Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Star Trek: Troublesome Minds by David Galanter

     This is the nearest thing I’ve read to an Original Series Star Trek TV episode translated into a book. It begins with an alien visitor to the Enterprise. Telepathic, naturally. Spock is intrigued when he learns the aliens communication system is telepathic and by hand signals; as if they are deaf. Additionally, this leads Spock to display emotion as the non-verbal aspect is more essential to their communication. The crew discovers  that the alien (named Berlis, or at least the UT says.) They learn that Berlis is a criminal sentenced to be killed. This harkens back to moral dilemmas in the 60s show (Such as Spock’s trial, Khan’s arrival, or Klingon negotiations or any episode where the one rule MUST NOT BE BROKEN; and the crew must decide the proper course of action.)
     However, as it is Spock who first deciphers and learns Berlis’s communication methods, it is his story with Berlis and his female counterpart Chista that most intrigued me. Chista explains to Kirk on the Isitiri (Berlis’s species) homeworld that Berlis is a Troublesome Mind; since the Isitiri communicate telepathetically, their minds are linked, Berlis’s power has grown so strong that he is able to dominate the will of the linked, including his entire planet and Mr. Spock. Berlis’s mind is still fragile. He equates the psychic company of others with comfort, but he’s selfish, like a child. In true TOS fashion, his power grows to become a telepathic dictator. He decides to arrange for Spock to sabotage (“sabataage“?) the ship, and uses his own planet’s fleet to invade their neighbors. As the man who makes the critical decisions, this next part of the book mainly deals with Captain Kirk preventing an interplanetary war. Which he does, in true TOS fashion, by making a Cold War reference.
       When the Soviets wanted to copy the B9 bomber, they shot it down. They feared Stalin’s disapproval, so they copied it, every flaw included.  So, he deliberately places himself (I.e. the Enterprise) between the two battling fleets, while Spock, psychic guards up, searches for Berlis with an off-world Isitiri rebel. He even shares with her that he loves his mother. Once they land by shuttle on the homeworld, they knock out Berlis, who’s too busy controlling the planet to direct his mind elsewhere. From then on, it’s an ethical drama with Dr. McCoy, which climaxes as Spock heeds Berlis’s command to euthanize him with a phaser. It does raise some questions such as how Berlis is a criminal, if he knows what he’s doing dominating the planet, or why a race of aliens would develop such a fragile form of communication, independent sign language and culture aside. Which (as revealed by the author.) is an allegory for deaf culture.
3 STARS. I enjoyed its loyalty to the TOS formula, the recycled episode plot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) and I enjoyed the Spock scenes, which served to explain the aliens’ sign language, as well as for him to expose a little emotion.
    My main problem is the fragmented narration, which like the TV show, seems to change depending on who’s on stage. Great for TV, not for books. The POV changes though, are a dramatic device. But, how am I supposed to know whose POV until the scene totally unfolds? Keeps you on the edge, at least. I could almost hear the music from the TV show before a commercial break between scenes! In sum, the only problem is that the formula is almost too tight. But, once you get used to the recycled episode points, it’s good. It’s what it’s supposed to be. A recycled plot, with a little Spock story in-between.  


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