Friday, November 24, 2023

The Fearful Summons

Star Trek #74
The Fearful Summons by Denny Martin Flinn
Published June 1995
Read January 5th 2020

Previous book (Star Trek Numbered): #73: The Lost Years, Book 4: Recovery
Next book (Star Trek Numbered): #75: First Frontier

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

Spoilers ahead for The Fearful Summons

From the back cover:
Captain Sulu of the U.S.S. Excelsior and his crew are kidnapped. When Federation-conducted negotiations come to a standstill, Captain James Kirk and the former officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise reunite to rescue their old comrade.

The officers learn carrying out their mission could prove difficult when they encounter the kidnappers -- a greedy little-known race called the Thraxians, who believe their way is the only way. Now the Thraxians are demanding super-powerful weapons in exchange for the hostages.

With no other alternatives, Kirk is forced to consider giving in to the Thraxians to save the Excelsior crew -- a decision that could save a few, but endanger the lives of an entire star system...

My thoughts:

I remember first reading this novel many years ago. I was a fairly new Star Trek fan, whose first Trek theatrical experience was watching Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country with my parents. I loved the film (even though I had a heck of a time properly pronouncing "Excelsior" while I gushed about all of the things I loved about the film to all who would listen). So when it was announced that a follow-up novel was coming out, written by one of the people credited with writing that wonderful sixth Trek film, I was ecstatic! While I don't completely recall all of my thoughts upon reading it when it was first published, I do remember that it wasn't exactly what I expected.

Now, years later, I decided to pick The Fearful Summons up off of my shelf and give it a re-read. After having done so, I am left to ponder the question: why did I do that?

The plot involves Captain Sulu of the Excelsior (I can pronounce it now!) and 10 others of his crew being captured by the antagonists of the novel, an alien species called the Thraxians on the back cover and inexplicably referred to only as Beta Prometheans within the book itself. They are being held hostage in exchange for weapons, but of course the Federation is unwilling to bargain with the group holding Sulu and his crew. Enter the heroics of Captain James T. Kirk! (Or is it Admiral Kirk? The author can't seem to decide.)

Captain Sulu and some of his fellow Excelsior crewmember are captured by a group hoping to exchange weapons for their hostages.

Kirk reassembles his crew, who are off doing the things that retired starship crews do. This, I can say, was probably my favorite part of the novel. Seeing where each of the members of Kirk's former crew have ended up was somewhat fun, and accounts for almost all of the enjoyment I got out of the book. Which is unfortunate, because there is still a lot of book left after this point.

Unfortunately, I found the characterizations extremely weak, with many actions taken by Kirk and company to be wildly out of character. The Vulcans are rather un-Vulcany, Captain Sulu is astonishingly incompetent in how easily he and his crew walk into an obvious trap, and other elements that are necessary to the universe of Star Trek seem frustratingly out of reach for the author. It amazes me that Denny Martin Flinn co-wrote the screenplay of The Undiscovered Country, because his seeming lack of familiarity with the common tropes of the Trek universe is very apparent.

I also have to question the editing of this novel. As mentioned above, the back-cover blurb doesn't jibe with the content of the novel with regards to the name of the antagonists. Similarly, Kirk alternates between being a captain and an admiral. Recall that at this point, Kirk is a captain, having been demoted at the conclusion of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And finally, Starbase 10 inexplicably changes to Starbase 499 partway through the novel. I'm sure there are many more such examples within the book, as the editing seems to have been very much lacking throughout.

A retired Captain Kirk rounds up his former crew to rescue Captain Sulu and the crew of the Excelsior. However, there is always time for a little romance on the side! 

Finally, there is a romance subplot included for Kirk that seems to exist for no other reason than, well, it's Kirk. I don't want to seem ageist here, but many of the more racy scenes written for this novel seem very out of place when you think of where Kirk is in his life. His partner is extremely young, relatively speaking, and while I have no problem with age gaps in relationships between consenting adults, there seems to be no real reason for this one besides adding a bit of romance to the story, with a possible bit of hero worship thrown in. It feels squicky.

Final thoughts:

A sadly disappointing re-read. I remember not entirely loving this novel as a young man, but I didn't recall it being quite this frustrating. The rough characterizations of the TOS crew don't match at all with what we know of the characters, the plot itself is very thin, and the huge errors that stem from a seeming lack of editorial insight are extremely disheartening and throw the reader right out of the story. I wish I could say better things about this novel, but I will have to leave it with a strong not recommend from me.

My next read:

Next up is Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Battle of Betazed by Charlotte Douglas and Susan Kearney.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I wonder what Bones was doing and what was his attitude throughout. That's the only thing that makes me want to flip through this novel.