Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Entropy Effect

Star Trek #2
The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre
Published June 1981
Read May 23rd 2017

Previous book (The Original Series): #1: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Next book (The Original Series): #3: The Klingon Gambit

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): |

Spoilers ahead for The Entropy Effect!

From the back cover:
The Starship Enterprise is summoned to transport a dangerous criminal to rehabilitation: the brilliant physicist, Dr. Georges Mordreaux, who is accused of promising to send people back in time, then killing them instead. But when a crazed Mordreaux escapes, he inexplicably bursts onto the bridge and murders Captain Kirk before the crew's eyes. Now Spock must journey back in time to avert the disaster "before" it occurs. But more is at stake than Kirk's life. Mordreaux's experiments have thrown the universe into chaos, and Spock is fighting time itself to keep the very fabric of reality from unravelling.

My thoughts:

Published in June of 1981, The Entropy Effect has the distinction of being the first original novel in the Pocket Books line. The novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry had been released two years earlier, and Vonda N. McIntyre was chosen to write the followup.

It is important to remember while reading this novel that not much had yet been established about the Star Trek universe before this point. As far as "canon" Trek goes, we only had The Original Series, The Animated Series (the canonicity of which is still debated), and the film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This left a lot of room for McIntyre to flesh out the Trek universe. Some authors might have preferred to play it safe and operate well within the bounds of what had already been established, but McIntyre chose to expand the universe and show us things the television show and film hadn't.

What's really cool about this is that, rather than just adapting the Trek universe and setting an adventure within the bounds of what came before, The Entropy Effect actually has a hand in further developing what Star Trek would become. Through this novel, we get elements such as Captain Hunter of Starfleet fighter U.S.S. Aerfen, assigned to the Starfleet border patrol. She is, of course, an ex-fling of Captain Kirk. But what sets her apart is her heritage (she's of North American First Nations descent) and her family structure. In years past, she invited Kirk to become part of her family in a "partnership family" context along with a group of people, numbering nine in total. The fact that McIntyre introduces a form of what I assume is polyamory into the Trek universe is incredibly cool.

We also get more focus on "lower decks" crewmembers, notably a number of security officers aboard the Enterprise. The chief of security, Mandala Flynn, is the one we learn the most about, partially due to her close relationship with Hikaru Sulu (who was provided a given name for the first time in this novel). We also see a number of her security force, including Jenniver Aristeides, Snnanagfashtalli ("Snarl" to her friends), and Neon.

The plot of The Entropy Effect centers around the devastating effects that the time traveling experiments of Dr. Mordreaux have had on the universe. Mordreaux, a former physics instructor of Spock's, has set in motion a series of events that will result in the destruction of the universe within a century. The Enterprise is assigned to transport Mordreaux to prison, as he has been convicted of murder. In actuality, he has sent ten people back in time, but the authorities do not believe him.

During the voyage, Mordreaux appears to break out of confinement on the Enterprise, bursting onto the bridge and murdering Captain Kirk and Security Chief Flynn. It soon becomes apparent that the murderer is actually a future version of Mordreaux, and it is up to Spock to use Mordreaux's technology to jump around the time continuum putting everything right.

In the alternate future created in this novel, Lieutenant Sulu transfers to Captain Hunter's command, the Aerfen, serving as her helmsman/tactical officer. This is an interesting turn for this character, and we learn more about his aspirations for command. This development fits nicely with the future path his career takes, culminating in his command of the U.S.S. Excelsior in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The transfer is, of course, undone when Spock is able to restore the timeline, but Sulu is promoted to lieutenant commander instead. Spock's trials while attempting to undo the damage to the timeline while at the same time making sure his fellow crewmates are none the wiser was at times amusing and some great storytelling.

The Entropy Effect is ultimately a fascinating tale that, while somewhat predictable given the time travel shenanigans involved, is still a fun read and a worthy beginning to nearly four decades of Pocket Books original Star Trek novels. Reading this book again made me want to revisit McIntyre's novelizations of Star Treks II through IV, as I remember those being very good reads.

Final thoughts:

Thankfully, The Entropy Effect was a strong start to Pocket Books' original novel line. It is a fun adventure featuring some fascinating twists and turns for our heroes, putting them in situations that hadn't been seen in Star Trek up to that point. There was a great deal riding on the shoulders of this novel, and Vonda McIntyre delivered a strong story that served to flesh out the world of Star Trek in new and interesting ways. A solid tale that led the way for 37 years of Pocket Books Star Trek novels! Here's hoping the current contract woes can be worked out and the line continues strong for years to come. Fingers crossed.

More about The Entropy Effect:

My next read:

Next up: my video review of the David Mack novel, Star Trek: Titan: Fortune of War!

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