reviewed by Randall Landers
This is the final book in the six-part "New
Earth" series, in which Captain Kirk and the crew of the post-TMP Enterprise
lead a "wagon train" of colonists out to settle an Earth-like planet in
unexplored space, and end up wading into the middle of a feud between the two races who
already live in the area.
With the valuable, rare substance olivium being gathered up by the colonists of Belle Terre, things look like they're going to settle down on the planet until very polite robots start showing up and stealing the gathered olivium. Kirk and Spock take off with the Enterprise to track down the source of the robots, unknowingly leaving McCoy and Uhura captives of the ultra-con artist and galactic criminal Billy Maidenshore. This had the makings of a good Star Trek novel...
Unfortunately, this novel doesn't concentrate on that storyline. No, the primary story is about Commander Nick Keller, first officer of the Peleliu, who is dealing with a deranged captain (who is suffering from a mental illness caused by exposure to Tavola methane) who literally gets the Peleliu practically destroyed. It's up to Keller to relieve his captain and get what's left of the ship back to Belle Terre. On the colony world, Keller is responsible for overseeing the construction of a ship made of scrap parts to protect the planet from the forces that destroyed the Peleliu, and for assembling a rather eclectic assortment of folks to man that ship which is named Challenger. Once Kirk and company take off, the Uhura and McCoy as captives story-line disappears, and we're treated to yet another Star Trek novel which isn't about our favorite Star Trek characters.
The author, Diane Carey, is generally quite a capable storyteller, but this time she engages in purple prose throughout the novel, and at the most unbelievable times. There are often several paragraphs of extravagant descriptions, omniscient third person narrative between two lines of dialogue. Someone needed to edit this work before it was published.
Overall, Challenger is not the sort of work that will appeal to most Star Trek fans.
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