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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/11/2005 Archived Entry: "Trek book review: Ex Machina"

Star Trek: Ex Machina
by Christopher L. Bennett
Publisher: Pocket Books

Review by Kathryn Ramage

This novel begins immediately after the events in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it's really more of a sequel to the original series episode, "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." While there are references to the transcendental fate of the Will Decker and Ilia, the "machine" central to the story here isn't V'ger, but the Oracle that runs the spaceship/planetoid Yonada featured in that episode.

The Yonadans have arrived at their destination, a planet called Daran IV, some time before the story begins. Former Oracle Priestess (and former McCoy love interest) Natira is doing her best to bring her people into the 23rd century, but perhaps she is moving too far too fast, for a number of Yonadans resist the abrupt change and refuse to give up the religious aspects of their old way of life under the mind-controlling Oracle. Many continue to worship the old spacesphere they've left behind, which is now visible in orbit above their new home. Some have turned to violence, even terrorism*, to force a return to the old ways. The Enterprise is called to Daran IV -- which is just what the terrorists have been hoping for, since they remember Kirk and his part in the destruction of their Oracle's power very well.

For me, the chief delight in this novel is not the story itself, but the way it plays with some long-standing Trek tropes: Kirk's reputation as a hot-headed, impulsive man of action, and as a "god-killer" (i.e., the man who's talked who-knows how many computers into short-circuiting). There are also some very interesting subplots involving our lead characters' personal lives. McCoy is reluctant to face Natira -- who, unlike so many of Kirk's love-of-a-lifetime-this-week, has not obligingly died, and to whom the good doctor has to confess that he is no longer in love with her. Spock has his own problems as he tries to adjust to the emotions he has acknowledged after his mind-meld with V'Ger in The Motion Picture, and as he faces the prejudice of other Vulcans because of it. These two subplots collide when McCoy and Spock have a wonderful conversation about their old logic/emotion debate, and actually agree that a synthesis of the two is probably best. This may be my favorite scene in the book.

* Is it my imagination, or is there a lot of contemporary-sounding terrorist activity going on in Trek novels these days?

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