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Alexander Chase Calls Kevin Ryan's Errand of Vengeance: Edge of the Sword "One of the Best TREK Novels in the Last 20 Years!"

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Posted: 07:59:34 on July 01 2002
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Books | Books BBS Forum

Buy now from TrekWeb!Star Trek: The Original Series
Book One of Three: THE EDGE OF THE SWORD
by Kevin Ryan

Pocket Books, 2002
281 pages

Written for TrekWeb by Alexander Chase, edited by Steve Krutzler.

Captain Kirk and his crew learn how sometimes an effort to avoid harm can lead to the greatest harm of all in STAR TREK: ERRAND OF VENGEANCE: BOOK ONE- THE EDGE OF THE SWORD by Kevin Ryan. As tension mounts between the Federation and Klingon Empire, a nervous Starfleet looks to the borders of Klingon space for imminent attack. Captain Kirk and his crew, new to exploring the galaxy, must come to terms with how they can learn what the Federation needs to know about the universe without harming the very thing they have come to learn about. Meanwhile, Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 face a more immediate threat on board - a determined Klingon spy masquerading as friend, whose deadly mission is already underway... the cold-blooded murder of James T. Kirk.

Kevin Ryan's THE EDGE OF THE SWORD, Book One of Three in the ERRAND OF VENGEANCE series, is simply one of the best Star Trek books of the last 20 years. Set after the events of The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" and amidst those of the episode "What Are Little Girls Made of?", Ryan weaves together a story rich in characterization and intrigue amongst the grandiose tapestry of a Klingon Empire on the verge of invading a wary Federation seeking negotiation -- and a better understanding -- with them.

THE EDGE OF THE SWORD is principally told from the point of view of a Klingon Intelligence infiltrator named Kell a.k.a Jon Anderson, who is posted aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise as an infamous "red shirt" to carry out the assassination of Captain Kirk. Ryan contrasts Kell's evolving viewpoint of the 'Earthers' in the best spirit of Kahless' saying "the best truth is the one a Klingon sees with his own eyes" with that of recent Starfleet Academy graduate and new special adjunct to Admiral Justman, Lieutenant Jonathan West. West seeks to instill principles of xenosociology and xenoanthropology into the Federation's way of dealing with alien species such as the Klingons.

Ryan's story brilliantly contrasts the evolving viewpoints of the Klingon Kell and the Federation; as Kell begins to understand that these "cowardly Earthers" do possess their own brand of honor, which they will safeguard like warriors as the Federation begins to learn from its mistakes in not dealing with the Klingons on their own terms -- creating the impression to the Klingons' way of thinking that the Federation is weak and vulnerable.

The questions driving Ryan's story are: have these understandings come too late and are the insights of two, low-level officers enough to avoid the seemingly unavoidable - intergalactic war?

At the same time Ryan contrasts the evolving -- almost analytical -- viewpoints of Kell and West, he contrasts their collective viewpoints in THE EDGE OF THE SWORD through Captain Kirk and Kell's brother Karel, who is serving among the Klingon Battle Cruiser D'K TAHG in the Klingon Defense Force. Both leaders, perhaps visionary ones -- more clearly so in the case of Kirk and more potentially so in the case of Karel -- who rely on the intuitions of born commanders to assess circumstances and take action. The result is a multi-layered text executed flawlessly in telling its multi-arc story about a trap set for the U.S.S. Enterprise. The Orions, on behalf of unnamed employers, assess the ship's strengths and weakness in the shadow of an unprecedented Klingon military build-up and Federation frustrations about how to avert a costly war.

The core of the novel's success lies in the four principle characters and their arcs throughout the novel. Kell's perception that humans have their own code of honor makes his mission more distasteful, even though it would be personally dishonorable to deviate from his orders.

Kirk is the bane of the Klingons and already legend among them, but gains the reluctant respect of a Klingon sent to kill him by the way he runs his ship, plays his intuitive hunches and inspires loyalty among his crew.

Karel, the follower of Kahless who does not consider it dishonorable to show concern for his "less capable" brother, moves up the ranks by challenging his superiors not out of ambition but out of duty to family.

Finally West, the young and slightly arrogant junior officer is fresh out of the Academy with idealism about the Federation that leads him to believe he can change it for the better. In these four characters Ryan has produced the heart of THE EDGE OF THE SWORD, each linked to play a role in shaping the futures of the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

ERRAND OF VENGEANCE: Book One: THE EDGE OF THE SWORD is the book so many Trek fans have been waiting for and no Trek fan can afford to miss. A book without a single flaw, sharply focused and well-paced from beginning to end. Ryan's effort easily ranks side-by-side with any of the best modern Klingon episodes scripted by Ronald D. Moore. This reviewer can't wait for Ryan's follow-up.

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