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Enterprise: Shockwave, by Paul Ruditis
Genre: Star Trek
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 2002
Review Posted: 11/8/2006
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10

Enterprise: Shockwave, by Paul Ruditis

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

What is it about ships named Enterprise that attracts trouble?

The crew of the Enterprise NX-01 is about to make contact with the Paraagan colony. They have to be careful this time around because, due to the colony's mining efforts, the atmosphere around the planet is filled with a highly flammable gas. As the shuttlepod heads for the planet, all possible precautions are taken, including closing the plasma vents. But something goes wrong anyway and a massive eruption results in the destruction of the entire colony.

What happened? The Enterprise crew searches desperately for an explanation, but as they say, the most obvious answer is usually the right one. And in this case, the most obvious is that, despite what the sensors indicate, the plasma vents were open and they ignited the gas. The Enterprise has just killed over 3000 innocents people.

Being only 10 months into their mission, and with so many conflagrations already, it looks like the Enterprise might just be recalled and the entire program put on hold until the people of earth are better able to handle such a responsibility.

This is my first Star Trek novel (previous to this, my only exposure to Trek in print was one of the Strange New Worlds anthologies), and despite its flaws, I greatly enjoyed it. The conflict began immediately, the tension was high almost from the first chapter, and although we know of course the Enterprise isn't going to be scrapped--this novel was based on one of the episodes, and we know they couldn't have had a TV show if the very subject of that show is no more (although The X-Files did manage pretty nicely for the first several episodes of its second season, didn't it?)--we still read, eager to find out how Captain Archer and his crew are going to get themselves out of this mess.

Were they set up? Why? And by whom? Or worse, were they indeed responsible for all those deaths? This is what keeps us interested. And even when we find the answers to these questions, more have been asked and we have to see what happens. I always loved that about Star Trek--you knew the Enterprise, or Voyager or DS9 crew, would come through on top, but it was watching them do it that kept us watching. Even when the solution was goofy as hell, dammit it was entertaining. I heard tell the Voyager hid INSIDE a star in one episode. Stupid as hell, but man is it awesome!

And the solution to this story was no less ridiculous than any other. Captain Archer is given all the information he needs by Crewman Daniels, a time traveler previously thought dead, to clear the Enterprise's name, which sucked because it would have been nice to see the crew actually solve their own problem instead of having the solution handed to them, but, again, dammit if it's not entertaining.

No one watches, or reads, Star Trek for its great literary merit. Trek is everyone's fantasy life brought to fruition. We all want the high adventure. We all want the impossible odds. And we all want to show the strength of character our favorite starship captains show in outwitting whoever happens to be the enemy that week.

However, don't think that, because it's Star Trek I'm excusing the simplicity of the solution. If this had been a novel written by some unknown science fiction hopeful and published by a small press run out of someone's mother's basement, I'd have probably torn them a new one for not putting more effort into the plot. And the deux es machina of Crewman Daniels does greatly diminish the impact of what was otherwise an interesting story.

And yet, at the same time, it IS Star Trek. Do we really expect more from it? Not at all. In fact, the cheese is part of Trek's charm. But you know what? Trek has had 40+ years to establish itself as an entertaining source of cheese. Some unknown science fiction hopeful better bring more to the page than a bad Trek imitation, that's all I'm saying.

Shockwave, plot problems aside, was a good book. Not great, but I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It's a very quick read, 300 pages that feels half that size. Writer Paul Ruditis, who adapted the episode originally written by Rick Berman and Brannon Brag, provided great character insights and lots of action. His descriptions were lacking. If I hadn't seen an episode of the series featuring the Suliban, I wouldn't have known what they looked like. And I kept picturing the interior sets of "Next Generation" because Ruditis didn't do anything to show me which Enterprise we were on and for me it's the "Next Generation" version I'm most familiar with.

Hopefully my next Trek novel will have a less . . . lazy plot. Maybe my next one should be an original story. I'm sure the confines of an hour to tell the story on television--less with the commercials--reduces the possibly solutions to whatever problem the writers have come up with, so maybe something NOT based on an episode will have more room to stretch.

We'll see. In the meantime, Shockwave is a good novel and I'd gladly recommend it.
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