Reviewed by Randy Landers
Originally published as six eBooks, Mere Anarchy is the tale of Mestiko, an inhabited class M planet and of its leader, Raya, who finds her position thrust upon her. She has many tragedies befall her world under her tenure, and yet because of her friendship with James T. Kirk, manages to survive and prosper through them. Overall, it's a very uneven series, but reasonably well told, and eerily reminiscent of both Nomad's Serenidad series and Ann Zewen's Stradith series in that the focus is more on the planet than the Star Trek regulars.
Things Fall Apart
Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
In this introductory installment, the readers are introduced to Mestiko, a planet populated by humanoids very much like ourselves, on the verge of being contacted by the Federation. There's even a cultural observation team there. Unfortunately, the universe is a dangerous place, and it is has been learned that a rogue pulsar traveling through their star system is going to destroy the planet. The cultural team is discovered, and the Federation is asked by the planet's government for help.
Help comes in the form of the starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. It his mission to help position deflector arrays to save the planet. Unfortunately, the technology is iffy at best, and only partially succeeds. The pulsar's emissions lay waste to part of the planet, and wreck the ecology of the whole world. James Kirk ends up blaming himself for the catastrophe.
Ward and Dilmore always manage to impress with their quality story-telling and devotion to the original Star Trek series' canon. This installment of the six-part collection is very engaging, and certainly makes for compelling reading.
The Centre Cannot Hold
Mike W. Barr
Two years after the pulsar has blasted the ecosphere of Mestiko, the Enterprise has returned with help: satellites built by Doctor Marat Lon which will help restore the atmosphere of the planet. However, there is resistance to the placement of the satellites from Councillor Traal and his people, who have been in contact with the Klingons. Traal, with the help of Commander Kor and his crew, manage to disrupt the orbit of one of Doctor Lon's satellites, causing it to crash into an orphanage, killing many, if not most, of the children there. Even though soon enough it's clear that the Klingons were behind it, and though Traal and his own people end up betraying each other and the Klingons, there's a beginning of chord of distrust of the Federation and all off-worlders in general.
Barr is a competant story-teller, but he lacks the depth that others have. His treatment of Kor is really superficial, and his contribution to the series is probably the weakest.
Shadows of the Indignant
It has now been six years since the pulsar's emissions decimated Mestiko, and Admiral James Kirk of Starfleet Command undertakes a secret mission to the planet to determine if subtle changes in the shipping of goods to the planet is a result of Klingon involvement. He shanghies McCoy into helping him undertake this investigation which leads to the deaths of most of those involved with the shipping of the goods. Eventually it all leads to a native businessman on Mestiko, a mobster of some renown who has been in bed with the Klingons. Once his identity is revealed, Kirk learns that Raya, the leader of the planet itself, has been turning a blind eye toward the criminal activity, and a scandal threatens her government.
Frankly, this particular segment of the tale is fairly nonsensical. Kirk and McCoy manage to survive attempt after attempt on their life, and every single one of the folks in the supply line is killed, much like everyone involved with the shipping of the diamonds in the James Bond classic, Diamonds Are Forever. In fact, several of the broadly drawn characters seem recognizable, if not directly from that film, from others like it. It just doesn't seem plausible that Kirk and McCoy would survive all these attempts on their lives, and it seems less likely that whoever's pulling the string (the Klingons, the Mestiko mafia man) would have everyone killed that didn't stop Kirk. It also seems improbable that when Kirk and McCoy finally confront the Mestiko godfather, he lets them in and entertains them. Ridiculous. It's like one of those oft-parodied scenes where the villain announces his plans to Bond before 007 pulls out his Walther PPK and perforates the bad guy.
Just a very weak entry in the series at best...
The Darkness Drops Again
Christopher L. Bennett
I actually dreaded this particular entry. Mister Bennett's style is habitually dry and unengaging, and he usually seems more intent on displaying his knowledge of Star Trek rather than entertaining his readers. His other books which I've read have been absolute trivia-saturated bores, and I was afraid this would be yet another useless exercise in futility while he tries to impress those trying to read his work.
Fortunately, he avoids most of his usual failings (i.e. the endless references of Trek lore to show just how much of a "trufan" he is), and instead manages to deliver a concise story that serves as a commentary on the wackos who put personal belief before scientific fact. It also serves as an insight on the politics of the religious zealots of Mestiko who ally themselves with the planet's eco-wackos to gain power. The result is that the planetary government is forced into exile, and rather than blame herself, the planetary leader blames the Federation and Captain Kirk for her own failings.
Over the years, the zealots and the wackos end up realizing that their reign will soon end, and become even more despotic. Free elections are eventually held, and once it's clear that they're going to lose, the zealots send in their troops. This is where this novella falls apart. Captain Terrell confronts the advancing troops and shames them into putting down their arms. While this is wonderful in concept, that's just not what real life is like (e.g. Tiananmen Square circa 1989, Tehran circa 2009). Despots will always try to hold onto their power, no matter the cost of life. But Bennett has the advancing troops lay down their weapons, and the former government is returned. And in another unrealistic manner, Spock and McCoy convince the planetary leader that Kirk was as much responsible for her return to power as anyone else.
All in all, an interesting chapter in the saga of the world of Mestiko, if a little uneven, and far better than most of Bennett's story-telling.
The Blood-Dimmed Tide
Some years later, a scientific research center on Mestiko's moon has created a subspace weapon. The device is soon stolen, and most all of the scientists involved are killed. It turns out that the culprits belong to the Torye, an opposition group on the planet, one that plans to make Mestiko into a dominant power in its sector by dealing with the Klingons. Raya, the planetary leader of Mestiko, makes arrangements for the Enterprise to help track down the device and one of the scientists who went missing. Now, whenever one of the scientists for a secret project goes missing, you can bet your bottom dollar that they're involved in the theft and that they've sided with those who took the weapon. Yeah, it's now a cliche, and yes, it's what happened. The Enterprise finds that the Klingons are indeed involved (Captain Klaa is behind it), and with Kang's help, they manage to defeat the Torye in a method which, of course, destroys the weapon itself.
Simplistic, cliched, but a somewhat entertaining read. It was nice seeing Klaa and Kang again.
Its Hour Come Round
Margaret Wander Bonnano
The final installment of the Mere Anarchy series begins a short time after Captain Kirk's death. This story doesn't really have a true focus; instead, we're given insights into Spock, Azetbur, McCoy and Uhura as they visit Mestiko. McCoy and Uhura manage to solve a medical mystery; Raya, the planetary ruler, befriends Azetbur as the Klingons and the Federation both extend offers of alliance and/or membership to Mestiko. At the story's end, we see there is hope for Mestiko, even though the story (like real life) doesn't truly have an end.
Nicely told, rather insightful, and defintely a pleasant read, much like the Mere Anarchy collection as a whole.
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