Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Flaming Arrow

Star Trek #92
New Earth, Book Four of Six
The Flaming Arrow by Kathy Oltion and Jerry Oltion
Published July 2000
Read April 16th 2019

Previous book (New Earth): #91: Book Three: Rough Trails
Next book (New Earth): #93: Book Five: Thin Air

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

Spoilers ahead for The Flaming Arrow

From the back cover:
Beyond the borders of the Federation, Kirk must bring peace and security to the final frontier. His new mission: to defend an isolated human colony an a newly discovered world, deter aggression from neighboring alien races, and ensure the survival of a brave new Earth. 
Belle Terre's stubborn colonists have survived the countless hardships and natural disasters of their new home, only to face a deadly foreign enemy. The alien Kauld, intent on claiming the world's unique resources for their own are determined to destroy the human settlements at any cost. Months away from any hope of Starfleet reinforcements, the Starship Enterprise is all that stands between Belle Terre and an all-out alien invasion. But Kirk and his valiant crew may not be enough to save the planet from a relentless assault by the ultimate superweapon!
My thoughts:

As I continue reading the New Earth miniseries, I find myself hoping that the overall story improves with each successive book. The overall premise is an interesting one: the Enterprise shepherds a long-term colonial effort as the colonists attempt to tame a new world. However, the execution has fallen short of expectations. The absolute low-point of the series for me, so far, has been book three, Rough Trails. So, going into this book, the fourth in the series, my expectations have been lowered significantly. It can only go up from here, right?

Thankfully, that does seem to be the case! The Flaming Arrow tells the story of a Kauld attack on the Belle Terre colony using an unorthodox method: a huge space laser, with a beam light-minutes long, which will completely obliterate the colony and its inhabitants if allowed to hit the planet. The laser is deployed from deep in space, away from the prying eyes of the Enterprise and her crew, and travels towards Belle Terre at the speed of light, relatively slow in the world of Star Trek.

I enjoyed the "low-tech" weapon deployed in this novel, as it made for an interesting problem to overcome for our heroes. The problem-solving employed by Spock as the Enterprise gathered clues and began its search for the laser beam was interesting to read about, and I also appreciated the roles that Scotty and McCoy had in the story. The two of them are out on a recon patrol using a small vessel, and their adventures made for some interesting reading, with the pairing of two characters who don't usually have a lot to do together.

Scotty and Bones had a fun B-plot together, reminding me of their quest to build a whale tank in Star Trek IV.

There were, however, aspects of the story that didn't sit well with me. For one thing, many of the characters we've come to know in previous novels seem off in this installment. Lilian Coates, who lost her husband earlier in the series, is one of the colonists we've learned a lot about through the course of the last few books. Her actions in this novel seemed out of place compared to her characterization in the previous novels, but of course that could be a symptom of so many different writers contributing to the overall narrative.

Speaking of which, the disconnect that I experienced in Rough Trails continues in The Flaming Arrow, in which situations and the overall state of the colony feels completely divorced from what has come before. There is still some stubbornness among the colonists, but nothing approaching the hatred many of them had for Starfleet in the previous novel. I wish there had been more of an effort to reconcile the differences between the various novels to make the entire miniseries feel more cohesive.

Final thoughts:

Some interesting ideas contribute to an overall gripping story, but many of the drawbacks in the rest of the series continue to play out here. Characterizations and situations feel off from what has been established in other novels in the series, and the aimlessness of the series continues to mar what should be an interesting concept. The plot by the Kauld in this novel was interesting enough to hold my attention, but overall I'm still not sold on the New Earth series as a whole.

My next read:

My next review is for the Christopher Pike novel, Burning Dreams, by Margaret Wander Bonanno.

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