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BOOK
Star Trek
Crucible: McCoy
Provenance of Shadows

Author: David R George III
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $10.99
ISBN-13: 978 0 7434 9168 6
ISBN-10: 0 7434 9168 8
Available 02 October 2006


Leonard McCoy, displaced in time, saves a woman from being killed in a traffic accident, and in so doing alters Earth's history. Stranded in the past, he struggles to find a way back to his own century... Leonard McCoy, displaced in time, is prevented from saving a woman from being killed in a traffic accident, allowing Earth's history to remain unchanged. Returning to the 23rd century, he encounters a medical mystery he is committed to solving. But the echoes of an existence he never lived haunt him...

Make sure you set aside plenty of time to plough through this book. Printed on deceptively thin paper, this hefty tome weighs in at a stonking 624 pages. And this is only the first in a trilogy of novels devised to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek.

Each book in the trilogy focuses on one of the three central characters of The Original Series - Kirk, Spock and McCoy - and the impact that one pivotal moment had upon their lives. That moment is the conclusion to the classic episode The City on the Edge of Forever, in which Kirk is forced to allow the love of his life, Edith Keeler, to die in order to preserve the future of the entire planet.

Provenance of Shadows deals with Leonard McCoy's life after that point, covering the original five-year mission (including the animated series) and subsequent movie adventures, all the way forward to the aged 24th-century physician seen in the Next Generation pilot Encounter at Farpoint and beyond. Particular attention is paid to the events of The City on the Edge of Forever, Operation -- Annihilate! and For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. The latter episode was recently dealt with in the novel Ex Machina, which similarly explored McCoy's relationship with Natira, though the two books can co-exist comfortably.

Several scenes that have already been depicted on television or film are presented again here, a process that can try the reader's patience and does seem like padding in places. However, author David R George III is going somewhere with this, and he also works in background material of his own that explains or sheds new light upon familiar episodes. For example, he expands upon McCoy's relationship with Yeoman Tonia Barrows in Shore Leave, and defends the apparent deficiencies of Captain Harriman in Star Trek: Generations, while his descriptions of the neural parasites in Operation -- Annihilate! seem intent upon compensating for the shortcomings of the screen depiction of those "flying pizzas".

There's far more original material around the second half of the novel, which includes an intriguing adventure set during Kirk's second, seven-year-long, mission in command of the Enterprise. There's also a riveting sequence depicting events that brought the first five-year mission to an end (though this contradicts several previous pieces of licensed fiction, including A C Crispin's Time For Yesterday).

What makes the author's tie-in with The City on the Edge of Forever so ingenious is that it allows him to explore two alternate versions of McCoy. In addition to the character with whom we are already familiar, we also follow the exploits of an alternate doctor who remains trapped in the past. This is the McCoy of the altered timeline that Kirk, Spock and the rest of the landing party briefly experience in City before they set history back on its correct course.

One thing that bugs me a little, as an obsessive follower of stardates, is that George sometimes ignores or overlooks the stardates of the episodes to which he refers, favouring their production order instead (as indeed do the majority of Trek timelines). Thus, for example, the events of Spectre of the Gun (stardate 4385.3) are said to take place after those of I, Mudd (4513.3), The Trouble with Tribbles (4523.3-4525.6) and By Any Other Name (4657.5). However, I think this might say more about my own obsession that it does about the author's writing! On other occasions, the author is either comfortably vague about the precise chronology or he strictly follows the stardate order, as is the case with his placement of the events of the animated episode Yesteryear.

A more serious flaw is the number of typographical errors. In just the first 50 pages, we have "no where" spelt as two words rather than one, "then" when the author means "than", "your" when the author should have used "you"... and that's not an exhaustive list. Later on, we have a mixture of Starbase 10 and Starbase Ten, and of Daran V and Daran Five. But I suppose such errors are a function of the sheer number of words involved in such a lengthy volume.

This is at times a rather slow-moving novel that really feels like it spans decades, which sometimes makes it more of a slog than a captain's log. Nevertheless, it also offers its fair share of excitement and intrigue.

Richard McGinlay

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