It is rare for me to be able to dedicate a day to reading a novel, and usually I prefer to stretch out the enjoyment of reading a good book over several days. The last book that I remember reading in a single afternoon was the second book of Greg Cox's "Eugenics Wars" series. It is no surprise to me, then, that the follow-on volume, "To Reign In Hell" was read in an afternoon, totally immersing me in the struggles and pains of Kahn Noonien Singh.
The novel begins with James T. Kirk visiting Ceti Alpha V about a year after the events chronicled in the second, third, and fourth Star Trek movies. Kirk, accompanied by Spock and McCoy, visit the surface of the barren planet as Sulu maintains a watch above in a small spacecraft. Kirk and company discover many unexpected links that tell the story of Kahn, his wife, and the people left on their own by Kirk so many years before. While this framing story is interesting in and of itself, the real gem comes in the retelling of the events of those years of hardship and struggle that Kahn and Co. had to endure between the destruction of Ceti Alpha VI and the arrival of the Starship Reliant.
In the novel, we are taken into a colonial settlement that is just beginning to turn the tide from bare subsistence to a bright future when Ceti Alpha VI is destroyed and Ceti Alpha V is rocked to its core. There are stories of love and hate, betrayal and deceit, and the strengths and flaws of Kahn - strengths and flaws we have all come to know - are laid out for display in this novel.
Greg Cox manages to write each and every character that appeared on the screen perfectly. At times, I had to simply stop; it was as if Ricardo Montalban or Madlyn Rhue were speaking from the pages. Such writing is difficult to find (though it pleases me to say that, of late, several Trek authors have been getting better and better at it).
What surprised me is the fact that, by the end of the novel, I felt a sympathy for and sorrow for Kahn. The many hardships, the death of his wife, and his own personal quest for revenge actually left me wishing that something better would have happened to Kahn in the end. I truly felt sorry for him, and for those who literally followed him into hell.
There are surprises to be sure in this novel that some will not fully appreciate or like. Some explanations may seem too simplistic, others contrived. If that is how you feel when you read it, so be it. However, to me, this novel is a perfect tale that shows the heart, soul, drive, and pain behind a man who is, quite possibly, the greatest villain in Star Trek history, Kahn Noonien Singh.