Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Enemy, My Ally

Star Trek #18: My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane
Rihannsu #1
Published July 1984
Read June 5th, 2011

Next book (Rihannsu): The Romulan Way


Previous book (The Original Series): Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Next book (The Original Series): The Tears of the Singers


Click the cover to purchase My Enemy, My Ally at Amazon.com!




Spoilers ahead for My Enemy, My Ally!


From the back cover:

Ael t'Rllaillieu is a noble—and dangerous—Romulan commander. But when the Romulans kidnap Vulcans to genetically harness their mind power, Ael decides on treason.
Captain Kirk, her old enemy, joins her in a secret pact to destroy the research laboratory and free the captive Vulcans.
When the Romulans discover their plan, the Neutral Zone seethes with schemes and counter-schemes, sabotage and war!
About the novel:
Ael is a Romulan commander who is well-known to the crew of the Enterprise.  They have faced her and her ship, the Bloodwing, many times before.  However, when they encounter her this time, she surprises them with the news that she intends to work with Starfleet to destroy a secret Romulan laboratory.  Naturally, Captain Kirk and the other captains in the taskforce he commands are skeptical.  However, Kirk decides to trust Commander Ael and aid her.

For some time, the Romulans have been kidnapping Vulcans.  Commander Ael reveals the reason: Romulan scientists are using Vulcan neural tissue to research the possibility of introducing Vulcan psi-talents into Romulans.  Naturally, this is cause for alarm to the Federation, and Kirk makes destroying the laboratory a priority.  One of the ships of the taskforce, the USS Intrepid, is captured by the Romulans, raising the stakes significantly.  The Intrepid is crewed entirely by Vulcans, and her capture signals that the Romulans are stepping up their plans.  An elaborate plan is hatched whereby the Enterprise poses as a captured vessel to gain entry to Romulan space with the Bloodwing.  Everything seems to be going to plan when suddenly Ael's supposedly loyal son Tafv engineers a mutiny and takeover of the Enterprise.  Now the crews of Bloodwing and Enterprise must overcome staggering odds to complete their mission and defeat the traitors in their midst.

My thoughts:
My Enemy, My Ally provides a very interesting insight into a culture that has traditionally gotten short shrift in Star Trek: the Romulans.  In this novel, we learn much about their culture and beliefs, and what drives them as a people.  Over the years, the Romulans have made interesting antagonists in the various Trek incarnations, but a deep study of them has been lacking.  Their beliefs and way of life are explored mostly through the character of Commander Ael t'Rllaillieu, a Romulan who decides that her government has gone too far in trying to replicate Vulcans' mental talents. Her belief that this is wrong is so strong that she is willing to throw away her career, and ultimately, her way of life in order to stop it. This makes her a very interesting character, in that Captain Kirk (and, by extension, the reader) doesn't know if he can trust her completely.

Novels are often able to take more liberties than television shows or movies. What the audience is presented with is not limited by a visual effects budget or the limitations of prosthetic makeup. Thus, we are introduced to a new crewmember aboard the Enterprise: Ensign Naraht, a Horta. You might remember a Horta as that silicone-based shaggy creature from the original series episode "Devil in the Dark." A Horta crewmember on the tv show or in a movie could only be either cheesy or simply impossible, but in a novel, both the writer and the reader is only limited by his or her imagination.

I found My Enemy, My Ally to be a great piece of writing and a lot of fun to read. The main characters are spot-on, and the new additions to the Enterprise crew as well as other new characters are introduced well and prove to be quite memorable. It is no wonder that this book spawned four sequels, the last of which was published in 2006. If My Enemy, My Ally is any indication of their quality, I look forward to reading them sometime in the future. 10/10.

Also by Diane Duane:

Star Trek #13: The Wounded Sky (1983)
Star Trek #35: Rihannsu #2: The Romulan Way with Peter Morwood (1987)
Star Trek: Spock's World (1988)
Star Trek #50: Doctor's Orders (1990)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Dark Mirror (1993)
Star Trek: Rihannsu #5: The Empty Chair (2006)

Next review:
 Kirsten Beyer's latest Voyager novel, Children of the Storm.