BOOK REVIEW: The Shocks of Adversity, by William Leisner

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  • A standalone novel
  • Features the characters of The Original Series
  • Published by Pocket Books in 2013
  • Space Opera
  • 324 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐

With the Enterprise heavily damaged, Kirk accepts an offer of help from an alliance of aliens known as the Goeg Domain. But are these saviours all they seem to be, or is there a more sinister agenda at work . . ?

What is science fiction without an ally who isn’t all they seem? Individuals of uncertain loyalty are a staple of fiction of all genres. But science fiction has cornered the market in having a civilisation that seems wonderful on the surface, but shows a deeper darkness when scratched. Stargate did it numerous times (including the Eurondans, in an episode starring Deep Space Nine‘s Rene Auberjonois) and Star Trek is riddled with the trope in both TV and literature. Appearances can be deceiving, after all, and all that glitters is not gold. If there’s one universal truth out there, it’s that anyone who claims to have achieved perfect harmony should on no account be trusted. Case in point: The Goeg Domain.

It’s clear from the outset that the Goeg Domain are not as closely aligned with Federation ideals as they first say, but the journey getting to the big revelation is still an interesting route. For a one-off antagonist, they are surprisingly well-drawn. Star Trek has a habit of painting alien civilisations as monocultures – somewhat ironic, given the creed of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations – but the Goeg break out of that unfortunate tradition. The Goeg are only one species among many in the Domain. Yes, they are the dominant species, but that doesn’t detract from how fascinating it is to see such a close parallel to the multicultural Federation. In fact, there are certain similarities between the human-dominated Starfleet and the Goeg-dominated Domain. Even the nominal villains of the piece, a group known as the Taarpi, are not a single species, but an alliance of several. The Shocks of Adversity may just hold the record for most original species introduced in a single book.

Diversity is where the similarities end. The Domain are not as forward thinking as the Federation. While Kirk and his crew have downtime, paly games and banter with one another, the crew of the 814 (because the Goeg do not believe in naming their ship) simply have their duties, and time to themselves. Every order is masked by euphemistic codes. ‘8-4, 9-10’ and so on. They are an intensely closed-off society, even amongst each other. If you’re familiar with the Litverse, then you might well notice certain similarities between the Goeg and the Breen as depicted in David Mack’s Zero Sum Game. There’s no connection between them (this is one of those wonderful books that truly stands alone, without relying on twenty other novels as background reading) but the way they are presented is remarkably similar. It’s probably a coincidence, but I am a fan of both Domain and Confederacy. They’re understandable, but utterly alien nonetheless.

A by-the-numbers plot aside, this is a very good book. An d so what if it’s a little on the predictable side? Leisner is a strong writer, and he weaves a tale in which all the principle cast have something to contribute. More than that, he remembers that characters beyond Kirk and crew have an impact on the story. This may be the only appearance of the Goeg Domain, but I have enjoyed the time spent with the 814 and its crew. The Shocks of Adversity has a fun story, a brutal twist, great characters, and clean prose. It will entertain you, and then get you thinking. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
Orion’s Hounds, by Christopher L. Bennett
Acts of Contrition, by Kirsten Beyer
Zero Sum Game, by David Mack

Published by Alex Hormann

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

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