on 22 January 2005
As a Star Trek books fan, I'm not one who likes books that dwell needlessly on series continuity. I picked up the Genesis Wave books, by John Vornholt, because they looked interesting and they are another link from the Original Series (TOS) to the Next Generation (TNG). I was hoping that it wouldn't be wallowing in continuity, and surprisingly, it doesn't. Instead, we get a rollicking adventure (if you can call a book where millions, perhaps billions, of people die as "rollicking") that creates another tie to the old series but yet does something fresh. Just a little bit of character whining detracts from an otherwise quite enjoyable book.
Vornholt does a wonderful job of giving us just enough continuity to explain what's happening without going into excessive explanations about the whole thing. I always wondered what had happened to the device after the Star Trek III movie, as it's never referenced again. Sure, the planet was unstable and blew up, but that's it? Vornholt takes what happened in the movies and extrapolates, giving us a horrifying force that is able to wipe out entire planets. There is one chapter that is a report on the Genesis Device, from four different sources as Starfleet examines the ramifications of the entire project. This gives enough background information for those who haven't seen the movies, but also gives additional information that even those who have seen it don't have, keeping it interesting. Otherwise, the continuity references are kept to a minimum, which I loved.
The body count grows quite quickly, but it's abstract enough that it doesn't get overwhelming. On the other hand, we do see, first-hand, the effects of the Wave, as Leah Brahms (the love of Geordi LaForge's life, though she doesn't know that) weathers it in a specially modified environmental suit that she was experimenting with for other reasons. The descriptions of this can get a little graphic, but only in a PG-13 way.
Vornholt also balances the personal and the cosmic pretty well, giving the reader a lot of character moments interspersed with the Wave itself. Counselor Troi finds herself stuck on a planet taking readings of the Wave (in a modification of Brahms' suit) and also seeing it first-hand. Riker has to do a last-minute rescue of Troi on another planet just before the Wave hits. LaForge pines for Leah, as well as finding himself increasingly attracted to a geologist on board, Dolores Linton. In fact, Geordi became the only annoying part of the book, as he was constantly thinking about Brahms, whining that she didn't know how he felt. Or, later, wanting to tell her but unable to because her husband had just been killed by the Wave and she was after revenge. Very human, but also annoying to read.
One wonderful addition to the book is Maltz, the only Klingon to survive the events of Star Trek III. It's now 90 years later and he's an embittered drunk. He's never been able to live down what happened to him, being captured by Kirk & Company. He's lived on the idea of vengeance against Carol Marcus since then, but when Leah meets him, he's just a drunk on an out-of-the-way Tellarite colony. However, he recognizes Leah's description of the Genesis effect, and hitches a ride with her. He becomes one of the more delightful characters, filled with gusto and energy, willing to follow Leah to the ends of the galaxy because he knows she feels the same way he does about the whole thing. He gives a light edge to the whole thing, balancing out the enormous devastation in the book. Of course, I had a hard time picturing John Larroquette playing him, but it *has* been 90 years. Even better, Vornholt again gives us just enough information to know that *something* happened back then with Jim Kirk, but he doesn't spend two pages explaining the plot of Star Trek III.
The rest of the characters are also well done, even if they don't stand out as exceptional. I loved the relationship between Picard and Admiral Nechayev, mirroring perfectly what we saw in the series. They exasperate each other some times, but both know that the other is good at his/her job and there is a great deal of respect there as well. Riker & Troi are also handled well, given their relationship at the end of the movie Insurrection. Good points all around for Vornholt on this basis.
The plot seems simple at first, but Vornholt adds just enough intrigue to make it even better. Ostensibly, the plot is just to stop the Wave and find out who is using it. But little side-plots, some having to do with the main one and some tangents, are scattered all over, giving the book a lot more depth than it may seem to deserve. The tension is palpable, and the twists and turns are interesting and not *that* predictable. It moves at a steady pace, which also makes for a quick read. It's hard to put down.
Vornholt, as an author, frustrates me sometimes. He's either hit or miss for me. His books in the Time to... series were really iffy, but this one is great. Well worth a read for the Trek fan, and even a not bad one for the non-Trek one.