on 24 October 2003
One of the things that makes the Original Series of Star Trek so great, especially in the books, is the sheer believability of the whole thing. This is one of those books which manages somehow to squeeze in everything you'd expect from an episode, and more. Recently I've read quite a few ST:OS books, which I got as a job lot, and I've been quite disappointed, and left this one to last because I knew that if I read this one, there were three others I'd have to read. BIG MISTAKE. This should have been #1 in the list!
The story is absolutely amazing, as far-reaching as any of the
film plots, and as well executed. This is a Star Trek tour-de-force. As you progress through the story, you'll find your heart
beating faster as the pace hots up. In other parts, you'll find
yourself puzzling what's really going on. I think you'd call this book a "real page-turner".
For me, I always wondered what happened after that game of chess where spock loses, or what some of the other starships in Star Fleet looked like, or what the internal politics of the Romulan Star Empire was really like. This book fills in so much of the background, the mental imagery created makes you firmly believe you've watched an episode.
By the title, I'm not giving away any state secrets in saying that the focus of the book is the Romulan Star Empire. The romulans have cropped up all over the place, but never have they been dealt with, with such care and attention. For one, they all talk romulan! And you don't need subtitles to figure out what they're saying. The writing style is absolutely formidable. It's precise, clean, effective, and leaves you in absolutely no doubt what's going on.
The humour from the episodes is precisely replicated in the book, and will have anybody who has ever seen the Kirk-McCoy-Spock trio have a verbal sparring match, chuckling away. Nor does it over-do it, like some of the other books which try too hard.
If you like Sci-fi, and have, in any way, enjoyed Star Trek, this book must be a first port of call. the sheer quality of
execution is brilliant. I am looking forward to the next three
on 29 June 2000
This is one of those books that is fine as long as you don't nit-pick too much. (For example, compare the time getting to the station to the time leaving it...) However, I can't mark it down from five stars, because the Romulan Commander Ael (something I can't spell from memory) is one of the most compelling characters in the Trek universe. She is a woman who understands the concept of honor, and what to do when all your choices are dishonorable. This book should be re-released soon as part of an omnibus volume: look for it.
Titan continue their line of novels based upon the original Star Trek series with #21 My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane.
Long before the Romulan culture was explored and written about in other Trek series, Duane built up their history and culture in a series on novels about the Rihannsu - or Romulans to us - and gave us a rather interesting insight into one of classic Trek's greatest enemies.
Due to publishing discontinuities, this first book of the Rihannsu was published in the UK after the second one, #4 The Romulan Way, giving readers at the time a confusing read with the earlier story.
The full Rihannsu story line is written in this order; #21 My Enemy My Ally, #4 The Romulan Way, #95 Swordhunt, #96 Honour Blade and finally finished in The Empty Chair. This book is also available in `The Bloodwing Voyages' compendium published in 2007.
While on a stellar charting mission studying some curious ion storm anomalies, the Enterprise is ordered to report to the Neutral Zone to rendezvous with other Federation ships. When they arrive they also find a Vulcan ship and one of Starfleet's heavy battle cruisers.
Several ships have disappeared along the zone and Starfleet Command believes it may be a prelude to invasion.
On the other side of the zone, Romulan commander Ael finds herself separated from her crew and plotting against her own government in order to seek the Federation's help to prevent lethal genetic and solar experiments conducted at Leverai V from taking place.
The book flows along at a rapid pace and Duane populates every ship, giving you lots of interesting characters and strange alien creatures. The Enterprise gains its first Horta crew member in the humorous form of Ensign Naraht. Ael's crew on the Bloodwing are also given depth and background which is later explored as the saga continues.
The interplay between the Federation and Romulan crews is sharp and well written, especially with certain characters like Sulu, Spock, McCoy, Khiy, Tanzer and Ael.
The ending is very action orientated as the battle of Leverai V comes to a head and gives a satisfying conclusion with surprise twist that occurs right in the middle of the conflict.
For those that enjoyed this saga then pick up #4: The Romulan Way for the next part.
on 5 September 2014
(This review was originally written and published by myself on the Helium platform, under the pseudonym Kenneth Andrews)
TV and film tie-in novels do not have the greatest literary reputation, whether they are 'original' stories or novelisations of films or TV episodes. Often this slight regard is deserved, there is a whole raft of self-important Star Wars fiction that only the least discerning Lucas fan could love.
