Monday, June 24, 2013

The Shocks of Adversity

Star Trek: The Original Series
The Shocks of Adversity by William Leisner
Release date: May 28th, 2013
Read June 3rd 2013

Previous book (The Original Series): The Folded World
Next book (The Original Series): From History's Shadow

Click to purchase The Shocks of Adversity from!

Spoilers ahead for The Shocks of Adversity!

From the back cover:
Located far beyond the boundaries of explored space, the Goeg Domain is a political union of dozens of planets and races. When the U.S.S. Enterprise arrives in its territory to investigate an interstellar phenomenon, Commander Laspas of the Domain Defense Corps is at first guarded, then fascinated to discover the existence of an alliance of worlds much like his own, and finds a kindred spirit in Captain James T. Kirk. And when the Enterprise is attacked by the Domain’s enemies, crippling the starship’s warp capability and leaving its crew facing the prospect of a slow, months-long journey home, the Goeg leader volunteers the help of his own ship, offering to combine the resources of both vessels to bring the Enterprise to a nearby Domain facility to make the necessary repairs.
But what at first seems to be an act of peace and friendship soon turns out to be a devil’s bargain, as Kirk and the Enterprise crew learn that there are perhaps more differences than similarities between the Federation and the Domain. When the Goeg’s adversaries strike again, the Enterprise is drawn deeper and inexorably into the conflict, and Kirk begins to realize that they may have allied themselves with the wrong side....

Notable quote:
Laspas quickly waved off his apology. "I shouldn't have even brought them aboard with me—too much risk of their being lost should anything happen. But it's nice to have this reminder of him. Besides which, I still enjoy the stories. Entertaining adventure tales with clear contrasts between hero and villain, good and bad." 
"Unlike real life," Kirk commented. 
"Yes, precisely," Laspas said as he gestured for Kirk to take a cushioned chair in the center of the room.
- Kirk and the Goeg Commander Laspas, discussing the black and white nature of fictional adventure stories. Life, and this particular story, isn't like that, sadly.

My thoughts:

This review has been some time in coming. There are a few reasons it took me so long to write this review, but I would have to cite procrastination as the primary reason. In addition, I feel as though the sheer number of TOS novels that have dominated the first half of this year may have led to a little bit of TOS fatigue on my part. This feeling was somewhat surprising to me, as I am a fan of Original Series novels in general. It is unfortunate that this fatigue has to led a delay in reviewing this particular novel, as William Leisner's Shocks of Adversity is, in my opinion, the top pick of the five TOS novels released this year. The Shocks of Adversity ends this five novel long Original Series streak and, in my opinion, ends it on a very high note indeed. William Leisner has managed to craft a tale that feels like a great TOS-style story, while at the same time bringing a freshness and "newness" to it.

In The Shocks of Adversity, we meet the Goeg Domain, a coalition of worlds that initially appears to be much like the Federation. The Enterprise, badly damaged in an attack by the Domain's enemies, finds itself facing a lengthy journey back to Federation space for repairs. A Goeg starship offers an alternative: the Enterprise would "hitch a ride," tethered to the Goeg vessel. Together, they would journey to a Goeg repair facility. Captain Kirk accepts the offer of assistance, and the vessels are linked together for the voyage. However, as we learn more about the Domain, we realize that it has a seamy underbelly that wasn't immediately apparent. Dominated by one species, the Goeg Domain has issues with race relations and inequality. In addition, the crew learns that the Domain's enemies, the "Taarpi," are citizens of the Goeg Domain who are in revolt, and that they may have legitimate gripes against the government. As the journey progresses, events begin to get out of Captain Kirk's control as it seems more and more apparent that the deal made with the Domain isn't so fortuitous as it once seemed.

Throughout the book, the physical connection between the Enterprise and the Goeg vessel serves as a metaphor for the relationship between Captain Kirk and the Goeg captain, Laspas, and by extension, the relationship between our crew and the Goeg Domain's representatives. At first, the bond is strong, and it seems as though each of the two crews have found common purpose and friendship in the other. However, soon those bonds begin to break down as the crews' differing worldviews and cultural norms come into conflict. Finally, at one point in the novel, the weapon systems aboard the Enterprise are commandeered by the Goeg vessel, and the will of Captain Kirk and his crew is subsumed and made subordinate to the wishes of Laspas and his crew.

The Shocks of Adversity is a compelling and realistic tale that illustrates the differences that could drive a wedge between cultures and individuals. However, like life, the Goeg Domain is not a black and white entity. There are people and forces at work within the nation that are generally positive. Captain Laspas, for example, is an example of someone who is willing to obey his principles and do what is right, while his first officer stands for maintaining the status quo and keeping the Domain xenophobic and maintaining the system of inequality among its citizens.

Nurse Chapel, often neglected story-wise,
is given a part to play in this novel.
The novel features some interesting subplots and relationships for a few of our characters. I especially enjoyed the semi-romantic flirtation between Nurse Chapel and a visiting doctor from the Goeg vessel. Chapel is a character that doesn't often get much exposure, so it was a treat to see her get something to do in this book. I also enjoyed Sulu and Chekov's experiences aboard the Goeg vessel, as well as Spock's and Scotty's interactions with various members of the Domain ship's crew.

The grappler of the Starship Enterprise,
 NX-01, featured in this novel.
The Shocks of Adversity also featured a few fun nods to continuity. The anomaly being investigated by the Enterprise at the beginning of the novel was originally observed by the United Earth Space Probe Agency's Friendship One probe, featured in the Voyager episode "Friendship One." Another piece of continuity fodder was the use of an "old-style" grappler, like the one seen in the television series Star Trek: Enterprise. In fact, there are indications that it is the same device, placed in storage aboard the current USS Enterprise. Small continuity bits like these may seem insignificant, but to my mind they serve a very useful purpose, in that they tie the story into the larger Star Trek universe. They serve to make the settings of the various series tie together into a cohesive whole, contributing to an overall narrative rather than feeling like separate, unrelated parts.

Final thoughts:

A definite recommend from me! The Shocks of Adversity is the best of the five TOS novels released so far this year. A fun and interesting story that has a lot to say about a variety of issues. A treat to read, and somewhat unfortunate that it is in danger of being lost in a flurry of TOS novels released in the first half of this year.

More about The Shocks of Adversity:

Also by William Leisner:

My next read:

I am VERY excited for the next new novel to be released: by Christopher L. Bennett, the next chapter in the on-going saga of Enterprise, featuring the early years of the United Federation of Planets. I am currently reading Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. I promise a review of this one shortly after I finish reading it. Coming soon!

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