Friday, March 15, 2013

In the Name of Honor

Star Trek #97: In the Name of Honor by Dayton Ward
Published January 2002
Read December 7th 2012

Previous book (The Original Series - numbered novels): #96: Honor Blade

Previous book (The Original Series - published order): The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh #1

Next book (The Original Series - published order): The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh #2

Click to purchase In the Name of Honor from!

Spoilers ahead for In the Name of Honor!

From the back cover:
Delicate peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon Empire become complicated when Captain Kirk discovers that Starfleet prisoners of war are being held captive on a remote jungle planet.  Now, with the unexpected assistance of an old adversary, Kirk embarks on a daring rescue mission, knowing that if he fails, the Federation will deny all knowledge of his intentions.
But powerful forces within the Klingon government are determined to keep the shameful secret of the hostages' existence, even if it means obliterating every last trace of the prisoners - and anyone who comes to save them!

My thoughts:

Over the past two years of writing for Treklit Reviews, I have come to appreciate the work of individual authors much more than when I was just a casual reader of Star Trek novels. With an on-going franchise like Star Trek, it seems that the tendency is to overlook the name of the author on the cover and simply see the large "Star Trek" at the top of the page and think you know all there is to know about the book. However, producing this blog and going a little more in-depth into the books themselves has led me to a greater appreciation of the styles of the individual writers. One particular author whose work I have consistently enjoyed is Dayton Ward, who often writes with fellow author Kevin Dilmore. Having enjoyed both his solo and joint efforts, particularly in the Vanguard series, I decided to look into his earlier work. To that end, I recently read In the Name of Honor, Dayton Ward's first full-length Trek novel.

Published in 2002, In the Name of Honor holds another distinction: it was the final Star Trek novel published under Pocket Books' old "numbered novel" scheme. This era marked a period of transition for Pocket Books, and in much the same way, the story of In the Name of Honor takes place during a time of transition for the Federation and our heroes.

Then-Ensign Garrovick, now Commander and first officer
of the USS Gagarin, and a prisoner of the Klingon Empire.
Set in the period between Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, In the Name of Honor takes place during one of my favourite periods of Trek history. This time period seems to be very much unexplored, and I find it to be a very interesting time for the Federation. While peace talks take place between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Captain Kirk learns that several Starfleet personnel are being held at a Klingon penal colony, survivors of an attack on the U.S.S. Gagarin. Among these survivors is first officer Commander Garrovik, who was once a young ensign aboard the Enterprise, and who is the son of Kirk's former commander and mentor. Along with long-time adversary Koloth and helmsman Commander Sulu, Kirk ventures undercover deep into Klingon territory to free the prisoners before the Empire can completely cover up their transgressions in this matter.

At the heart of In the Name of Honor is the conflict between the old-guard Klingons who wish to cover up their secrets and the Klingons who come onto the scene in the TNG era: the followers of Kahless who believe in honor and eschew the despicable, dishonorable practices of yore. I really enjoyed Ward's portrayal of the Klingons here, and the conflict between the two groups and the coming change is a topic that works well for stories about the Klingons in the TOS / film era.

One aspect of the story that didn't quite sit well with me was the 180 degree turn that Kirk's character took at the end of the novel. Throughout the book, he is learning that not all Klingons are bloodthirsty murderers, and through Koloth, he is discovering that many of them follow a code of honor. However, at the end, after witnessing the atrocities committed by a few Klingons, he decides that the entire race is beyond redemption. To be fair, this is more of a problem with Kirk's characterization in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The change in Kirk's outlook is jarring, but I suppose it was the best that Ward could do given where Kirk ends up in Star Trek VI. As much as I love that film, Kirk's attitude (and the attitudes of many of the cast) is completely at odds with how the character had been portrayed up to that point. Compare Kirk's "Let them die!" in The Undiscovered Country to his complete disbelief and abhorrence of the very idea of "race hatred" in the TOS episode "The Day of the Dove."

Final thoughts:

Korax, another minor character from
TOS, features as the  commander of the
Klingon penal colony in this novel.
An exciting, action-packed, and well-written novel from Dayton Ward. I especially liked his take on the Klingons, and his writing lent them a diversity and depth that is sometimes lacking in other works. The turnaround for Kirk at the end, while necessary for the setup to Star Trek VI, felt a little off. Again, though, that is not the fault of the writer, but rather where the character is in the film. The scenes in the prison camp were particularly well-written, and I found myself empathizing with the minor characters who had been created for this story. I also enjoy seeing characters who had minor roles in televised Trek showing up in the novels and given a bit more to do, and In the Name of Honor uses a number of those characters very well. A truly solid novel, and one of the better TOS novels from this era that I've had the pleasure of reading!

More about In the Name of Honor:

Also by Dayton Ward:

My next read:

Next on the catch-up list is a classic: John M. Ford's How Much For Just the Planet?. Coming soon!

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