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Star Trek: Titan (Book 4): Sword of Damocles

It’s been a bit of a while since my last review of a novel in Pocket Books’ Star Trek: Titan series, chronicling the post-Star Trek: Nemesis adventures of Captain William Riker and his new command.  After reading the first four novels when they were originally released, earlier this year I realized that I had fallen behind on the series.  Since a few years had passed since the series began (the novels have been published at a rate of about one or two a year), I decided to go back and re-read the first four novels before moving on to the fifth and sixth installments (which were published this year).  However, after finishing book three, Orion’s Hounds, I got a bit distracted by my project to re-read all of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey series, and various other things.  But now I’m back in the saddle!

Entering a region of space never-before explored by manned Federation starships, the Titan encounters the planet Orisha, whose denizens have been menaced for centuries by a celestial phenomenon that they call “the Eye” which periodically wreaks havoc on their planet.  Many Orishans worship “the Eye” as a deity, one which sits in judgment of their society and regularly punishes them for their sins.  As the Titan crew attempt to investigate this phenomenal, things (predictably) go awry and the landing party is separated from the Titan and presumed dead.

Far from being deceased, the landing party find themselves stranded on the surface of a planet Orisha that seems much different from the planet they had observed from orbit.  As the crew (both on the planet and back on Titan) attempt to extricate themselves from the situation in which they have become enmeshed, they must struggle with aspects of the Prime Directive while also confronting questions about fate and destiny.

Sword of Damocles, written by Geoffrey Thorne, is another strong, enjoyable installment in this series of novels.  I’ve been pleased by how well the different authors have been able to maintain consistency in the voices of the many new-to-the-novels characters that make up the diverse Titan crew.  Mr. Thorne has a terrific grasp on the characters, giving each of them a distinct personality even as he weaves scores of alien Titan crew-members in and out of the narrative.  It was nice to see several members of the Titan crew — such as science specialist Jaza Najem, chief engineer Dr. Xin Ra-Havreii, and head of Stellar Cartography Melora Pazlar — get a lot of attention in the story, though I must confess some disappointment (small spoiler alert!) that one intriguing character was written out of the series by the novel’s conclusion, just when I felt that this crew-member was becoming a fascinating, fully-realized member of the ensemble.

What elevates Sword of Damocles above many other Star Trek novels are the magnificent final two chapters which bring resolution to a whole host of character threads without actually using any character’s name.  It is up to the attentive reader to determine which character is being referred to at which point.  That could easily have wound up being a jumbled mess, but Mr. Thorne’s strong prose turns those chapters into a beautifully poetic conclusion to the novel.  I don’t recall anything like that ever having been done before in a Star Trek novel, and Mr. Thorne (and his editor!) deserve great credit for his/their bravery.

I’m excited to have finished re-reading the four Titan novels that I’d read before — now it’s time to tackle the two latest books!  I’ve already started reading book five, Under a Torrent Sea, and I hope to be back here with a full report soon!

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek: Titan —  Book 1: Taking Wing, Book 2: The Red King, Book 3: Orion’s Hounds

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — DS9 relaunch overview, The Soul Key, The Never-Ending Sacrifice,

Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Sky’s The Limit, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,

Star Trek: The Lost EraBook 1: The Sundered

Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2)Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & ShadowsStar Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2)

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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