Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Avenger

Star Trek
Avenger by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens)
First published May 1998
Read June 1st 2016


Previous book (Shatnerverse): The Return
Next book (Shatnerverse): Spectre

Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-Market Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

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


Spoilers ahead for Avenger!

From the back cover:
A lethal virus, inimical to all conventional forms of plant life, threatens the entire Federation with starvation and dissolution. With the Federation already on the brink of overpopulation, Starfleet's resources are stretched to the limit. Whole worlds and even complete star systems are placed under quarantine, causing interstellar food supplies to run dangerously low, and hostile alien empires to eye the weakened Federation with malevolence. But now, in this moment of Starfleet's greatest need, Captain James T. Kirk, long believed dead, embarks on a desperate quest to find the source of the mysterious virus.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, Ambassador Spock, his diplomatic efforts stalled by the spread of famine and chaos, returns to his native world of Vulcan to confront a mystery of a deeply personal nature. Did Sarek, his legendary father, really die of natural causes - or was he murdered? Determined to learn the truth, Spock begins a highly logical investigation that soon leads him to a reunion with a long-lost friend he never expected to see again. 

Kirk and Spock, together again, must join forces to save a new generation from an awesome menace unleashed by ruthless interplanetary conspiracy.

My thoughts:

At the end of The Return, Captain Kirk found himself in dire circumstances. Sacrificing his life once again to save countless others, it looked as though we had lost a Starfleet legend for the second (or perhaps third) time. However, in 1998, William Shatner (along with collaborators Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens), once again resurrected galactic hero James T. Kirk. And yet again, he would be in a position to save the Federation of the 24th century. Honestly, how did the Federation cope before Kirk was resurrected, anyway?

Avenger pits the retired captain against an ecological menace: a "virogen," wreaking havoc across the Federation, destroying plant life and, consequently, food supplies and entire ecosystems on many different worlds. I found this aspect of the book to be quite fascinating. I really enjoy when Star Trek stories kind of push against the basic ideas behind Star Trek. Boldly going, exploring, and seeking out strange new worlds; what could be the harm in that? Well, as we learn, the environmental impact of Starfleet and the Federation's program of exploration is a great deal more dire than we ever suspected. I definitely appreciated this "ecological" aspect to the story.


The death of Sarek plays a large role in Avenger. His death may not have been as natural as it appeared...

Another part of this story involves Ambassador Spock and his discovery about the truth behind the death of his father, Sarek. Spock comes to suspect that Sarek was murdered, a suspicion that is borne out in the course of Avenger. It turns out that his death was engineered by a group of renegades called the "Symmetrists." This organization began as an ecological lobby group on Vulcan, and over the centuries, evolved into a cabal of ecological terrorists. The two stories come together when it is revealed that the virogen was engineered by the Symmetrists, hoping to cause the collapse of the Federation.

There is a lot to like about Avenger. The ecological storyline is a welcome one, and I enjoy what the story has to say about unfettered exploitation of new environments versus a policy of ecological preservation. The use of continuity is excellent as well, tying the Symmetrists into known Trek canon, most notably the crimes committed by Governor Kodos on Tarsus IV (see: "The Conscience of the King" - TOS).

I appreciated Avenger's attention to Trek canon, tying events in the novel into known historical events such as the massacre by "Kodos the Executioner."

There were a couple of things about the story that irked me, however. Because it is a book in the "Shatnerverse," there is of course a sort of demigod quality to James T. Kirk. That is to be expected, but it does get in the way of the story at times. In particular, at the end of the novel, Kirk becomes the "Avenger" for Spock's father because of the special relationship they had. I was somewhat disappointed at the novel shoehorning Kirk into this role, and it felt somewhat unnatural. However, as I said, the overall story was definitely enjoyable, and I appreciated a lot of what it had to say.


Final thoughts:

A generally enjoyable outing in the "Shatnerverse," and a satisfying conclusion to the Odyssey trilogy. Despite a couple of annoying things about the story, including Kirk's continual elevation to superhuman levels, Avenger is a lot of fun, with an interesting ecological lesson to boot. For more thoughts on Avenger, check out our discussion on the Literary Treks podcast, episode 151. Link is below!

More about Avenger:


Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Next up for written reviews is Voyager: Homecoming by Christie Golden. And keep an eye out for my video review of new release Deep Space Nine: The Long Mirage by David R. George III!