"The Assassination Game" by Alan Gratz is the fourth book in the Young Adult Starfleet Academy series set in the continuity of the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. The novel's title is a reference to a game played by some of the cadets in which they try and "assassinate" various other cadets via the use of Starfleet sporks. However, the game soon takes a backseat when someone attempts to assassinate various dignitaries for real during a medical conference. All evidence points to a hated alien species known as the Varkolak but Kirk who is acting as an escort to the leader of the Varkolak delegation doesn't believe it and begins to investigate himself.
As with the other books in the series the story is rather predictable and I worked out who the "bad guy" was very quickly. This is made even worse due to the fact that out of the four books released so far in the series, some of the people involved in the various troubles that occur during the novels have been women that either Kirk or McCoy are interested in. Despite this I still found myself entertained as the story is fast paced, action packed and at times quite funny.
What I really do appreciate in this series is that they do try and provide some type of continuation between them. It is nice to see some of the various minor characters popping up here and there to show at least a little bit of linkage between the novels in the series. In addition, Gratz has continued the good work seen in the previous novels in regards to the characters. They are all well-written and I could once again easily envision these characters being the same ones as seen in the Abrams movie.
One aspect to the story that made me either smile or groan was in regards to the various homages to other aspects of the Trek universe. Some of them were used brilliantly but others just irritated me and there is even one part of the novel that seems to be a blatant word for word copy of events that happened in the TOS episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles". Sometimes I think the elements of homage within a Star Trek novel can be too much and this was definitely a prime example of this.
Overall this is an enjoyable novel that has been written by a fan of Star Trek who really knows his stuff. It isn't the most complex of plots but this seems to quite standard for Young Adult Star Trek novels and seems to have been competently written.