The Great Starship Race
reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
The Rey, a friendly alien race located in an isolated arm of the galaxy, have almost given up hope of ever finding intelligent life outside their planet. When they are finally discovered by a Federation vessel, they are overjoyed to learn that there are numerous intelligent races besides their own. To celebrate their discovery and their welcome into the Federation, they invite other space-faring peoples to join in the festivities by setting up a race that begins at Starbase 16 and ends at their planet.
The course is not an easy one: gravity wells, ionic disturbances, asteroid fields and other such obstacles confront the participants whose vessels range from private luxury liners to merchant ships to the great starships. However, to insure that the starships do not have an unfair advantage over their competitors, their ships must be modified to effectively check their warp speed and other systems. As excitement builds among the participants, the prize is announced: a golden doubloon from a lost Spanish ship and bragging rights until the next race. In addition, a new entry arrives just before the contest begins: a Romulan vessel whose captain insists their only reason for crossing into Federation space is to take part in this one of a kind race.
Although suspicions are high, the Romulans are allowed to compete provided that their ship is modified in the same manner as the starshipsa condition to which they readily agree or at least appear to do so. Members of the Rey are stationed on all competing vessels except for the Romulan ship, so that they can both oversee the race and learn more about the other peoples. When all is readied, the race begins, but it isnt long before readers discover that the Romulan captain has an ulterior motive for his ships participation: hes the only survivor of a ship destroyed ten years earlier because of contact with an alien race he believes to be the Rey. That earlier Romulan ship was not destroyed with weapons but by some type of mental contact that caused its crew to turn upon each other.
As the race progresses, it soon becomes a contest with a bigger prize: the survival of the Rey. As the Romulan ship is turned into a deadly weapon set to destroy the Rey homeworld, its up to Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise to stop them before its too late; however, they must first save themselves from a gravity well that the Romulan vessel has nudged them into.
Author Diane Carey has done a superb job in both plot and characterization. While the novel starts aboard the original Romulan ship destroyed by contact with the Rey, she quickly moves us to the set up of the race. Her pre-race meeting of contestants rings true to formtheres plenty of boasting as we have a chance to learn the rules and meet the participants. Her description of the race and the obstacles the contestants face, soon has readers caught up in the action and not likely to put the book down when the real race to save the Rey planet begins.
Carey has also created a very likeable people in the Rey, who are enamored by both the Federation and the Earth ship that first makes contact with themso enamored in fact that they go so far as to change their names to Earth ones. The Rey, however, are not static characters; readers also see them grow as a race as their planet faces destruction.
In addition to a fast-paced plot, one of the best features of the novel is the characterizations presented, especially when it comes to the Romulans. While the Romulans are usually portrayed as fearless bad guys, readers soon find that these Romulans are multidimensional and only doing what they feel will save their own planet.
For those looking for a good Star Trek read, The Great Starship Race is highly recommended.
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