• A Standalone Novel
  • Set immediately after The Undiscovered Country
  • Published by Pocket Books in 1993
  • A Space Opera
  • 340 pages

The Enterprise has flown its last, and now returns to stardock to be decommissioned. Yet at the end of their careers, the crew face on last mission. And for Leonard McCoy, a reunion with his ex-wife . . .

Most of the Star Trek books I read form the Litverse continuity of events between Nemesis and the Coda trilogy, and feature characters from The Next Generation, Dee Space Nine, and Voyager. There’s something very appealing about seeing how the universe developed over time. And if I’m being quite honest, the Original series never appealed to me all that much. I can certainly appreciate its place in the science fiction canon, and it has great stories and characters, but it’s never done all that much for me. When it comes to the films that feature those characters I know even less. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen some of them beyond odd snatches as I flick through TV channels. Nevertheless, every now and then I’m intrigued enough to pick up a book based on the Original Series, as a break from later volumes if nothing else. Shadows on the Sun was just sitting in a charity shop, so it’s not like it’s a major investment if I didn’t like it. So I took the plunge, and here we are.

I’ve commented before that Star Trek is one of the few narratives to give doctors something to do other than just patch up wounded heroes. A lot of the time, we find them at the centre of moral dilemmas, and that has led to some of Star Trek’s strongest episodes. But while McCoy is the star of the show in this book, this isn’t a medical thriller, or even really a story of ethics. Those elements are there, but the foregrounded issue is McCoy’s personal life. You see, in this adventure he must work alongside his ex-wife and the new man of her life in order to bring peace to a planet riddled with assassins. As all who know me will attest, I’m not a fan of romance storylines, let alone love triangles. I suppose there is some redeeming feature in that the characters involved are not teenagers, but still, none of it enthuses me in the slightest. It’s not even the predictability that bothers me. I didn’t see where it was going, in fact, because I had no real interest in the outcome either way. Star Trek has always had romance of the week episodes, but they have never been my favourite. This book does nothing to change that.

The assassin side of things has some potential. The idea of a world where assassinating someone is seen as absolutely legal is actually quite interesting. The ethical dilemma surrounding the ‘right to be a victim’ is among the more ludicrous Star Trek moral quandaries I’ve come across, but there’s certainly mileage to be had in it. Unfortunately, in spite of all the murdering, there’s not a whole lot of tension going on here. Partly that’s because the focus is on McCoy’s romantic woes, and partly because Friedman’s prose is perhaps more gentle than the topic demands. But the real tension-killer is the fact that we spend the middle act of the book in an extended flashback, the events of which we have already been told.

Overall, it’s difficult for me to recommend this book. If you’re more enamoured of the period than I am, perhaps you’ll get more out of it than I did. But for me, it didn’t just fail to stick the landing, it never really took off in the first place.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

More Original Series Novels
No Time Like the Past, by Greg Cox
The Shocks of Adversity, by William Leisner
The Latter Fire, by James Swallow

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