Star Trek: Titan
The Red King

Authors: Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $10.99
ISBN 0 7434 9628 0
Available 07 November 2005

While investigating the disappearance of a secret Romulan fleet, the
USS Titan has been flung more than 200,000 light years into the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies. The Cloud is home to the Neyel, long-sundered offshoots of humanity, with whom the Federation has had no contact in over 80 years. Now the Neyel are threatened by a mysterious cosmic upheaval that seems to be reweaving the fabric of space itself...

Like the previous book in this series, Taking Wing, The Red King takes a fair while to get going.

Indeed, for me this book was even harder to get into, because its setting, the Neyel Hegemony within the Small Magellanic Cloud, is not one that I was familiar with. The Neyel, offshoots of Terran humanity genetically engineered to survive in the Cloud, previously appeared in the authors' Star Trek: The Lost Era novel, The Sundered, which featured the USS Excelsior commanded by Captain Sulu. How fortunate, then, that two former members of the Excelsior crew, Admiral Akaar and Commander Tuvok, happen to be aboard the stranded Titan to remind readers of what happened last time.

You would be forgiven for wondering whether Tuvok is some kind of jinx, having been present when the Excelsior was catapulted into the Cloud and when Voyager was lost in the Delta Quadrant. The Vulcan wryly acknowledges his bad luck.

Happily, though, Titan's predicament is not a permanent one. Had the starship remained stranded, it would have been far too similar a development to the concept behind the Voyager TV series.

Even so, the Neyel step somewhat on the toes of Michael Jan Friedman's notion of mutated survivors of the Valiant expedition beyond the Galactic Barrier, as documented in his Stargazer novels The Valiant and Maker. Furthermore, the inclusion of an artificial satellite called Vanguard might cause confusion to readers of the recently launched series of books set aboard a completely unrelated Vanguard space station.

Fortunately, as with the same authors' Taking Wing, the novel's pace picks up before too long. The latter half of the book is a frantic race against time to save a planet's population from annihilation as a cosmic upheaval wreaks havoc upon Neyel space. I turned these particular pages at a rate of knots.

In view of the Neyel Hegemony's history of oppressing native races, and given Titan's own multi-species crew complement, concerns are raised that the starship's highest-ranking officers, all of whom happen to be human or humanoid, are giving preferential treatment to rescuing the human-descended Neyel. Thus the book has become unintentionally topical, being published in the wake of questions raised over the alleged racial bias of the USA's rescue efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

The Red King is a decent enough book, though I suspect it will be of greatest interest to readers who enjoyed and are familiar with events in The Sundered.

Richard McGinlay

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