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Martyr (Star Trek: New Frontier) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Mar 1998
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i bought this book as i had another and discovered it was one of a serial. very good read which led me to seek out others in the serial. i am enjoying the serial, an excellent read
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The things I didn't really enjoy as much were the captain's decisions and the focus on the hermat character:
• Captain Calhoun was introduced as a bit of a rogue, something that seems antithetical to the polish of Starfleet leadership, but has proven to be useful. In this book, he really pushes the envelope, and the smugness with which he does so kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
• Burgoyne, the Hermat, came off to me as a bit of an oddity in the original four books (especially with the way pronouns are used to refer to hir), but not necessarily unwelcome. In this book, I feel like s/he was a bit of a Mary (Gary?) Sue – sort of an "author's pet" if you will. Simply put, Burgoyne becomes a bit overpowered in the physical sense, inexplicably holds a romantic influence over some of the crew, and just by nature of existing, ends up being essential to the resolution of the central conflict. This is explored across multiple chapters, and I was glad it was over.
Both of these things will likely change as the series goes on though, since pride always becomes before a fall, and the rest of the crew's backgrounds have yet to be really fleshed out.
Since it is a series, very seldom does one book hang by itself very well. If you're are going to read New Frontier, start at book one and go straight through the series. I sort of lost momentum somewhere around the mid-teens, but it wasn't the quality of the work ... I started late and read too many in a short space of time. That will cause burn-out on any series! LOL
Martyr is a typical effort in the series. Peter David pretty much always puts some of his characters through a wringer, and Captain Calhoun is the most frequent target. If you like Trek, you'll like New Frontier in general, and Martyr in particular.
The premise of this novel is Captain Mackenzie Calhoun is summoned to the planet Zondar by the locals due to their startling claim he's their planetary messiah. Mackenzie is flattered by this proposal and believes he can use it to bring an end to their centuries-long civil war. Meanwhile, the authoritarian religion known as the Redeemers are dealing with the after effects of Thallonia's destruction.
Part of why I enjoyed Martyr so much is the novel takes the time to walk you through the the setting's craziness as well as address the lunacy of the last four novels. Admiral Jellico doesn't believe a word of Mac's logs regarding the "Great Bird of the Galaxy", for instance, and it requires Shelby citing Kirk's memorable encounters with the unreal to convince him to lay off. Everyone has time to reflect on the previous craziness and that makes the future insanity all the more effective.
This book nicely illustrates a lot of Mackenzie Calhoun's flaws, showing how easily he's taken in by the prospect of being a planetary messiah as well as his belief in brute force over subtler solutions. The arrogance of the boy-warlord turned starship captain is shown as a weakness rather than a strength as is his refusal to compromise on anything.
It's a challenge which reminds me of Captain Kirk's own in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. Seeing him forced to confront problems on an intellectual level rather than through brute force was deeply satisfying. By the end of Martyr, I felt Captain Calhoun was actually worthy of being a starship captain than "Conan in Space."
The character of Elizabeth Shelby also grows. Whereas she was originally a somewhat contrary commander for contrary's sake, her objections are much more reasonable in this book. Still, there are times she comes off as more jealous than introspective, which doesn't suit her character. The whole plot of unrequited feelings between both her and Captain Calhoun just doesn't work for me.
Likewise, the ongoing relationship between Burgoyne 172 and Selar the Vulcan doesn't improve. Burgoyne 172 comes off more as a stalker than a romantic suitor, ignoring Selar's continued requests for he/she to leave. It becomes especially annoying when Selar goes into Pon Farr, which makes the entire thing just creepy. While I can accept Burgoyne is genuinely in-love with Selar, it just reminds me of too many RL situations where someone won't take a hint.
The Redeemers are bad guys I can either take or leave. While I love cruel and evil Star Trek races as much as the next guy, the Redeemers see-saw between ridiculous and nightmarish. They're capable of decimating whole worlds with plagues but their religion is almost parody-like, designed to do evil because their god is too good to emulate.
Overall, I really liked Martyr and think it's a nice set up for a 'serious' Star Trek: New Frontier series. Its flawed but these flaws don't hurt my enjoyment of the work overall.