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Book Review

Book Cover

Star Trek: Titan
Sword of Damocles


Author: Geoffrey Thorne
Pocket Books
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.50
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2694 0
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2694 3
Available 07 January 2008

Titan’s travels take it to a world at the edge of reason. Orisha is a planet whose people have lived for centuries beneath an unfathomable celestial body. From the moment it first appeared, “the Eye” was thought to be something unnatural, an ill omen that has made them feel watched, exposed, vulnerable - provoking a primal fear that has steered the course of their civilization. Many are convinced it represents an intelligence that is studying their world... and perhaps waiting to destroy it. But the secret behind the Eye threatens Titan as well as Orisha - and it holds a special meaning for one particular member of Riker’s crew, whose lifelong quest to balance faith and scientific truth is tested against the harsh, unblinking glare of inevitability...

Following a gap of nearly two years, Titan is back, this time written by first-time novelist Geoffrey Thorne.

The story is a contentious one, especially when it comes to matters of faith. Both sides of the argument are presented, so as to try and appease believers and non-believers alike, but in so doing there is a risk of alienating both groups. The downside of religion is presented in the insectoid shape of the Orishans, who live in fear of punishment by their god and will do anything to avoid the Eye’s wrath, including going to war with their rival clans. However, even under such conditions, free will shines through, as a number of Orishans are seen to doubt the divinity of the Eye. Providing a counterbalance to this oppressive and self-destructive regime is Titan’s Bajoran Science Officer Jaza Najem, whose faith in his peoples’ Prophets is explored via various flashbacks. But even his views are challenged, particularly by another fascinating alien: the ship’s new Selenian crewmember, the golden-skinned Y’Lira Modan.

Najem’s actions, which are central to the plot, are also contentious, as he becomes personally involved in Orisha’s cultural development, against Starfleet policy. However, here he is acting as an instrument not of Starfleet but of the higher authority of the Prophets, and it can be argued that he is simply attempting to minimize the impact of damage that has already been done. Even so, I doubt Gene Roddenberry would have approved.

Nor would he have approved of Will Riker’s (albeit brief) thirst for revenge, when he believes that his wife has been killed.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing (Roddenberry’s disapproval, I mean, not the potential loss of Deanna Troi). After all, Roddenberry disliked conflict between his Next Generation Starfleet crewmembers, yet character conflict makes for good stories. We get plenty of conflict here, as Riker and Troi’s marriage hits the rocks, First Officer Christine Vale increasingly doubts their efficacy as officers as a result, and Chief Engineer Xin Ra-Havreii becomes ever more erratic as he is troubled by his inner demons following the Luna disaster.

Thorne’s plot somehow manages to be both predictable and confusing. I found much of the science surrounding the Eye and its spatiotemporal effects rather difficult to grasp. Conversely, a development that seems intended as a major twist (the supposed destruction of Titan) didn’t have me fooled for a moment (given that Titan is responding to a signal from one of its sister ships, the Charon, it’s hardly a surprise that the wreckage of a Luna-class starship discovered by the shuttlecraft Ellington should turn out to be that of the Charon). [Highlight the missing text to reveal the spoilers.]

There are also more than a few typographical errors, including some disagreement as to whether the vessel is travelling at warp two or warp three. The Ellington appears to be fitted with “breaking thrusters” - I presume that the author means “braking thrusters”, rather than thrusters that break things.

Despite these flaws, and the fact that the story is rather slow to kick off, Sword of Damocles is ultimately rewarding. Though it takes a while to get to the point, Thorne’s Sword is sharp enough to be worth keeping an eye (or even an Eye) out for.


Richard McGinlay

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