Star Trek: The Original Series - Devil's Bargain
Published by Simon and Schuster • Paperback
2013 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the Original Series for Star Trek novel releases. After last month's Allegiance in Exile, March brings us the second TOS release this year in the form of Devil's Bargain, penned by newbie Star Trek author Tony Daniel. After so many grand sweeping multi-book series being published over the last few years, it's nice to take a breather and immerse yourself in a standalone adventure from the original 5-year mission of Captain Kirk and his crew.
Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent to evacuate the Federation mining colony Vesbius, a frontier settlement that is on the brink of an extinction-level event, threatening the lives of all the colonists and the disruption of ore production vital to Starfleet. However, the colonists refuse to abandon this settlement, not wanting to leave their claims. It is after these irrational decisions that Spock suggests that perhaps an unexpected ally could aid the colony and help complete the mission....
Devil's Bargain draws on elements from some of the most memorable episodes of the Original Series including "Space Seed" and "The Devil in the Dark" to weave together an interesting enough story about the seemingly doomed inhabitants of Vesbius. Any talk of evacuation is quickly silenced when it's revealed that the Vesbians have significantly altered their genetic code to the point where they are dependent on the planet to sustain them. There are shades of the Ba'ku's plight in Star Trek: Insurrection and the stubborn colonists of Tau Cygna V in TNG's "The Ensigns of Command" here, even down to the obligatory love interest for Captain Kirk (read: Anij or Ard'rian McKenzie) raising the stakes even further.
Tony Daniel manages to reproduce the classic Trek feeling without falling into the trap of making things too clichéd along the way. The characters come across as being true to the personalities we are so familiar with: Bones is deliciously irascible as ever and Spock holds up the tenets of logic unwaveringly.
Many fans will delight at the prospect of revisiting one of the Original Series' most popular species - the silicon based Horta. This time Kirk needs the assistance of the Horta in breaking up the menacing asteroid with their unique ability to slice through solid rock. Like any good Star Trek episode, the novel is peppered with tales of morality focusing primarily on bigotry and xenophobia/racism. A collection of the Vesbian colonists hold on to the view that their genetic modification makes them superior, in a similar fashion to the attitudes of Khan Noonien Singh and his Botany Bay followers from classic Trek's "Space Seed".
Devil's Bargain nicely combines the necessary morality play with a healthy dose of nostalgia and drama. Tony Daniel is plainly an author who is familiar with Classic Trek and his first outing in the novel-verse more than satisfies the demands of this reader.