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Book Review: Harm’s Way: A Star Trek TOS Novel by David Mack

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On an undeveloped planet in the neutral zone between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, a scientist has gone missing. In fact, an entire team has mysteriously vanished. Ships from both the Federation and the Empire have sent teams to recover the scientist and any surviving research. But the planet turns out to be hiding a deadly secret. The two teams encounter each other and tensions run high. But the only way that anyone is getting off the planet alive is to, *gasp*, work together. Can they do it or will the planet’s secret devour two more teams? All this and more in Harm’s Way: A Star Trek The Original Series Novel!

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Gallery Books for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Star Trek The Original Series: Harm’s Way contains some spoilers!]

A dicey mission involving the Klingon Empire and the neutral zone

The United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire have a newly minted peace treaty. As part of that peace treaty, a neutral zone was set up where neither the Empire nor the Federation is supposed to go. But Captain James T. Kirk has just been given a mission that takes him directly into the newly established neutral zone. 

A civilian scientist has gone missing from a research expedition on Kolasi III. Normally this wouldn’t require the Federation’s involvement but the scientist in question, Dr. Verdo, worked on the highly classified Operation Vanguard. Although Dr. Verdo was let go from that project, it’s believed that their research on Kolasi III was related to their work on Operation Vanguard. The Federation is worried enough to send the Enterprise crew on a search and rescue mission that is both below their skill level and in territory that might start a new war with the Klingons.

Star Trek: The Original Series- Harm's Way
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek episode, “The Cloud Minders.” (CBS)

Making matters worse, the Klingon Empire has sent their own ship, headed by Captain Kang, to Kolasi III. It is imperative that the Enterprise isn’t found in the neutral zone. This means that while a search and rescue team tries to locate Dr. Verdo, the Enterprise must play hide-and-seek with Captain Kang.

Can Captain Kirk avoid Kang and still pick up his team when they leave Kolasi III? Or will this mission set off a brand new intergalactic war between the Federation and the Empire?

Mr. Spock leads the team in Harm’s Way

Luckily for everyone involved, Captain Kirk didn’t accompany his search and rescue team to the surface of Kolasi III. Instead, Spock was the leader of the team. His extremely logical brain allowed him to see past the mutual animosity between the Federation and the Klingons. If the two teams had fought each other instead of working together they would have all died. Working together is their only chance for survival and Captain Kirk’s ego would very possibly have doomed them all. 

But between Spock and Mara, a very level-headed Klingon, the two teams find a way to get past their differences and cooperate. It was very inspiring to see these two find common ground. The other members of the parties had a harder time with the partnership. But they fell in line with their leaders and were able to find common ground themselves. It would be nice if more people were able to take this lesson to heart. I mean, if Klingons and Federation personnel can work together, then we should all be able to get along!

This Star Trek novel is a little slow

Whether or not you like the original Star Trek TV series, the book series is pretty good. However, Harm’s Way is a little slow. I just had a hard time getting into it at first. Once the action really heated up on Kolasi III I enjoyed Mack’s work, but it took a little while. 

Star trek- The Original Series- ship
The USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series.(CBS)

Because so much of the book is told from Spock’s point of view there is a constant emotional filter. Spock famously relies on logic to guide him and constantly tamps down any emotions. Harm’s Way offered some insight into his character so we realize that he does feel some emotions, he just pushes them down and ignores them. Unfortunately, what makes a book interesting is the emotions that the characters experience. Spock consistently ignoring his emotions kept some of the situations from being as interesting as they could have been.

Frequent check-ins with the Enterprise and Suvwl, the Klingon ship captained by Kang, provided some variety. But since both captains were basically in a holding pattern waiting for their respective search teams, there wasn’t much action there either. There was some action and tension as they played a dangerous version of hide-and-seek. But it was mostly a quiet waiting game on the Enterprise and a fruitless interference game on the Suvwl.

Humor helps to keep things interesting

One thing that worked well for Mack was his dialogue. He uses humor to keep the story entertaining. There are lots of quips and one-liners that made me smile as I was reading. Some of the humor was in the unironically delivered sentiments regarding battle and death from the Klingons. Some of the humor was from the understandably irritated Federation search team. And some of the humor was from the delighted-to-be-destructive Enterprise crew. Overall, there was plenty of humor to keep the book entertaining.

Plenty for fans, plenty for newbies

Harm’s Way is based on Star Trek the Original Series. Fans of the show will love the book. It’s always exciting to see favorite characters having adventures. Especially when you can go further into their thoughts, a huge advantage that books have over TV and movies. Getting to know beloved characters more intimately is always fun and helps to really enrich the experience for long-time fans.

For newcomers who don’t have a history with Star Trek, Mack does a good job of explaining what they need to know without bogging down the story. If you knew absolutely nothing about the TV series you could pick this book up and follow the story without a problem. That’s not always the case when a franchise has literal decades of material. 

So whether you’ve watched Star Trek since you were a kid or just heard of it today, Harm’s Way will be a fun read if you enjoy adventures on distant planets with dangerous, hostile aliens hell-bent on destruction.

My Rating: 7/10

Harm’s Way: A Star Trek The Original Series Novel by David Mack is available now ! Are you interested in checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: The High Country!

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

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