Best Defense is the second of a trilogy of novels set in the original series universe in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The first book in the series, Captain to Captain was penned by Greg Cox and was reviewed on this blog, you can read that review here. Before I talk about Best Defense, I will briefly recap the events of the previous installment of the series. There be spoilers here, so read on at your own peril.
The USS Enterprise under the command of Robert April visits a planet known as Usildar to the inhabitants. Una, known more commonly to Trekkies as Number One, is charged with learning more about the planet when things go terribly wrong and several members of Una’s landing party are disappeared by an invading force called the Jatohr. Actually, those that have been disappeared have been sent to an alternate universe.
Now, flash forward to Kirk’s Enterprise where Una arrives to pay the ship’s crew a visit, or so it seems. Actually, Una has made it her sole ambition to save the members of the April Enterprise crew and bring them back from the alternate universe. In order to accomplish her task, she first has to obtain an object known as the Transfer Key which has been passed from Enterprise captain to captain over the years, and is kept hidden in the captain’s quarters from all but the ship’s commander and the first officer.
After a chase, Kirk is convinced that Una’s cause is just and allows her to go to the alternate universe to find her lost crewmates, but when Kirk takes the Transfer Key back to the Enterprise, his yeoman, Lisa Bates leaves with the Key and is taken aboard a Romulan vessel, the Velibor.
Picking up where Captain to Captain leaves off, David Mack opens his part of the story by revealing that Lisa Bates is actually Sadira, a human working for the Romulans as an agent for the Tal-Shiar, somewhat like the KGB of the Romulan Empire. She now has the Key and is ready to use it against anyone to complete her mission, which is to make sure the Federation and the Klingons go to war, which would be in violation of the mandates of the Organians (TOS season one, episode 27, “Errand of Mercy”) who tell the two governments that they are to negotiate a peace or be destroyed. It is the wish of the Romulan Empire that they force a fight between the two enemies that will take the Federation and Klingons out of the way, making them the dominant power in the quadrant.
On Centaurus, Ambassador Sarek faces a delegation of Klingons led by Councilor Gorkon (Later to become Chancellor of the High Council) where negotiations are not going anywhere. A little later, Gorkon disappears causing even more uneasiness within the Klingon ranks as they believe that the Federation is responsible for a presumed murder. Both sides call on reinforcements and a Klingon ship along with the Enterprise arrive on the scene and tensions escalate even further.
Meanwhile in the alternate universe, Una finds her crewmates and takes measures to rescue them and make the rendezvous that will take her and them home, but she is unaware of what awaits her as she struggles with the Jatohr to make it on time.
All the while, Kirk not only has to keep the Klingons at bay, but he also has to retrieve the stolen Transfer Key and stop the Romulans from forcing the Orgainians to make good on their promise at mutual annihilation. Then he still has to make it to the rendezvous on Usilde in time to Rescue Una and her band.
Best Defense is a very tangled web that author David Mack unravels with his usual clever writing style that is easy on the mind while keeping the action moving nonstop. From the moment I opened this book, I hated putting it down to get back to reality and found myself picking it up at every possible opportunity to catch as much as I could at every sitting. At no time did I find myself not engaged in the story that had plenty of banter between characters, mostly on the serious side due to the urgency of the story. After all, the stakes are very high when one remembers that, at the end of the day, the Organians are taking an interest in the outcomes of the negotiations between the two Alpha Quadrant superpowers.
Everyone in the story behaved as expected as far as the familiar characters from the Trek universe are concerned, but there were a few characters included here that I was not previously familiar with. One such example is Joanna McCoy, daughter of Dr. Leonard McCoy, who is, in this story, a real chip off the old block. She is every bit as stubborn and compassionate as her father, and maybe even a little more so. Another character that Mack introduced was Elara, a spy for the Orion Syndicate (who is also very interested in the elimination of the Federation and Klingons). Elara poses as a waitress for the catering service during the peace talks and has bugged every possible area she can to gather information for her handler who is only known as the Red Man.
While I enjoyed every bit of this story, I particularly found myself fascinated with the activity aboard the Romulan ship. I would never have imagined that a human Tal-Shiar officer would be allowed to usurp power outside of the command structure the way that Sadira was able to for much of the story. The tension that Mack wrote into those segments of the story were truly palpable and I found myself wanting more. I found it ironic that I was hoping that the Romulans would put Sadira in her place despite the power that she could wield as a political officer. She had absolutely no respect for the command structure of the ship, which was manned by very capable officers. Further, Sadira had no compassion or concern for the lives of the people onboard the Velibor, as she was willing to sacrifice anything to complete her mission. She is a truly deplorable character and made the rest of the Romulan crew looks like they were from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Well written and so well told, that alone was worth the price of the book.
Not all was seriousness though. At one point in the story, Joanna was being held hostage by Elara as she went to make her escape after being found out. While she believed she had the upper hand, Elara asked for some items, including food, water, and a portable toilet. When Engineer Scott delivered the toilet, he told Kirk that it was rigged to deliver a stunning shock to Elara when she sat on it. A booby trapped biffy! My only disappointment was that she never had the opportunity to use it and I was deprived of the opportunity to read the author’s description of that scene; I’m sure it would have been incredible.
I enjoyed this installment of the Legacies series and am looking forward to seeing how the seeds planted in Best Defense are grown in the third and final book in the series. I highly recommend this novel for its nonstop forward movement and smooth transitions between scenes, as well as a magnificently written story.
Well, there it is…
Edited by Benjamin Arrowood