Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Savage Trade

Star Trek: The Original Series
Savage Trade by Tony Daniel
Release date: February 24th 2015
Read March 9th 2015


Previous book (The Original Series): Foul Deeds Will Rise

Next book (The Original Series): Shadow of the Machine


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Spoilers ahead for Savage Trade!

From the back cover:
The U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is en route to the extreme edge of the Alpha Quadrant, and to a region known as the Vara Nebula. Its mission: to investigate why science outpost Zeta Gibraltar is not answering any Federation hailing messages. When the Enterprise arrives, a scan shows no life-forms in the science station. Kirk leads a landing party and quickly discovers the reason for the strange silence—signs of a violent firefight are everywhere. Zeta Gibraltar has been completely raided. Yet there are no bodies, and the entire roster of station personnel is missing...

My thoughts:

Tony Daniel's first Trek novel, 2013's Devil's Bargain, was an excellent entry into the Trek panoply of novels. He took a fascinating species, the Horta, and crafted a very cool story around them. In that novel, Daniel was able to find the voices of the TOS characters and provide a truly fascinating role for them, particularly Spock.

This latest entry, Savage Trade, is similar to his previous novel in a number of ways. For one thing, it is a sequel to an episode of The Original Series; in this case, the third season's "Savage Curtain." Additionally, it takes a species from Star Trek, also rock-based, and fleshes them out in an unexpected way. While the Excalbians are not nearly as interesting (to me) as the Horta, Daniel still manages to make them readable and a fascinating species.

Savage Trade features the return of the enigmatic Excalbians from the episode "Savage Curtain."

I would have been interested to see the research that went into writing this novel. I am a student of history, and while American history is not my speciality, I am always fascinated in the differences between actual history and our perceptions of it, especially with regards to revered historical figures. While Washington is hailed as the first President of the United States and was in many ways a great man, I appreciated that the novel did at least mention his shortcomings and failings. Everyone is human and has many different facets, even historical figures who are revered and reviled alike.

The Excalbians, as before, appear to the Enterprise crew as historical figures. Instead of President Lincoln, we get President Washington this time around.

While Savage Trade was a fun story with an interesting premise, there were a few things about the novel that caused it to lose a few points in my eyes. For one, a storyline featuring the central antagonists of the piece, a L'rah'hane pirate army and the remnants of the Hradrian slaver empire that was presumed to have been eradicated in the 22nd century, was never resolved. In some ways, I liked the way the novel dealt with them, leaving the new government formed by the Excalbians to the task of following up with these plot points, but I would have liked to have learned more about the threat. Also, a new, terrible threat is revealed in the final few chapters of the novel, a storyline that felt just a little too "tacked on" for my tastes.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how welcome a story featuring Spock was during this recent period after having lost the great Leonard Nimoy. Tony Daniel's insights into both his character and the exploration of Vulcan society and history in general was very welcome at this time. It was a pleasure to picture Nimoy "playing" Spock once again in my head as I read Savage Trade.

Spock's role in Savage Trade, as well as the background on Vulcan life, was very welcome, especially during this period following the death of Leonard Nimoy.

Final thoughts:

An interesting read, and one that fleshes out an alien race that wasn't particularly compelling the first time, the Excalbians. I definitely appreciated the work that must have gone into researching this novel, and I found the depictions of the historical characters to be quite fascinating. However, I was curious as to why there were no historical figures from the current century or very many from the one before. For that matter, why not have a few appearances of historical figures from the 22nd century? Can anyone say Jonathan Archer cameo?

Aside from these potentially missed opportunities and a plot that jumps around a little bit too much, I found Savage Trade to be a satisfactory diversion. While I enjoyed Daniel's previous Trek novel more than this one, I am still looking forward to more from this author in the future. There are plenty more Star Trek episodes that deserve a follow-up, and Tony Daniel has proven that he can deliver!

More about Savage Trade:

Also by Tony Daniel:

Star Trek: The Original Series: Devil's Bargain (2013)

My next read:

Next week, look for my review of the newly-released e-book exclusive novella, Shadow of the Machine by Scott Harrison.