Star Trek
Crucible: Kirk
The Star to Every Wandering

Author: David R George III
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 0 7434 9170 9
ISBN-10: 0 7434 9170 X
Available 02 April 2007

James T Kirk, displaced in time, allows the love of his life to die in a traffic accident, thereby preserving Earth's history. In a single moment that haunts him throughout his life, he saves the timeline at the cost of his happiness. Returning to the present, he continues a storied career in Starfleet, but the incandescence that once filled his heart remains elusive. Now, facing his own death, the very fabric of existence collapses across years and light-years, forcing him to race against - and through - time itself, until he comes full circle to that one bright star by which his life has always steered...

The final book in the Crucible trilogy defies reader expectation by using a very different sort of plot structure to its predecessors. Crucible: McCoy and Crucible: Spock each weaved two distinct yet connected timelines, which tended to progress in a forward direction. The plot of Crucible: Kirk is at once more linear and more convoluted. I'll try and explain what I mean, though it might make your brain hurt...

This book joins a long line of works, including the "Shatnerverse" novels and Engines of Destiny, that have attempted to compensate for the wasted opportunity that was Kirk's under-use in Generations. Here, as in Shatner's The Return, we learn that Kirk escapes his apparent demise following the showdown with Soran to experience "one last adventure".

The exact circumstances behind this resurrection are rather mind-bending, though they remain true to the depiction of the nexus in the movie. Kirk is drawn back into the nexus, where he meets a duplicate of himself: as with Guinan, it seems that anyone who exits the nexus leaves behind an "echo" of him- or herself. (Hmmm... that means there must be another Soran in there somewhere, but I digress.) The plot then unfolds in a basically linear fashion, but as Kirk pursues his other self through the nexus, he experiences re-creations of several television and movie moments. Then, as he pursues his other other self, his pre-Generations self of 2293, there are flashbacks to other past times.

As with the other novels in this trilogy, David R George III reconciles certain inconsistencies from previous adventures, such as why those nifty life-support belts from the animated series never made it into any subsequent movies or television episodes.

More to the point, he tackles the question of why Kirk didn't fantasise about Edith Keeler when he was in the nexus, but rather that Antonia woman, whom we'd never heard of before. (The real-life explanation is obvious: it would have been a difficult to insurmountable task to re-create the appearance of a 1960s Joan Collins through make-up, casting or special effects. In any case, the age gap between Edith and Jim would have made uncomfortable viewing, which is why the production team instead chose to depict a little-seen woman from just 11 years in Kirk's past.) The author fleshes out Jim's relationship with Antonia, and delves into the reasons why it failed.

For a while, I thought he might also rationalise the contradiction that exists between (highlight the following text if you don't mind spoilers...) the destruction of the Guardian of Forever in Crucible: McCoy and the portal's subsequent appearances in A C Crispin's Time For Yesterday novel and DC Comics' "Vicious Circle!" (Star Trek, first series, #33), but sadly that is not the case. The Guardian does survive, by transporting itself to 2293, but that's too late to explain its presence in those other stories. However, it's possible to imagine that, in the first instance, the Guardian shifted itself only a few months or years into the future - long enough to fool the Klingons into thinking it was no more. Later, around the time of Star Trek IV, when diplomatic relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire took a turn for the worse, Kirk, Spock and McCoy could have persuaded the portal to once again make itself scarce, perhaps also erasing their own memories of its survival, either accidentally, by a change to the timeline, or deliberately, via a mind meld. By the time the Guardian reappears in 2293, the political climate is more cordial. The surviving echo of Kirk who ends the story on the Guardian's planet five billion years in the past also opens up intriguing possibilities...

Though there are far fewer actual typographical errors than I observed in the McCoy novel, there is a persistent imperfection in this book's copy-edit. Why is it Veridian Three (with the number spelt out) but Veridian IV (with Roman numerals)? These planet names crop up repeatedly, so it's a pity they couldn't have been standardised one way or the other.

As I have noted, Crucible: Spock (388 pages) is a much shorter work than Crucible: McCoy (624 pages). Crucible: Kirk is shorter again - just 269 pages, plus a two-page foreword and an 18-page afterword, which discusses the entire trilogy. From another author, 269 pages wouldn't be considered a short novel, but, as he observes in his foreword, George tends to write long.

As is the case with Crucible: Spock, some of the material from Crucible: McCoy would have been just as appropriate in this book, if not more so, such as Kirk's emotional suffering during and after the episode Operation -- Annihilate! In fact, large chunks of the narrative, which describe the dramatic end of the original five-year mission and Kirk's actions on board the Enterprise-B at the start of Generations, are recycled from the McCoy novel. However, the author adds to the Generations material, including an expansion of the deleted opening sequence in which Chekov and Scotty meet Kirk following his orbital skydive.

In fact, both Crucible: Spock and Crucible: Kirk grow out of and build upon the 23rd-century strand of Crucible: McCoy in such a way that each book you read enriches and informs the enjoyment of the others, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. All in all, this novel and the entire trilogy provide an unusual but enjoyable and entirely fitting celebration of 40 years of Star Trek. It was... fun.

Richard McGinlay

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