Star Trek
Rihannsu - Book 5
The Empty Chair

Author: Diane Duane
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 0891 5
ISBN-10: 1 4165 0891 0
Available 01 January 2007

War has come and on its heels chaos stalks the universe. Pitted against a dictatorial Romulan Empire intent on unleashing its apocalyptic Sunseed weapon against, not only the Federation but also against the dissidents within its own borders, are men and women of courage and honour. Commander Ael t'Rllailleu, late of the Romulan Star Empire and Captain of the
Bloodwing, has set in motion events which will either free her people from the tyranny under which they labour or bring down the great civilisations. Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise must follow the Bloodwing deep into the heart of the Romulan Empire to cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war - hoping that freedom for the Romulan's will mean safety for all...

The Empty Chair is the fifth and last book in the Rihannsu series, written by Diane Duane, whose name should be familiar to any Star Trek fan.

Given that I was pretty harsh about the previous two books in the Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages collection, it was nice to see Duane back on form with this, her last story.

The large portions of pontificating have been expunged in favour of a much greater balance between character development and action, as have, thankfully, the incomprehensible sentences in Romulan. Depending which part of the previous stories you enjoyed, this will either be a good or bad thing. For myself it makes for a much more engaging read.

The book continues to focus on the major protagonists from the previous books. Obviously, the crew of the Enterprise are represented, though their characters are now so well known there is little in the way of radical alterations which can be made which wouldn't have had Duane lynched by the nearest fanboy.

For the Romulans, Ael continues to grow and change and, apart from the Federation spy Terise Haleakala-LoBrutto, continues to be the most interesting character in the book. A number of new characters are introduced or further fleshed out. The Hamalki physicist K's't'lk joins the Enterprise to help counteract the Sunseed technology, though in truth most of the characters' attributes and contributions could have been given to Scotty with little detrimental effect on the overall book.

The books works pretty well as a stand alone story. Whilst it's true that to get the most out of The Empty Chair it would be preferable to have read the previous four in the series, it not strictly necessary as Duane provides enough of the back story to get you up to speed on events.

So, the book represents, overall, a very satisfying end to what was a fairly inconsistent series. Given the constrictions writing for the crew of the Enterprise it would be intriguing to see some books about Ael's attempt to reconstitute the Romulan Empire; after all, even in canon, this is a blank sheet - a veritable playground just waiting for Duane's imagination to go romping through.

Charles Packer

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