Sometimes, however, the bad press is unfair. Diane Duane's “Rihannsu” series of Star Trek novels has managed to buck the trend for derivative pap as she expanded and explored the Romulans from the original series of Star Trek over the course of about 20 years.
“My Enemy, My Ally” was the first of these mould-breaking books. Ael t'Rllaillieu, commander of the Romulan warbird ship Bloodwing, feels that her people have lost their honour and lost their way. Armed with knowledge of a top-secret Romulan project which will alter the balance of power across the galaxy, she flees the Romulan Star Empire... to join forces with Captain James T Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise.
At the time “My Enemy, My Ally” was published, Star Trek fans had only a couple of appearances in the original series on which to build their understanding of the Romulans. Just as Doctor Who's Cybermen lag forever behind the Daleks in terms of popularity, so too are the Romulans forever doomed to be Star Trek's poor relation to the Klingons.
Undaunted, Duane builds on the sketchy facts at her disposal to delineate a whole culture, a proud, honourable but ultimately paranoid people, with their roots in the Vulcan culture from which they once separated themselves.
Ael in particular is a masterful creation, a character who would be completely plausible in a 60s episode of Star Trek but who has a depth and psychological realism that really does belong in a novel. The idea of Romulans and the Federation working together on board the Enterprise, exploring both the similarities and differences between their cultures and forging greater understanding, well, it could have been nauseating in lesser hands, but Duane's sure-footed style keeps the book from ever getting too cosy.
The crews of Bloodwing and Enterprise might find unexpected common ground during the course of their shared adventure, but Duane keeps up a haze of mistrust between Kirk and Ael. It is always clear that Kirk's agreement to help Ael in her operation against the Romulan project has its limits, and that he remains loyal to the orders of Starfleet. This tension, that Kirk might at any point be ordered to turn on his new ally, maintains an appreciable level of conflict even during sections which might otherwise become schmaltsy.
It's not all brilliant news, of course. All Star Trek's regular cast are present and correct, and characterised in such a way that you can almost hear the actors speaking their dialogue as you read. So McCoy complains about the teleporter, Scott gets annoyed when his engines are damaged, and Chekov claims something or other was created by the Russians. Everyone is acting in character, except for Kirk.
Captain Kirk's womanising ways might not be wholly politically correct this far beyond the 1960s, but the lack of even a token attempt to get frisky with a female Romulan commander does not quite ring true with the character we think we know. Jim is just a little too analytical, a little too calculating, and while a lot of this comes from the intrinsically different demands of characters in novels and in television series, it is still a little bit of a stretch for the reader to accept fully.
On a similar note, the Enterprise is constantly depicted as a melting-pot of different races, with various wild and wacky aliens in uniform cropping up throughout the novel. Scenes in the recreation room in particular resemble nothing more nor less than an attempt to replicate the infamous Cantina scene in Star Wars. Which is all very nice, and makes an effective literary contrast with the paranoid xenophobia of the Romulans, but it runs completely contrary to what is seen in the TV series, where Spock was more or less the only obviously non-human crew member.
Books based on TV series need to stretch the limitations of the source material if they are going to be judged as novels instead of just as papery merchandise, but if Duane has one fault it is that she is writing about an idealised version of the Star Trek universe which just doesn't quite tally with what was actually on TV in the 1960s. She also gets a Doctor Who reference wrong, by having Tom Baker's Doctor pop his head out of the TARDIS and ask for Heathrow Airport (this was a feature of Peter Davison's reign), but that really is nit-picking. Duane likes slipping references to British science-fiction into her work, and another of her Trek novels “The Wounded Sky” features whole scenes of dialogue from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
My Enemy, My Ally, is a classic among Star Trek novels, and has aged extremely well. The gimmick of Romulans working together with the Federation is not allowed to dominate, and there is an exceedingly exciting action-packed climax over and above all the cosy character moments. All of the regulars are given something to do, and with Enseign Naraht and Ael herself, Duane added some solid new characters to the Star Trek mythos. There are several loose ends by the end of the book, but they would all be dealt with over the next twenty years or so.