Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The IDIC Epidemic

Star Trek #38
The IDIC Epidemic by Jean Lorrah
Published February 1988
Read July 9th 2019

Previous book (TOS Numbered): #37: Bloodthirst
Previous book (Published Order): Final Frontier

Next book (TOS Numbered): #39: Time for Yesterday

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

Spoilers ahead for The IDIC Epidemic

From the back cover:
I.D.I.C -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination. More than just a simple credo, for those of the planet Vulcan it is the cornerstone of their philosophy.

Now, on the Vulcan Science Colony Nisus, that credo of tolerance is being being put to its sternest test. For here, on a planet where Vulcan, Human, Klingon, and countless other races live and work side by side, a deadly plague has sprung up. A plague whose origins are somehow rooted in the concept of I.D.I.C. itself. A plague that threatens to tear down that centuries-old maxim and replace it with an even older concept.

Interstellar War.

My thoughts:

If you are a long-time reader of Trek Lit Reviews, you may remember my review of the TOS novel The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. I was very impressed with that novel, not so much by the plot (which was a fairly by-the-numbers murder mystery), but by the character exploration. I found the relationships depicted in that novel to be very touching, so when I learned that The IDIC Epidemic was a sequel, I resolved to pick it up and check it out. Sadly, it's taken a number of years to finally get to it, but I have finally read Jean Lorrah's second Star Trek novel. Does it hold up as well as The Vulcan Academy Murders?

The Vulcan I.D.I.C., representing Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, a concept central to The IDIC Epidemic.

Taking place a few weeks after TVAM, The IDIC Epidemic features a number of the same characters and following on almost immediately from the events of that novel. Nisus, a science colony populated by numerous species, has been hit by a highly contagious plague that is swiftly mutating and striking down the population one-by-one. It seems that, once the virus encounters a host that is of mixed heritage, it quickly mutates into a highly lethal strain that swiftly kills. The Enterprise, having just left Vulcan, is diverted to assist. The Vulcan antagonists from TVAM are aboard the Enterprise, and see this property of the virus as vindication of their anti-IDIC beliefs, and dub it the "IDIC epidemic."

At first blush, they would seem to be right. However, as the story goes on, we learn more about the virus and how it propagates, and more importantly, how it can be cured. It turns out that the Klingons are key to halting the virus, and greater cooperation among species becomes essential to the solution, rather than merely the cause of the epidemic. In fact, my favorite character in the novel is Korsal, a Klingon engineer living on Nisus who, along with his sons, becomes vital to the solution to the crisis. Many people see the Klingons as nothing more than hardened warriors who crave battle and victory, so it was refreshing to get a different type of Klingon, especially in an Original Series novel.

There is also a secondary plot in which the colony is threatened by a failing dam, a crisis that Korsal and his son also have a hand in averting. There are a number of good old fashioned suspenseful moments as the initial scope of the crisis becomes apparent, and during the subsequent disaster and rescue attempts. They may be standard tropes in storytelling, but they are still effective!

As someone who doesn't usually enjoy "medical mystery" stories, The IDIC Epidemic had a lot to overcome to win me over. However, my problem with that sort of story usually has to do with the eleventh hour "eureka" moment as a cure is discovered and the plague is stopped. The solution in The IDIC Epidemic was much more meaningful and fit very well with the Star Trek ethos, and therefore sat much better with me. While I didn't enjoy this novel as much as The Vulcan Academy Murders, I still found it to be a worthy sequel and a nice reaffirmation of Star Trek's ideals.

Final thoughts:

A medical mystery story that has a meaningful resolution keeping with Star Trek's ideals and ethics. The IDIC concept has become central to what Star Trek is all about, and I enjoyed reading a story that ended up reinforcing that concept. I didn't enjoy the story as much as the novel it is a sequel to, The Vulcan Academy Murders, but I very much appreciate Jean Lorrah's singular take on the Star Trek universe and the optimism of her characters.

Also by Jean Lorrah:

My next read:

Star Trek: The Next Generation #50: Dyson Sphere by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski.


  1. Dan, thanks for all of your reviews. After over 20 years, you got me back into reading Star Trek novels again. Your enthusiasm is appealing. Since the shows are no longer on, it's like catching up with old friends. Mike

    1. Hey Mike, thanks so much for the kind words! I'm glad to have gotten you back into the Trek novels. Cheers, and happy reading!