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Comic Book Writer Mike W. Barr Takes First Stab at Prose in New Novel STAR TREK: GEMINI

PROMENADE





Posted: 07:46:44 on March 28 2003
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Books
STAR TREK: GEMINI
by Mike W. Barr

Pocket Books MMPB
298 pages
$6.99

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Written by Bill Williams, edited by Steve Krutzler

Synopsis: Captain Kirk and the Enterprise have been sent to the planet Nador to participate in a watershed event: the Nadorians’ first true election, to vote on whether or not to join the United Federation of Planets. Supporting the Federation are the planet’s joint rulers: Their Serene Highnesses Abon and Delor, Siamese twins joined at the spinal cord to represent the unity of the different tribes of Nador. But a shadowy group of fanatics wants nothing to do with the Federation, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Kirk must work to stop the fanatics from wreaking havoc on Nador and from harming his beloved nephew Peter – but even he may be hard-pressed to stem the tide of chaos when the princes’ horrible secret is revealed…

Review: I have to admit right at the start – I have been a fan of the works of writer Mike W. Barr for the past 20 years. His comic book scripts have been consistently well produced, intelligent, and thoughtful, with the right mixture of characterization and action. He has written a myriad of comics over the years, including the King Arthur continuation CAMELOT 3000, the first true maxi-series in the sense of the word, DETECTIVE COMICS; BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, one of the more enjoyable team books of the 1980’s, and, of course, DC Comics’ version of STAR TREK, regarded by many as the most successful illustrated incarnation of the Original Series property.

The new Original Series novel GEMINI marks Barr’s first venture into the world of printed fiction, and a novel that just said to me, “This is a must-read book.” Barr manages to capture the voices of the classic cast so perfectly throughout the novel that it felt like viewing a lost episode from the first season. This is one of Barr’s strengths in coming from the medium of comic books, as he strongly grasps the visual medium and is able to translate it to the printed word. This is a must for any writer, whether in writing novels, poetry, or scripts for television shows, films, or stage productions.

The opening chapters of GEMINI set the stage at a very fast pace and set up the story of a radical group’s desire to keep the planet Nador from entering into an alliance with the Federation on the eve of a critical vote. The lives of the Nadorian princes Abon and Delor, a Siamese twin-style pair joined at the spinal cord, are threatened amid the planetary riots and goodwill visits on the Enterprise. When Captain Kirk discovers that his beloved nephew Peter is on the planet during the political uprising, Kirk attempts to learn why Peter is there to begin with. This leads to a series of terrorist attacks upon the Enterprise and the Nadorian princes. Somehow, reading this novel in the post-9/11 world and during the Second Gulf War seems to make the events of the novel even more timely than usual.

Barr’s usage of minor characters from the series, most notably Yeoman Tonia Barrows (“Shore Leave”) and Security Chief Giotto (“The Devil in the Dark”), is a welcome addition, as he fleshes their characters out to fuller effect, giving them more story and character development than the episodes allowed. Barrows is seen as both commanding yet nurturing, while Giotto can easily handle the wisecracks as effectively as Kirk and McCoy. Their appearances in GEMINI further serve the story well, and I hope that they make return appearances in later re-launch novels. The return of Peter Kirk (“Operation: Annihilate!”) is a welcome addition to the story. Here he serves the novel as an undercover agent for his uncle, Captain Kirk, to determine the motives of the Nadorian riots.

Barr’s development of Siamese twin-style princes is the key to the story’s overall progress. Princes Abon and Delor, up to this point in their lives, were one being, joined at the spinal cord. During the course of events, their lives are threatened, forcing McCoy to make a medical decision that affects them and the entire Nadorian culture: separating them into individual beings. This decision leads to further rebellion of the Nadorians against Starfleet and the Enterprise ranging from burning the UFP flag to rioting and increased attacks on the ship. At the heart of the rebellion is one who seeks to disrupt the negotiations between Nador and the Federation. Barr turns the story into a good old-fashioned “whodunit,” as Kirk and Spock work to uncover all of the assassins and their respective motives. This is a plot reminiscent of the events of STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY.

However, despite some obvious strengths in action, there are some obvious weaknesses in some of the supporting characters. Having a character whose hidden motives serve to disrupt treaty negotiations is reminiscent of STAR TREK VI and other stories, and in the case of GEMINI it’s the last person you’d expect. Further adding to the weaknesses of the supporting characters is the inclusion of Pataal, a whining Nadorian female who serves very little purpose but to whine and cry all the time. And we’ve seen the character of the Nadorian security chief Llora before in various forms – she is seen as aggressive, hostile, and combative, recalling much of the character of Anya from TNG’s “The Dauphin”.

GEMINI has the potential for much more, with fast-paced action, some original character developments, and the timeliness of the story with current world events. However, seeing rehashed plots and characters doesn’t always translate into an excellent story. Mike Barr does a good job, though, of keeping everything pulled together on par with many of the first season episodes. Let’s hope that Barr’s prose style continues to improve with fresh, original characters and plot devices.
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Enjoyable but not quite satisfying
By msferengi ( ) at 16:43:50 on March 28 2003
URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/startrekbooks | User Info
"Further adding to the weaknesses of the supporting characters is the inclusion of Pataal, a whining Nadorian female who serves very little purpose but to whine and cry all the time. And we’ve seen the character of the Nadorian security chief Llora before in various forms – she is seen as aggressive, hostile, and combative, recalling much of the character of Anya from TNG’s “The Dauphin”."

While I loved the way Mike Barr was able to capture the TOS crew and the 'feel' of the show the characters unique to the novel were either annoying or boring. I'd try another trek book by this author though. A more interesting plot would make a difference.

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