With what seems like hundreds of Star Trek tie-in novels published over the last forty-plus years, I understand that finding new, unexplored areas of the “final frontier” can be a bit difficult. I also understand there are only so many ways you can tie together elements from the original seventy-nine episode run and have it still feel fresh.
Much of Devil’s Bargain has the feeling of “been there, done that,” to it for the crew of the starship Enterprise. In many ways, it feels like a third-season episode of the classic series and if you’ve watched the show, you know that isn’t exactly a compliment.
The frontier world of Vesbius is facing destruction because a huge asteroid is bearing down on the planet. The population withdrew from the Federation years ago, but that doesn’t mean the Federation is willing to let them all die in the coming catastrophe. They send Captain Kirk and company to try and evacuate the colony, but the colonists refuse to leave the planet. We eventually discover why they can’t and won’t leave as well as finding out that the population is a bit xenophobic. Ironically, it’s Spock who comes up with a potential solution — warp over to Janus VI and pick up a batch of Horta to mine the asteroid and break it up into chunks that will be more manageable for the Enterprise to take out or that won’t cause as much damage upon impact to the planet.
Along the way, Kirk falls in love with the daughter of the planetary leader and spends a lot of time pondering this. There are entire passages in which one or the other reflect on their relationship and how its only going to be a limited thing, but by golly, they sure are in love. I can see what Tony Daniel was trying to achieve here, but the execution is a bit lacking.
Daniel’s first Trek novel has some potential, but it never really all comes together.
Each time I pick up a new Trek novel, my memory is cast back to my teenage years when I couldn’t get enough of the Pocket novels. I’m beginning to believe my memories of most of those books are better than the actual novels themselves. Or else my tastes have changed (in large part because of the output of one Peter David) and I don’t find the standard, cliche ridden Trek novel quite as satisfying as I once did. Either way, I have to admit this one didn’t so much disappoint as it’s guilty of not living up to my memories and expectations.