BOOK REVIEW: The Red King, by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

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red king.jpg

Era: Post-Nemesis

Series: Titan (#2)

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Social SF

Pages: 362

Publication Date: 2005

Verdict: 3/5

Flung across the Galaxy and beyond, Titan finds itself in the territory of a species known as the Neyel. But these are no aliens. The Neyel are an offshoot of humanity. And their home is tearing itself apart . . .

The Titan‘s second literary outing is a lot less successful than its first. We pick up in the immediate aftermath of Taking Wing, with Riker, Donatra, and their respective ships in an unfamiliar region of space. Unfamiliar that is, to all but Akaar and Tuvok. I would assume that the pair’s prior experience with the Neyel is covered in an earlier book (perhaps one of the Lost Era novels) but the brief comments they make about those experiences are of little relevance here.

My main problem with this book is the Neyel themselves. Their social backstory is as follows: Shortly before Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight (as seen in the film First Contact) a group of humans found themselves thrown into deep space. There they had to genetically engineer themselves to survive, and now have tails among other features. The weird part is that they live and speak in a faux-medieval manner. So Earth becomes Auld Aerth and so on. The problem with this is that it makes no sense for them to be so backward. Yes, post World War Three Earth was a regressed place, but not to that extent. And there’s no reason given in The Red King for them to have changed in such a manner in the following three centuries. Again I wonder if context is given in another novel, because it’s certainly not on display here.

But this book doesn’t concern itself with the Neyel (though is enough happening there to fill a novel). We also have an apocalyptic event as a new universe crosses over into our own. This is a bit I did enjoy, as the notion of de Sitter space and emergent universe is exactly the sort of science problem I like to see Star Trek handling. The legends built around the Red King are also very well done, and i wish they’d played a larger part in the story. But there is still more to be wedged into this story. There’s Donatra’s ongoing redemption arc, and a smattering of Klingon politics. It all feels a bit much. It follows on naturally enough from Taking Wing, but there are simply too many elements to The Red King for any one of them to hold my attention fully.

On the positive side, the Titan crew continue to grow and develop. Now that we know the basics, the real character development can start, and Mangels and Martin excel at creating a crew as diverse as Star Trek‘s goals. I can already see a few potential candidates for favourite characters rising to the front, but for now everyone is on the same high level. There’s not a weak link in this chain, and the aliens feel alien without being alienating. Like all good TrekTitan has a cast of characters you want to spend time with, and learn more about.

The Red King is a bump in the road for Titan, but hopefully little more than a brief slump. And if this is as bad as it gets, then it’s still going to be a strong series.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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