Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Assassination Game

Starfleet Academy #4: The Assassination Game by Alan Gratz
Published July 2012
Read July 4th, 2012

Previous book (Starfleet Academy): #3: The Gemini Agent

Spoilers ahead for The Assassination Game!

From the back cover:
The rules are simple: draw a target.  Track him down and "kill" him with a spork.  Take your victim's target for your own.  Oh, and make sure the player with your name doesn't get to you first.  No safe zones.  No time outs.  The game ends when only one player remains.
James T. Kirk is playing for fun.  Leonard "Bones" McCoy is playing to get closer to a girl.  But when a series of explosions rocks the usually placid Starfleet Academy campus, it becomes clear that somebody is playing the game for real.  Is it one of the visiting Varkolak, on Earth to attend an intergalactic medical conference?  Or could it be a member of a super-secret society at the Academy dedicated to taking care of threats to the Federation, no matter what rules they have to break to do it?  Find out in The Assassination Game.

My Thoughts:

Up to this point, I have been avoiding the new young adult series set in the J.J. Abram's universe.  I obviously enjoy the main line of Star Trek novels, but the idea of Trek young adult novels didn't really appeal to me.  However, new Star Trek is always enticing, so I decided to pick up The Assassination Game and give it a try.  For the most part, I wasn't disappointed.  Alan Gratz has managed to pen an good story that, while tailored to young adult sensibilities, was still interesting enough to hold my attention.


The story itself is somewhat predictable.  I was able to figure out "whodunit" well before the big reveal.  However, because it is young adult, it gets a bit of a pass for that.  The characters were very well-written, and the "voices" of the new movie versions of the characters come through quite well.  The Assassination Game definitely fits well with J.J. Abrams's movie characters.  Chris Pine's Kirk and Karl Urban's McCoy particularly come through well.


One aspect of the 2009 Star Trek film that I found a little hard to deal with was the relationship between Spock and Uhura.  The beginnings of that union are touched upon in The Assassination Game, and while I still have reservations about it, I thought the subject was handled quite believably.  While I still feel that the relationship as depicted in the film isn't entirely in-character, I accept the fact that this is a new take on Star Trek, and the changes made mean that some liberties can be taken.


Finally, a number of allusions and homages exist in this novel, some of them to great effect, while some others are a little jarring and intrusive.  Most of the references are small and caused this reader to smile knowingly.  However, one in particular was a little over-the-top and went a little too far.  At one point, Kirk and a group of cadets are discovered to have been fighting with a visiting delegation.  The cadets are hauled before their supervisor and questioned about the fight.  The ensuing dialogue is lifted almost completely from a similar scene in the classic episode "The Trouble With Tribbles."  While I have no problem with small references and homages, after about the sixth line taken almost verbatim, it was a little much.


Still, this minor quibble aside, The Assassination Game was an interesting read, and I would recommend it for anyone who is hungry for new Star Trek stories set in the new continuity to tide fans over until the new movie's release in 2013.


Final Thoughts:

It's clear that Alan Gratz is a die-hard Star Trek fan who certainly knows his stuff.  The Assassination Game is a fun tale, and while the story is fairly simple, it reads quite well for a young adult novel.  Also, I enjoyed the reference to this unique product from Thinkgeek.com.  A reference to the same item can be found in the Star Trek: TOS novel That Which Divides by Dayton Ward, released earlier this year.

More about The Assassination Game:



My next read:

Hopefully I'll be able to have a review for The Rings of Tautee up soon.  Away-from-keyboard life has been encroaching on my writing time!  Stay tuned!