Thursday, March 10, 2016

Miasma

Star Trek: The Original Series
Miasma by Greg Cox
An e-book exclusive release
Release date: February 22nd 2016
Read February 23rd 2016


Previous book (The Original Series): Child of Two Worlds

Next book (The Original Series): The Latter Fire


Kindle: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Miasma!

Publisher's description:
Star Trek continues its fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2016 with an all-new e-novella from New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox, set in the popular and blockbuster Original Series era!

The Enterprise-A is transporting a party of diplomats when it picks up a mysterious alien signal emanating from a nearby world. The planet’s dense, impenetrable atmosphere makes it unclear if the beacon is a distress signal, an invitation—or a warning to stay away. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Chekov are part of a team sent to investigate, but an unexpected catastrophe forces a crash landing. Now the landing party is stranded on a hostile world, unable to communicate with the Enterprise. While Captain Kirk and Saavik race to locate the lost crew, a badly wounded Spock struggles to keep McCoy and the others alive until they can be rescued, even if that means making an unthinkable sacrifice...

My thoughts:

To start this story off, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, and a few redshirts take a shuttle down to a planet shrouded in an oppressive, blinding fog. As the shuttle descends, the characters remember that they are in the movie era, and thus all wearing red shirts, so the shuttle crashes.

A shuttle mission to investigate a supposed distress call ends in disaster.

On the surface, they soon come under attack by terrifying creatures: essentially giant leeches with legs! After one of the non-main characters is brutally killed, the landing party realizes that they have to get off the surface as soon as possible. With the shuttle in pieces, they set out to the source of the signal that brought them there in the hopes that the Enterprise crew will start there in an attempt to locate them. They soon discover that the mega-leeches are repelled by the smell of Spock's green blood, and set about weaponizing it by extracting it via hypospray and using it as an aerosolized weapon, essentially turning it into a "shark repellent." It is even copper-based like real shark repellent!

What first struck me about this story is how much it felt like an episode of the television series. I know this is an oft-repeated line here, but these e-book novellas are really great at evoking the feeling of watching an episode of Star Trek. The pacing and the length are perfect in this respect. In this case, the story feels like a never-aired episode of a non-existent series that takes place in the late movie era. This is one of my favorite periods in Trek history, made all the more interesting by the lack of stories set there.

The circumstances in Miasma are reminiscent of another doomed shuttle mission decades earlier...

In many ways, Miasma is reminiscent of the TOS episode "The Galileo Seven." The characters even comment on the fact that they are in a very similar situation. Where Miasma shines, however, is in juxtaposing these adventures by showing how far these characters have come and how much they have matured since that original adventure. Spock, rather than simply applying cold, hard logic, has come to appreciate the human perspective, making allowances for emotion and compassion. Similarly, McCoy reflects that his behavior in this instance is much more reserved and understanding of the pressures that Spock is under while commanding a difficult away mission.

Saavik features in this story in a unique way. 

One fascinating aspect of the story is the inclusion of Saavik. The DC run of Star Trek comics set during this period featured her character, and it is that situation that Greg Cox is emulating here. I loved the dynamic between her and Spock as she and Kirk search the planet for the doomed landing party. The exploration of the link between these two characters was a compelling one, with their experience on the Genesis planet in Star Trek III coming into play in an unexpected way. I also found it interesting that Greg Cox states that he alternated between visualising Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis while writing Miasma; I had a similar experience while reading it. Some parts seemed to fit Alley's portrayal better, while I often found Curtis's Saavik coming to the fore in other parts.

Final thoughts:

Miasma is a fascinating look at the late TOS movie era with characters who have a great deal of experience under their belts. I love the "elder statesman" feel of the TOS crew at this stage, with decades of service having tempered their dispositions and their outlooks. There are some great character moments in this novella, and the inclusion of Saavik was a welcome touch.

It's funny, I was reading Stephen King's The Shining for a book club I am a part of and had to pause to read Miasma. I remember thinking to myself that it would be a nice break from the terror in The Shining, which is definitely an intense story. However, the leech creatures in Miasma were nearly just as terrifying! So much for taking a break!

Thanks to the quick pacing and short length of Miasma, reading it in an afternoon is like sitting down to watch an episode of the television series. I recommend it for any fan of the movie-era of Star Trek!

More about Miasma:

Also by Greg Cox:

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

Another new release! This time, The Original Series: The Latter Fire by New York Times bestselling author James Swallow!