Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sacrifices of War

Star Trek: Errand of Fury, Book 3: Sacrifices of War by Kevin Ryan
Published January 2009
Read August 24th 2012


Previous book (Errand of Fury): Book 2: Demands of Honor


Previous book (The Original Series): Excelsior: Forged in Fire
Next book (The Original Series): Troublesome Minds



Click to purchase Sacrifices of War from Amazon.com!


Spoilers ahead for Sacrifices of War and the Errand of Fury series!

From the back cover:
Poised on the verge of interstellar war, Captain Kirk's last best hope that the Federation can stop the Klingons is the people of Organia, avowed pacifists.
Forced to disguise themselves as interstellar traders, Captain Kirk and Mister Spock are trapped on the primitive world of Organia as Klingon Defense Forces occupy the planet. Determined to make the Organians see that they need not bow to oppression, the Starfleet officers sabotage Klingon materiel. In retaliation, the Klingon captain, Kor, executes many Organians. Unconcerned, the Council of Elders begs Kirk and Spock to stop the violence.
While in deep space the forces of Starfleet and the Klingon Empire scramble to position their fleets for the first onslaught of what could be a long and deadly war.

My thoughts:

The third and final novel in the Errand of Fury series, and sadly, the final novel in the overarching Errand of... novels by Kevin Ryan. Part one of the this novel, entitled "Errand of War," involves Kirk leading a mission to destroy a Klingon weapons cache in order to prevent them being used against the Federation. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Lieutenant West and Admiral Solow advise the Federation president, Wescott, in the dark days leading up to an inevitable final conflict with the Klingons. I enjoyed the characterization of West in this novel; the feelings of hopelessness and despair when it seems that the war is both inevitable and destined to be disastrous for the Federation weighs heavily on his heart. One can see a glimmer of the attempted assassin he would become in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

During this section of the novel, we also follow Lieutenant Parrish as she travels home to Earth to have her child, the result of a love affair with deceased Klingon spy Kell, alias Jon Anderson, in the previous Errand of Vengeance trilogy. Her transport comes under attack by the Klingons, and she must protect both herself and the crew, as well as her unborn child. This dilemma came across very realistically, and I was truly concerned for Lieutenant Parrish, especially after having gotten to know her over the course of six novels. Like Kell, Karel, and both father and son Fuller, Parrish is written as a well-rounded character. It is clear that Kevin Ryan has a great deal of skill for writing both character-driven and plot-driven tales. He achieves an excellent balance.

Part two of the novel is basically
a novelization of the episode
"Errand of Mercy."
Part two, entitled "Errand of Mercy," is a pretty straight-forward retelling of the classic Star Trek episode of the same name. After all of the tension, all of the build-up, and all of the unavoidable pitfalls that led our heroes to this point, the inevitable happens: the outbreak of open war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Kirk and Spock pay a visit to Organia, a seemingly bronze-age society that lies along the invasion route of the Klingon forces. While the story plays out exactly as depicted in the television episode, it is nice to get the extra detail and insight that comes with a work of novel-style prose as opposed to a teleplay. I did notice a slight change in the tone and feel of the novel as it transitioned into part two. I wonder if that is because I have actually heard the dialogue being spoken in a live action episode, and it just doesn't quite match up with the dialogue from the non-televised portions. Not a major complaint, but it did take me out of the novel just a little bit.

While gauging reactions to this novel online, one opinion that I invariably came across was that in the original releases, the novels were too widely-spaced apart to follow satisfactorily. Seeds of Rage was published in 2005, Demands of Honor a full two years later, and this novel nearly another two years after that. I had the good fortune of being able to read all of them back-to-back (indeed, I was able to read the previous trilogy directly before reading this one as well), and so I was able to follow the story quite easily. It must have been very frustrating to have to wait so long for the next part of an on-going storyline.

The series as a whole:

I really enjoyed the Errand of Fury series. The further exploration of the Klingons and the shift their culture undergoes between TOS and TNG makes for a fascinating backdrop for some great storytelling. Errand of Fury carries forward many of the topics and themes that made Errand of Vengeance so enjoyable. The reality and horror of war, coupled with the supreme personal sacrifices involved, makes for very compelling drama.

One thing that sets Fury apart from Vengeance is the slight shift of focus away from the group experience to the personal one. In Errand of Vengeance, we got to see how the Enterprise's security detail dealt with war and loss as a group. Errand of Fury changes the focus to a more personal level. What are the sacrifices and experiences of the individual as opposed to the group? Through Parrish, Fuller, Karel, and West, we find the effects of the ensuing conflict exact a very real and personal price for each individual.

A new novel coming in
2013. Note the title change:
"Star Trek: The Original Series"
Because the Star Trek: The Original Series "reboot" experiment was not continued much past the Errand of Fury and Janus Gate series, it was very fortunate that we were able to get a continuation of the story of the characters from the prior trilogy. It seems that generic, "five-year mission" type stories sell better than the on-going narrative Pocket Books was going for with the reboot, as the novel line reverted to that style rather quickly. Interestingly enough, the Star Trek novels scheduled for release in 2013 have once again been titled Star Trek: The Original Series rather than just Star Trek. However, from the descriptions we've gotten so far, this seems to just be a name change rather than another attempt to change the dynamic of the series.

One last note: I am disappointed that Sacrifices of War was the last Star Trek novel penned by Kevin Ryan. I would love to see another novel by this outstanding writer. I realize it has only been four years since this book was released, so it is possible that we may still see another entry by him in the future. I for one am very hopeful that we do, as I find his work to be, quite simply, fantastic!

Final thoughts:

An exciting conclusion to this six-part saga, expertly penned by Kevin Ryan, leading nicely into a top-notch novelization of one of the most memorable episodes of the original Star Trek. The stakes were high, the characterizations were well done, and I have very little to complain about. The tone of the novel did change noticibly when it transitioned into the "Errand of Mercy" section, so it wasn't quite as seamless as it could have been. But all-in-all, I was very satisfied with the conclusion to the Errand of Fury trilogy.

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: The Original Series: Errand of Vengeance Book Three: River of Blood (2002)
Star Trek: Errand of Fury Book One: Seeds of Rage (2005)
Star Trek: Errand of Fury Book Two: Demands of Honor (2007)

My next read:

I let myself get way too far behind in publishing these reviews! I'm still finishing up a few more from last year. Next up on the list is a fan-favourite: from 1994, Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.