Lately I’ve been revisiting the Star Trek universe via a combination of DVDs, Blu-Rays and streaming video as well as listening to the great Mission Log podcast.
All of that, plus reading a few heavier books (both in terms of content and page count) put me in the mood for a light, fun palate cleanser tie-in novel. And so it was that after a year of languishing on my to-be-read pile, I finally decided it was time to give David R. George III’s Allegiance in Exile a look.
Set in the final year of the original five year mission, the novel finds Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise discovering an apparently deserted planet that holds a deadly cache of self-defense weapons. After the ship and landing party are attacked (including the destruction of a shuttle or two), Kirk and company discover a way to detect and disable the installations.
While Kirk struggles with what the future could hold and the next step in his career (he’s not ready to leave the bridge of the Enterprise just yet), Sulu meets and falls for a member of the crew, who was part of the landing party with him. Of course, this can only mean one thing — the crew member in question’s life span is reduced to about twenty or so minute (or in this case about 100 pages).
Before you know it, the crew stumbles across another planet with a similar weapon system in place and Kirk decides to beam down a landing party, including Sulu’s new squeeze. The landing party is attacked and the only person injured is, of course, Sulu’s new main squeeze. Sulu’s reaction to this is one of anger at Kirk, including throwing a hissy fit in the turbolift and requesting a transfer because Kirk was the one who made the fateful decision, after being counseling by Dr. McCoy that maybe beaming down isn’t such a hot idea.
This might be interesting if the romance between Sulu and his fellow female crewman felt in any way authentic and if it just didn’t all feel like an excuse to try and insert some off-screen conflict among the original series crew as well as show Sulu that making command decisions somethings has unintended consequences.
All of that would be bad enough, but for some reason George uses the final third of the novel to tie events here into the larger Trek canon. I won’t give away exactly what the big-time revelation is, but I can say it had my rolling my eyes and muttering, “You’ve got to be kidding” under my breath.
This is exactly the kind of novel I didn’t expect from George. He’s written some enjoyable, novels that tie together various continuity threads from the TV series and other novels. But it felt like he was trying too hard to bridge too many gaps and, unfortunately, things come up a bit short. He does a solid job of recreating most of the original series characters on the printed page, but his supporting cast is a bit lacking at times.
I also got the feeling that for a stand alone novel, this one was meant to tie-into other classic series novels as well. For example, Kirk meets the assistant of Admiral Komack and the two have a couple of flirtatious conversations and then it goes absolutely nowhere. I’m going to assume that George is attempting to make us understand why Kirk might accept getting to know her better as a perk of accepting his promotion and leaving the bridge of the Enterprise, but honestly it feels more like a dangling plot thread for another novel than anything else.
All of it adds up to a less than satisfying overall experience for Allegiance in Exile. I’m tempted to say I’ve outgrown tie-in novels, but then I’ll come across one that really pushes all the right buttons like Doctor Who: The Harvest of Time or any Trek tie-in novel by Peter David and see that they can be both a welcome change of pace and a well done, entertaining story. I don’t expect great literature, but I do expect not to want to fling the novel at the wall in frustration when I’m done reading it (or at several points as I did here).