Series: Typhon Pact (#2)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2010
Hit by a devastating natural disaster, the Gorn Hegemony stands on the brink of extinction. The warrior caste, for so long the defenders of the Hegemony, must find a new world on which to settle. Or, with the help of a terraforming device, rebuild an inhabited world for themselves . . .
From the moment a tiger-print clad lizard-man threw a boulder at James Kirk, the Gorn have been one of science fiction’s most iconic alien species. Yet their only other appearance on screens was a brief encounter in the excellent Enterprise two-parter ‘In A Mirror, Darkly.’ The acknowledgements of Seize the Fire show that they have been used more in the tie-in fiction, but off the top of my head, this is the first book I’ve read that features them. certainly it’s the first that puts them front and centre. Just as Zero Sum Game developed the culture of the Breen, so too does this book elaborate on the Federation’s reptilian neighbours.
Here we see how the Gorn are divided into a rigid caste system. Yes, it’s a social division, but the various castes are biologically distinct too. Kirk’s legendary foe, for example, was a warrior-caster, much like the chief antagonist of this novel. But we also see a tech-caste, with hints that there are more castes that we are not being made fully aware of. Not only does this clear up discrepancies in Gorn portrayals throughout history, it also takes them a step away from the ‘alien warrior species’ trope that pops up so much in science fiction. of course, most military encounters will be with the warriors, but even lizard aliens have people back home. The innate Gorn revulsion felt when dealing with mammals is a nice touch to explain their antagonism, and the Gornification of names (Riker being written as Rry’kurr, for example)really helps put you in the head-space of these aliens.
Seize the Fire also features one of my favourite SF ideas: Terraforming. Or more properly: ecosculpting, because it’s not Terra the Gorn hope to replicate. Seize the Fire acknowledges the ethical problems posed by terraforming. Not only can a terraformer turn a desert into a forest, it can also do the opposite. Creation and destruction going hand in hand In a universe where life and sentience aren’t always obvious, Martin provides a neat moral problem about how and where the terraformer ought to be used. Or if it should be used at all. Yes, it can be used to heal worlds, but in the wrong hands, it could also be a devastating weapon.
Though it falls under the Typhon Pact banner, Seize the Fire is a Titan novel through and through. It uses the diverse cast to its full advantage, particularly Titan‘s own reptilian crewmembers. Interesting to note that the Cardassian Dakal is largely elsewhere for the duration of this novel, but Dr Ree and a handful of others play a key role in convincing the Gorn that the Federation is not, in fact, overrun with mammals. Recent addition to the team SecondGen White-Blue also gets to prove their usefulness, and I look forward to seeing how the AI construct is used in future books. This far into Titan‘s journey, it;’s hard to remember that we never saw this crew on screen, for they feel as real and fully realised as any crew of the main shows.
With moral dilemmas, advanced technology, and intriguing aliens, Seize the Fire offers pretty much everything you could want from a Star Trek novel.