Thursday, September 19, 2013

Star Trek - Double Helix: Infection book review

As I was reading Double Helix: Infection on Kindle as part of collection, I was shocked at how suddenly it ended. I felt like I wasn't even halfway through the story when all of a sudden things started to wrap up. The story never really got going, the ending was by chance, I just don't feel any sort of resolution from it at all.

Now obviously it's part one of a bigger series so it was never going to be one hundred percent resolved, but you can frame it in a way that offers the individual story closure. The situation on that particular planet could be much better addressed than it was.

Solomon, a gun for hire, releases a killer virus on a backwater world that only targets half-human hybrids. This kicks off a whole host of racial tension on the planet. Riker accidentally falls in with the racist extremists, Worf has to deal with Klingons trying to escape the quarantine, Troi contracts the virus as it gets loose aboard the Enterprise, all while Dr Crusher races for a cure. All of that sounds exciting, a great set-up for a ripping yarn. Only it never is.

Riker's accidental infiltration happens right at the end, just before the end is obvious. Worf just gets the Klingons drunk, feels stupid and is never heard from again. Troi contracts the virus as Crusher offers an explanation as to how they can keep someone alive indefinitely, though it won't cure them it will reset the virus to its first stages, meaning her life is never in any real danger. Solomon is never explored past his introduction as he releases the virus, then suddenly he's dead. There's an entire second Galaxy-class starship that turns up that adds absolutely nothing to the story at all.

So how does it resolve? By Tasha Yar and Data accidentally glancing up at just the right moment and spotting Solomon taking readings. It's so anti-climatic you almost don't notice Crusher comes up with an idea that might offer a solution, only for it to not matter as they now have all the data from the terrorist's ship.

The other aspect, the raging racist tendencies of backwater humans and their KKK-like group that the book spends so much time hand wringing and – rightfully - amazed at how modern humans can still think that way is possibly even worse. We get countless examples of it being out of control and short sighted, yet how is it resolved? By blaming the outbreak on them and banning their organisation. No lessons are learnt, nothing is done to really resolve the problem, just a law is passed to drive them underground. It's possibly the worst non-Starfleet, Big Brother Government ending you could imagine. There's even hints by Riker that there's something going on with the leadership and it's all a big manipulation but it's never revealed. Now, admittedly, this could be an area that's expanded on in later books, but you could quite easily make it a cell of a larger conspiracy that the crew of the Enterprise never actually realise. At least it would give them some sort of victory, other than being handed the cure.

Even with all that - which strikes you as the story ends - throughout the book you have to deal with the author's choice of showing you internal conflict versus dialogue. It's an interesting idea, showing how different what people say and what people think are, but it never works. It's used far too much as exposition, and just breaks up the flow of conversation or action, making everything a chore to read.

Making matters worse is how Dr Crusher doesn't sound anything like the character we got to know throughout the TV show and movies. It could be excused with someone like LaForge who barely appears, but she's one of the main cast, and it just makes everything worse.

I've read quite a few Star Trek books over this year, and I have to say Infection is the least enjoyable to date.
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