Monday, April 22, 2019

Belle Terre

Star Trek #90
New Earth, Book Two of Six
Belle Terre by Dean Wesley Smith with Diane Carey
Published June 2000
Read January 21st 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #89: Book One: Wagon Train to the Stars
Next book (New Earth): #90: Book Three: Rough Trails


Purchase:
Mass-market paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Belle Terre
!

From the back cover:
A six-month distance from the Federation, the planet Belle Terre offers a new life to more than 30,000 families, pioneers, scientists, expatriates, go-getters, loners, and entrepreneurs, all under the watchful eye of Captain Kirk and his crew. But the would-be colonists have barely settled in the untamed wilderness of their new home when Spock makes a startling discovery: not only does the planet's moons contain a rare ore of almost inestimable value, that same moon is also violently unstable. Within months, it will inevitably explode -- destroying all life on Belle Terre!

My thoughts:

The fleet of colony ships, escorted by the USS Enterprise, has finally arrived at their destination: the glistening world they have called Belle Terre. However, their adventure to colonize this planet, located far outside the borders of the Federation, may end before it has a chance to really begin. One of the moons orbiting this new world has a core made up of a material called quasar olivium, an extremely rare substance that exists in a state of quantum flux and thus is also highly unstable. While olivium would make the perfect power source for the Federation, it will also soon cause the moon to violently explode, destroying Belle Terre and the colonists who have settled there.

Of course, it's up to Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise to stop this disaster from happening. Eventually, they are able to hit upon a partial solution, using another space body to puncture a hole in the olivium moon, relieving some of the pressure, but still impacting the environment of Belle Terre significantly. The solution is a costly one, requiring the use of nearly the entire fleet of colony ships to implement. After a series of setbacks and false starts, the fleet is ultimately successful in preventing the worst of the disaster.

After the somewhat disappointing start to this series, Wagon Train to the Stars, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Belle Terre. The threat of the olivium moon was an interesting one, and while you know that the crew will succeed in their plan, it was close enough to complete disaster at a couple of points to certainly keep the tension high. I also appreciated that it wasn't a complete success, and that there is still a great deal of fallout from the nearly-extinction level event that the explosion of the moon represents.

The central conflict of Belle Terre is obviously people vs. nature, a fact that I certainly appreciate after the cartoonish villainy of the antagonist in Wagon Train to the Stars. It is gratifying to see the characters grapple with a scientific dilemma rather than a one-note villain like Billy Maidenshore.

There is also a secondary story in which one of the colony ships, a cutter called the Rattlesnake, sets off to find another habitable world in case the colonists need to evacuate Belle Terre permanently. This storyline is left somewhat open-ended; in the course of their investigation into the disappearance of a nearby civilization, the crew of the Rattlesnake discover a "darkness" that passes through the system at regular intervals. The ship gets a little too close to the phenomenon and loses all power, leaving them unable to alert the rest of the colonists or the Enterprise of the danger the darkness presents, nor are they able to send a signal for rescue. I rather enjoyed this little side story, even though it had a tragic ending. I really hope that these events are followed up on in a later novel in the series.

Final thoughts:

A definite improvement over the first book in the series, Belle Terre presents the crew with an interesting scientific mystery and dire consequences if they fail to find a solution. While it wasn't exactly the most gripping Star Trek novel ever, I felt that the jeopardy was ratcheted up enough to hold my interest and attention throughout. The crew is, of course, ultimately successful, but they still end up paying a high price for their relative victory. There are storylines begun in this novel that I hope are picked up again later in the series. Definitely a solid entry in the New Earth series.

My next read:

Next up is my review of the final I.K.S. Gorkon novel: Klingon Empire: A Burning House by Keith R.A. DeCandido.


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