When the request was made by He Who Sends Books (free books!) to, "Please review a Star Trek book because they are many and more and breed as quickly as well fed Tribbles", I knew I must come to the rescue. (OK, no, he didn't say that. He made a polite request; it's called 'dramatic license', and I feel like using some today.) Knowing the need was great, my heart filled with trepidation; I don't read the Star Trek series. I don't know anything about the on-going voyages into the Vast-and-Labyrinth-Ink-and-Paper Universe. 'twas a strange new world. I looked about. No Red Shirt was standing at the ready to protect me as I ventured where I'd never gone before. I scanned the list in hopeless desperation for something familiar I could remove to lessen the growing crisis being endured by He Who Sends.
And there he was; the most unlikely of assistants, willing to surrendering himself to aid He Who Sends. I'd loved him from afar for decades, a guilty love, for his enmity to the Federation and to Kirk is legend, but always I felt his pain, the pain of abandonment and doom. I'd always wanted to know in what crucible a fine mind and fearless leader had been reduced to create the singular desire to utterly destroy a man. The trepidation eased its grip on my heart and the Vast-and-Labyrinth-Ink-and-Paper Universe seemed not quite so strange a domain anymore. I asked He to send me To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh.
Author Gregg Cox has several other Star Trek titles under his belt, including the two volume set, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh. I supposed he was well qualified to tell the story of those fate-full years on Ceti Alpha V.
Gregg convinced me absolutely of what happened during the eighteen years of living torture Khan and his followers endured before the events in the Motion Picture Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
To Reign in Hell begins when Kirk, Spock and McCoy finally return to Ceti Alpha V to try and unravel the story of the seventy-odd souls they left, albeit unwittingly, on a doomed planet. They found a sacred place and items that would tell the tale. In the pages of The Personal Journal of Khan Noonien Singh
, and on the data disks recorded by Marla McGivers Singh, a former Federation Historian who went hand in hand with her lover Khan to a new life on a new world, an epic struggle for survival plays out.
Scarcely have the Starfleet landing crew beamed away when the first kernel of dissention pops. Harulf Ericsson questions Khan's ability to lead. It will not be the last time. Before their first day is done Marla's right to be among them is challenged. By dawn three of Khan's subjects would be victims of their new home. Khan's need for revenge is already in its embryonic state as he vows to find the beasts responsible.
In the weeks to come, the settlers will contend with predators reminiscent of Earth's ancient carnivores, discover the land will only grudgingly feed them, and learn small things may be the most dangerous. Soon they would ache for the simplicity of such mundane obstacles. Khan's colony, the city he named New Chandigarh, is about undergo a calamity. It would begin even as Khan watched.
But that would be telling. If you want to know what happened, if you are willing to have the pieces filled in by an imagination other than your own, this is the one Star Trek book you need to read.
In a story of harrowing existence and stunning love and dedication Khan becomes the man we see in "Wrath of Khan". It's a high-stakes adventure you'll enjoy even if you've never heard of Star Trek or Khan Noonein Singh.
Gregg's writing is crisp and inviting. The story is crafted to keep you on Ceti Alpha V, rooting for those ill-fated people from word one to word done. Gregg is comfortable (but surely not too comfortable?!) in Khan's psyche and portrays him with great confidence. This novel captures the yin/yang of Khan's heart brilliantly. His capacity to be heartbreakingly tender in the presence of his wife and absolutely callous when circumstances demand turns him inexorably, one sand blasted moment at a time, into the bitter, broken and dangerously driven personality who would see Kirk destroyed.
"Work is the scythe of time," Napoleon had said, and Khan's night's had passed very slowly now that his beloved wife was gone.
Exhausted, he paused in his labors. Powered stone clung to his sweaty skin and garments. Purple shadows lurked in the hollows beneath his red-rimmed eyes. He wiped the perspiration from his brow, then stepped back from the sarcophagus to inspect the sculpture, which remained a work in progress. The nose is not quite right, he appraised, nor is the mouth. .Lacking any photos or paintings of his wife he sculpted Marla's tomb from his memory.
"Marla once taught me an old Klingon saying-that revenge is a dish best served cold." Khan's smile faded as the memory of his wife's tragic end returned with full force. "In your case, however, I am inclined to make an exception!"
Before Ericsson could say another word, Khan hurled... [him] into the seething hot spring. The Norseman's screams echoed off the walls of the canyon as the boiling water scalded the flesh from his bones.
Khan savored every minute of Ericsson's demise.
If Greg's own words can't convince you to read his book I don't suppose mine can either.To Reign in Hell
was a joy to read. I was swept into the atmosphere and excitement of Star Trek at its very, very best. Any reader of science fiction would enjoy unwrapping this novel on Christmas Day.