BOOK REVIEW: Sword of Damocles, by Geoffrey Thorne

click here for a full index of all my Star Trek reviews

damocles.jpg

Era: Post-Nemesis

Series: Titan (#4)

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Time Travel

Pages: 370

Publication Date: 2006

Verdict: 2/5

 

Titan finds itself in orbit of a world where time is not as we know it. The anomaly known as The Eye had brought fear for countless generations, and for William Riker and his crew, the consequences of interference could be deadly . . .

Between 2011 and 2014, I read a lot of Star Trek books. The Romulan WarDestiny,  Typhon Pact, and a few others too. I first picked up Sword of Damocles at the end of that initial burst of interest, and for six years, it was the last Star Trek book I read. Dropping into the middle of a series can be rough, but Titan is an easier access point than the others I’ve mentioned here. Sword of Damocles, however, is not terribly accessible. It’s not a bad book, but it is a very odd one, and rereading it now, I understand why my interest waned the first time around.

A lot of the weirdness comes down to structure. The book is split into two parts, but the first thing you notice is that it starts with an epilogue. Because this is Titan‘s obligatory foray into time travel. Star Trek has handled time travel a lot, and to varying degrees of success. For every ‘City on the Edge of Forever,’ there is a ‘Shattered.’ The time travel in this book doe snot work for me at all. I prefer clear delineation between past and present, while Sword of Damocles skips around like nobody’s business. It’s hard to follow in a way that goes beyond the character’s initial confusion. There are points when I didn’t know when the book was set, and Thorne offers few clues. This might work for some readers, but it doesn’t for me. I believe this is Thorne’s sole Star Trek novel, and I have to say his style simply isn’t to my taste. The prose is hard to get into, and the time travel element makes the plot hard to follow.

There are some parts of Thorne’s style that I really like, however, which makes my overall apathy toward this book even more frustrating. Thorne puts to good use the universal translator, for example. A lot of the time, it’s a hand-wavy way to have aliens speak perfect English (or whatever language you’re reading in), but here Thorne acknowledges that not every word has a direct translation. Seeing brackets and slashes in the middle of dialogue is odd at first, but it’s pulled off very well. I also enjoyed the use of log entries to track the initial survey of the planet. Logs have been a key part of Star Trek since the earliest days, but it’s surprisingly rare to see them employed in the novels. if these two elements had been more prominent, perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more.

In spite of a few touches I appreciated, this fourth outing for Titan and its crew is a rare misfire for Star Trek novels. This time, however, it won’t be the end of my journey through the canon. merely a bump in the road.

Published by Alex Hormann

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

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