the Federation.
And that may be part of the problem with the book. Placing it so directly into the original series canon and having Kirk lead the mission, it takes away some of the drama. We know Kirk will live to fight another day. And that's a problem faced by all Trek novels, but it seems a bit more conspicious here. Kirk leads a shuttlecraft full of recruits on this dangerous mission. And yet, none of them die. In fact, it seems like the author goes to great lengths to make sure that none of the new characters die, since many of them appear to be haunted by the death of team members in previous novels.
It ends up taking away a lot of the tension and fun from this section of the novel.
Then, there's the last third which is a retelling of "Errand of Mercy" that adds nothing to the story. Yes, it's probably a more faithful adaptation than what we got from James Blish, but do we really need another novelization of an episode that's aired for forty plus year on TV and is easily accessible on DVD?