reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
It seems to be a routine mission when the Enterprise takes Federation News Service reporter Rowena Mason on board: Answer a distress call from a Vulcan outpost thats been studying a region of space known for its protostars. However, the mission soon proves to be anything but routine: the distress call was sent at least ten years ago, and Mason, from a small isolated planet, appears to be totally uncomfortable around non-Humans, and that includes Mister Spock. In addition, a new computer system has been installed: Its purpose is to oversee the decisions of the Enterprise crew and even replace the command crew if necessary.
Upon arrival at the Vulcan outpost, sensors find no signs of life; however, when crew members are sent to explore the station, one member comes upon a Vulcan youth. Since the transporters were sent to automatically bring the away team back in just a few minutes time, there was no chance to find out more about the youth. Later parties find not just one Vulcan youth, but a fully manned outpostdespite the original lack of life signs. In addition, 30 members of the Vulcan team are in suspended animation and will need to be brought to the Enterprise before attempts are made to awaken them.
Although the Vulcans appear friendly enough, there also seem to be some things not quite right: One of these is the fact that the Vulcan youth first seen seems to be the one in charge, not his parents who are listed as in charge of the station. As Captain Kirk and Mister Spock continue to explore the station, they find that more is going on than simple research. Somehow a huge source of energy has been discovered along with a way to transport people across vast distanceseven allowing two Vulcan youths to transport to the Enterprise without anyone knowing it.
It doesnt take long for Kirk and Spock to realize the inhabitants of the station are under the control of an alien entity and that they must somehow free them before the entire area is taken back to the conditions present only moments after the birth of the Universe. If they fail, not only will the station and the Enterprise be destroyed, but also a vast amount of that sector. And to make matters worse, it appears that their fate is in the hands of Mason. And to really make things unbearable, it appears the new computer system is poised to take the whole situation out of control.
While the story does have some good moments, in many ways it is totally predictable. Probably the only random element in the solution is whether the new computers will allow Kirk to handle the situation as he deems fiteven if it means destroying the station with some of his crew members still thereor if command will be taken from him by the computersa problem hes come up against more than once.
While the role of Mason is somewhat intriguing, there are many times that she seems too immature to be sent out as a reportermost reporters are taught to handle just about any situation and to keep their personal opinions and phobias to themselves, something that Mason is unable to do. In addition, there are several times, such as when she wants to go down to the station to record the happenings, that she seems almost petulant in attitude.
Overall, the story is average in quality, and while not the worst Star Trek novel out there, its definitely not the best.
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