Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Allegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Original Series: Allegiance in Exile by David R. George III
Release date: January 29
th, 2013
Read February 4th 2013

Previous book (The Original Series): That Which Divides
Next book (The Original Series): Devil's Bargain

Click to purchase Allegiance in Exile from Amazon.com!

Spoilers ahead for Allegiance in Exile!

From the back cover:
A beautiful green world, rich in fertile soil and temperate climate . . . a textbook Class M planet that should be teeming with life. Scans show no life-signs, but there are refined metals, including those associated with a space-faring race . . . and a lone city. But where are all of the inhabitants? Captain James T. Kirk leads a landing party from the USS Enterprise, hoping to get some answers.
The away team discovers a city in ruins, covered by dust, utterly bereft of life. Tricorder readings indicate that this is no ancient metropolis—it has been deserted only for a year. And just beyond the citadel lies what appears to be an ancient spaceport . . . a graveyard of ships that have clearly been sabotaged.
With these ruins too far from either the Klingon or the Romulan Empires, the Enterprise crew can only wonder: Who could have done this? And could this unnamed threat now pose an imminent danger to the Federation?

My thoughts:

Allegiance in Exile is the first in a long line of TOS novels to be released during the first half of 2013. With only two exceptions (a TNG ebook novella, The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow and the novelization of Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster), it looks to be TOS-only until July's Enterprise novel by Christopher L. Bennett. There have been a few complaints by other Trek novel readers about this overabundance of stories set during Kirk's five-year mission, but if the other novels are anything like this one, those complaints should soon be silenced.

I have long been a fan of David R. George's Trek writing. A few years ago, I read his first novel in the Crucible series, McCoy: Provenance of Shadows, and was hooked. The writing was beautiful and poetic, and the book succeeded not only as a Star Trek novel, but as a really great piece of literature besides. Since then, I have always anticipated opening a new novel by this author. Allegiance in Exile is no exception. When I found out that David R. George III was writing a new TOS novel, I was stoked. He was once again going to write a story set in the era of Trek that introduced me to his writing in the first place! While Allegiance in Exile was not quite up to the wonderful standard set by that favourite novel of mine, it hit very close to the mark and was, in most respects, a terrific read.

Lt. Sulu is given much to do in this novel. Focusing on the
secondary characters is a strength of novels, and something
the television show was rarely able to do.
One of the strengths that George brings to his writing is a stunning verisimilitude. The characters all feel very real, with conflicts and dilemmas that echo real life. For example, in a previous novel of his, Typhon Pact: The Rough Beasts of Empire, George presents a dilemma in the life of Benjamin Sisko, one that seemingly has no easy answer. Many fans were outspoken opponents of how his character was written, but I rather enjoyed it. Sisko seemed like a real person who sometimes makes mistakes. Similarly, in Allegiance in Exile, Sulu undergoes an extremely tragic event, and makes a few rash decisions based on his reaction to the events. While seeing Sulu make these mistakes saddened me, I understood that the circumstances that drove him to take these actions were extraordinary. Many people seem to fall into the trap of holding their heroes to too-high a standard, and are very critical when one of them stumbles. To me, however, these circumstances are realistic. Nobody is perfect, and even the characters we love and idolize will make mistakes. It's all a part of being human (or Vulcan, or Cardassian, or whatever).

The relationship between Kirk and Sulu is explored in
Allegiance in Exile, and, like the real-life relationship
between Shatner and Takei, things don't always go smoothly.
Sulu has always been one of my favourite characters in Star Trek, due in no small part to George Takei's portrayal of him. As with most of the characters in TOS beside the "big three," Sulu was relegated to the background in most cases. However, in Trek's later years, he got his chance to shine. I was really happy to see that he has a lot to do in this novel, and his relation-
ships with the people around him are very much center-stage here. Interestingly enough, his relationship with Captain Kirk at times mirrored the real-life dysfunctional relations between William Shatner and George Takei. While this state of conflict seemed contrary to what we know of the characters' professional relationship on the show, David R. George was able to weave this narrative in a way that made the conflict make a lot of sense. I found myself empathizing with everyone involved in the dilemma faced by the characters, a sign that the author was truly able to capture the realism required to make this story work.

The Enterprise makes first contact with
colonists who are originally from this
world, which features heavily in later
years of Star Trek.
From a technical standpoint, Allegiance in Exile is a very well-written novel. I enjoyed that the point-of-view characters tended to be people other than the main cast members of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Instead, we see most of the story from the perspective of Sulu and a young archaeology and anthropology officer, Ensign Trinh. The book is divided into three parts and spans nearly the entire final year of Captain Kirk's five-year mission of exploration as the Enterprise pushes out into a region of unexplored space beyond the Federation's borders. There are several great nods to continuity, including an appearance by Admiral Lori Ciana, Kirk's partner during the Lost Years-era. Also, there is an important first contact featured in this novel, with a species that will become very important in later generations of Star Trek. I don't want to spoil this reveal to people who have not read the novel, but suffice it to say that this civilization features prominently in later incarnations of Star Trek on television. In addition, we gain a bit of surprise insight into a few elements of an era that has recently been "skipped over" in Trek novels, continuity nods that were very much welcome.

Final thoughts:

While somewhat less "epic" than his earlier foray into The Original Series, Allegiance in Exile gets a hearty "recommend" from me. As usual, George nails the characterizations of the regular characters we've come to love, and the characters he introduces are fully realized and compelling. A quick read, I was able to complete Allegiance in Exile in a single day. It was fun to revisit the TOS era, and I'm looking forward to future novels by this author. If you haven't had a chance yet, please check out the Crucible trilogy of novels, especially the first one which focuses on McCoy, Provenance of Shadows. If you are not a fan of David R. George III after reading that novel, then there really isn't anything I can do for you!

More about Allegiance in Exile:

Also by David R. George III:

My next read:

I had been hoping to complete my review of the Reeves-Stevens' novel Federation before this review, but life got in the way. Look for my review of that novel soon.

In addition to the various new releases in the coming months, I've decided to focus my Trek reading a bit more. After a few more "catch-up" reviews of books I read last year, I'm planning to do reviews for two series, one of which I've never read before, and one which will be a re-read. Look for reviews of the novellas that comprise the Corps of Engineers series in the coming months, as well as reviews of the TNG-era novels that mark the beginning of the current "novelverse" continuity. First up in that area of focus is the A Time To... series of TNG novels that told the story leading up to the feature film Star Trek Nemesis.

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