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Section 31: Cloak, by S. D. Perry Book Review | SFReader.com
Section 31: Cloak, by S. D. Perry Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2001 Review Posted: 11/8/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Section 31: Cloak, by S. D. Perry
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
Section 31: Cloak, by S.D. Perry, was the Star Trek: Original Series entry in the Section 31 series of books. These books were all self-contained stories where our heroes have to deal with the shadowy organization as it tries to move behind the scenes of Federation politics. Perry has to walk a fine line, however, as nobody had ever even heard of Section 31 in Kirk's time. Thus, it takes one of the few pieces of espionage shown in the original series, Kirk's theft of the Romulan cloaking device, and wraps a story around it. It's actually not that bad, but the book is very short and not much really happens.
The Enterprise is en route to Deep Space Station M-20 for a conference and some much-needed R&R when it happens upon a distress signal emanating from the U.S.S. Sphinx. The ship is heading for a heavily populated sector of the Federation and doesn't seem to be able to stop. After a daring rescue by Kirk and his crew, they discover that everybody on board is dead. When they get to M-20, they are told to turn over the investigation of the Sphinx to an old friend of Kirk's. But this friend stumbles upon something that could mean horrible things for the Federation, something that could very well involve the woman on the station whom Kirk finds himself hopelessly attracted to. Forces are out to protect the Federation at all costs, even if it means going against its very ideals. Kirk must bring a stop to their attempts, or the Federation might not survive.
Cloak moves along at a good clip as Perry doesn't waste any words. One thing she does waste, however, is time. The book, already short, contains an almost pointless subplot about McCoy discovering the disease that afflicts him, the one that's dealt with in the episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." He is despondent but determined to hide it for as long as possible. This eventually ties in to the main plot due to a female doctor of McCoy's acquaintance who may have some answers for him about the disease, but she may be involved with what's going on. This subplot seems to be included to heighten the stakes a bit as well as to give McCoy something to do, and it felt like needless padding, inserted to get the word count up so that it could be a proper novel. I'm not saying that is the case, but I certainly couldn't find any other use for it.
Perry's writing is as good as ever, her prose rather pedestrian but serviceable. She writes a good tale, and the tracking down of the Sphinx at the beginning of the book is exciting (if par for the course for this crew, so there's not a lot of tension). The excitement comes from how Perry writes the scene, the cuts back and forth between Scotty and Spock and Sulu. Also, despite how cliched Kirk finding a woman to fascinate him is, Perry's writing makes it almost bearable. The fact that she becomes important to the plot later is no surprise of course, and Perry gives her a sense of mystery right off the bat. She does try to humanize Kirk a bit by having Kirk reflect a little on how he interacts with women, and it works to an extent.
The problem with all of this is that Perry gives herself an almost impossible task. She takes on a lot of these clichés and almost turns them on their heads, but she doesn't quite make it. Yes, she does manage to make the relationship interesting and she nicely avoids the usual by having them not end up doing anything due to the fact that *she* keeps getting interrupted, but it's still not quite enough. It's getting old having Kirk's romantic life keep either interrupting or prompting the stories involving him. This time, it prompts the story, as she adds enough to the situation that Kirk desperately wants to find out what's going on.
I guess my main complaint is that so much time is spent on giving an extra motivation for Kirk and giving a first motivation for McCoy that the book is too straightforward. There are no twists in this book and it moves from point A to B to C and then is done. It's definitely well-written for what it is, but it could have been so much more. Section 31 is only peripherally involved in the story (it's not even clear if they have any agents on scene, though it wouldn't surprise me if one of the characters was). It would have been nice to see Kirk take on a mission against them with a bit more meat on it. The epilogue could still have happened even if the story went that way.
However, it's bad form to criticize a book for what it *could* be instead of for what it is. It is an enjoyable book; it reads fast and won't take you much time. The characterization is well-done and each of characters gets at least one scene, though I could have done without Chekov's love life, considering the fact that all of it happens off screen. What's the point of including it? It also has a nice tie-in to Voyager that's pretty cool too, detailing the history of something that Voyager eventually has to deal with. Don't worry, it's integral to the plot, not mindless continuity, so that's a good thing.
I guess the best word I can use to describe Cloak is "decent." It's not bad, but it's not that good either. It's a completely middle-of-the-road entry in the Star Trek saga, and it's worth a read if you have an hour or two.
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