Sunday, December 23, 2012

River of Blood

Star Trek: Errand of Vengeance Book Three: River of Blood by Kevin Ryan
Published August 2002
Read August 14th 2012


Previous book (The Original Series): Errand of Vengeance #2: Killing Blow
Next book (The Original Series): Gemini


Next book (Errand of...): Errand of Fury #1: Seeds of Rage


Click to purchase River of Blood from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for River of Blood and the Errand of Vengeance series!

From the back cover:
Every person has a story, and those who are lucky enough to share the voyages of Capt. James T. Kirk aboard the Starship Enterprise have stories like anyone else's. Some live, some die, but even those who serve below deck sometimes make all the difference in the universe!
The news from Starfleet Command is grim: a full-scale war against the Klingon Empire is coming, a war that the Federation may not be able to win. In anticipation of a monumental conflict, the U.S.S. Enterprise is assigned to guard a vital starbase located perilously close to Klingon space.
But even as Kirk's mission brings him into a tense confrontation with an invading Klingon battle cruiser, an equally deadly menace lurks within the ranks of his own crew: Klingon infiltrator agents, posing as Starfleet officers and sworn to destroy the enemies of the Empire - even at the cost of their own honor!

My thoughts:

The third and final book in the Errand of Vengeance series brings most of the plot threads introduced in the previous two books to a close. The story of Kell (aka "Jon Anderson") is wrapped up in a somewhat predictable fashion. Interestingly enough, I was surprised by how little his story actually featured in this novel. Most of his journey had been laid out in the previous two novels, all that's left here is for the setup to be played out to its logical conclusion.

The Klingons' war preparations mean
they need a great deal of dilithium
For the end of the miniseries, author Kevin Ryan came up with the "big event" of a Klingon siege on Starbase 42 in order to steal a mother lode of starship-grade dilithium crystals to fuel the Empire's war machine. The focus on action in this particular novel does mean that many of the character moments that made the first two books so good are pared down quite a bit; however, most of the characters introduced earlier in the series have at least one chance to shine. Of special note is Admiral Justman, whose exploits in River of Blood are particularly exceptional. Many of the situations depicted in this novel are very well-written. The action is compelling and held my attention. Like the preceeding books, River of Blood is a pretty quick read. The characters we've come to love in the Errand of Vengeance series are consistently written with Ryan's usual aplomb.

If I have one major gripe with River of Blood, it is once again in the editing of the novel. Several small errors and mistakes creep into the prose, and while they are indeed minor, they still serve to pull me out of the story. For example, on more than one occasion, the name of the starbase is incorrectly given: it changes from 42 to 43 and back again in only a few pages. It is somewhat frustrating when small details can't be kept consistent in a novel such as this.

The series as a whole:

Duty, honor, redemption, and sacrifice: all of these topics feature heavily in the Errand of Vengeance series. Author Kevin Ryan has a terrific handle on the Klingon psyche. The seeds of the gradual evolution of mainstream Klingon culture from the conniving, scheming baddies of The Original Series into the honor-bound, warrior society of The Next Generation planted in this series are a joy to read about. The so-called "Cult of Kahless" will one day come to define the Klingon way of life and aid in the eventual creation of the alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

War is a bloody, messy business, and Errand of Vengeance doesn't shy away from depicting this. Through the eyes of the Enterprise's security forces, we see the horrible effects of violence and warfare, and the very personal sacrifices that its execution entails. Much like the original Star Trek television series itself, Kevin Ryan's books do a masterful job of presenting difficult questions without clear-cut answers. What makes an enemy? Or a friend? Is being "honorable" doing one's duty? And what happens when doing what is morally right is in direct odds to following one's orders or fulfilling one's obligations? Hardly the first work of literature to tackle these age-old questions, but presenting them the way they were here was a real treat to read.

The Errand of Vengeance series was published during a time of experimentation with the Original Series line of Trek books. This "reboot" of the series examined the original five-year mission of the Enterprise from a "lower decks" perspective; rather than following the usual tactic of featuring Captain Kirk and the "principal" cast members, these books were written from the perspective of people traditionally outside the main narrative of Star Trek. I felt this device was used to great effect in this series; a fresh perspective is always welcome and worked quite well in the Star Trek universe. Unfortunately, this experiment didn't last very long. As much as I love traditional Star Trek novels, I enjoy when things are shaken up a bit.

Although this is the end of this particular miniseries, the stories of many of the characters introduced and explored in Errand of Vengeance will return in the follow-up series. Begun in 2005 with Seeds of Rage, the Errand of Fury series follows on directly from the end of River of Blood, and will continue the story up to and including the actual outbreak of war between the Federation and the Klingons in the classic Trek episode "Errand of Mercy."

Final thoughts:

A solid ending to a wonderful series. If you are a fan of action and fast-paced storytelling, you will love this book. Some of the wonderful character moments from the first two books in the series are done away with here to make room for the compelling action sequences, but if you're like me, you'll enjoy the ride as a thrilling climax to this compelling story arc. Editing problems abound, as in the first two volumes, which unfortunately lower the book's rating somewhat. The story continues in Errand of Fury!


Also by Kevin Ryan:

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Requiem with Michael Jan Friedman (1994)

Star Trek: The Original Series: Errand of Vengeance Book One: The Edge of the Sword (2002)
Star Trek: The Original Series: Errand of Vengeance Book Two: Killing Blow (2002)
Star Trek: Errand of Fury Book One: Seeds of Rage (2005)
Star Trek: Errand of Fury Book Two: Demands of Honor (2007)
Star Trek: Errand of Fury Book Three: Sacrifices of War (2009)

My next read:

I am currently reading the third and final book in David Mack's exciting Cold Equations series: The Body Electric. During this hectic holiday season, I will try to find time to type out my thoughts on this latest release. Until then, happy holidays and merry Christmas to everyone out there. Stay warm!