Book Reviews

Book Review – The Novel Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda McIntyre

The film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is one of the best – and some would say the best – of the Star Trek films. In the novelization of that film, Vonda McIntyre has done an amazing adaptation of the story outlined by Jack Sowards and Harve Bennett.

Starfleet is searching for a planet to test out a project known as Genesis. Literally, it is life from death and the starship Reliant is in search of a lifeless planet for the next phase of testing. Commander Pavel Chekov does not recall why he has such a nagging bad feeling about the Alpha Ceti solar system, but he has been having a bad feeling since they arrived.

He and Captain Terrell beam down to Alpha Ceti IV to check out a life-sign reading. There, they discover the remains of the Botany Bay and its crew. The Botany Bay is the ship of Khan Noonien Singh, a criminal from the twentieth century who was an experiment in genetic engineering gone bad. Khan gains control over Reliant and is soon off to find Genesis for himself.

Alarmed by the warning that the Reliant is going to take Genesis, Dr. Carol Marcus – the lead researcher on the project – calls on her old friend Captain Kirk. The signal is being interfered with, but Admiral Kirk learns that someone is trying to take Genesis from them. Although the Enterprise is only staffed with cadets on a training mission, Kirk takes the ship to the research station.

And so the battle begins of who will control Genesis. For just as Genesis can create life from a dead planet, it can also kill all the life on a planet in favor of its new life-matrix.

The story is basically the same as the movie, which is good. There are only a few details which have been changed a bit. McIntyre delves more into the personalities and the situation they are involved in; their feelings at the time.

For instance, there is much more emphasis on the fact that Captain Kirk is now feeling old. Throughout the novel, he seems preoccupied with growing old. Most of this seems to stem from being made an admiral and ending up behind a desk.

One detail changed is that in the novel, Kirk knows nothing of his son, David Marcus, until Carol tells him. In the film, it is indicated that he knew but Carol told him to stay away and he obeyed. I find the novel more believable on this point since the Kirk we knew from the series would never have listened to what someone told him if he really didn’t want to.

The other characters are also developed more. In particular, there is Lieutenant Saavik. I learned more about her personality and her origins than is ever presented in the film. It seemed to me that Kirstie Alley portrays her a bit too emotional for a Vulcan, but if the background they are working with is what is presented in this novel, her performance is right on.

There is a conflict between Scotty and his nephew, Peter Preston, who is serving aboard the Enterprise. That the youth who perishes in one of the battles with Khan is Scotty’s nephew is only mentioned in passing during the film. Here, the relationship and the conflicts are developed much more thoroughly.

The torture and murder of the research team at the research station are presented here in graphic detail and may be a bit disturbing to some. I learned a lot more about their personalities and it made me care a lot more that Khan murders them.

The battle scenes are well-written and detailed as well. I could picture the action going on in my head. McIntyre manages to capture that action very well and convey the tension and feelings of the characters in the setting at that time.

I would highly recommend this novel to fans of the Star Trek series. At only 223 pages, it is a fairly quick read and a very enjoyable one. As adaptations go, it is very good. Rather than try to change the story too much for the novel, the author manages to capitalize on it while adding just enough to the story to fill in missing pieces from the film.

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