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Star Trek Corps Of Engineers: Creative Couplings: An Anthology by John S. Drew, Glenn Greenberg, Glenn Hauman & Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilomore, J. Steven York & Christina F. York

01/12/2009. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Star Trek Corps Of Engineers: Creative Couplings: An Anthology in the USA - or Buy Star Trek Corps Of Engineers: Creative Couplings: An Anthology in the UK

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pub: Simon and Schuster. 533 page enlarged paperback. Price: 9.99 (UK), $16.00 (US) $18.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4165-4898-0.

check out website: www.simonsays.co.uk

Here are six more novellas about the adventures of the Da Vinci and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, dashing around the galaxy solving technical problems in the Star Trek universe. I'll critique them one by one.



'Paradise Interrupted' by John S. Drew features a breakdown in weather control systems on the holiday planet Risa. The technicians in charge are reluctant to call for help while the mysterious power drain causing the trouble but the boss insists they get Starfleet involved. A family drama is nicely tied up with a technological problem, troubles with the Gorn and a first contact situation to make a tidy little yarn. The characterisation of some of the minor characters was well done though I suspect I did not find the child as loveable as I'm meant to. I just don't.

Next up is 'Where Time Stands Still' by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. This is based around 'The Time Trap' an episode in the animated series in which Kirk's Enterprise gets stuck in the Delta Triangle, it makes ships disappear. Barry Manilow might write a song about it if we can download his brain patterns somewhere and preserve him for a few centuries. The ships vanish into a little pocket dimension where time runs slowly. Several races are stuck there and over the centuries they have formed a peaceful society called Elysia. Now the Feds have learned how to cross safely from Elysia to our galaxy and following their Prime Directive to interfere everywhere offer to escort out anyone who wants to go back to their home planet. This causes some trouble with the Gorn who have some pretty advanced space mine technology, which is surprising because a few years earlier they didn't even know how to make gunpowder ('Arena' - Episode 18, Season 1, information from http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/TOS/episode/68698.html to give credit where its due). The Da Vinci doesn't feature much in this tale except in a prologue and epilogue about an ancient artefact. It was okay.

Now to 'The Art Of The Deal' by Glenn Greenberg. Any story about evil businessmen wins my favour in the age of Haliburton and so did this. At one point P8 'Pattie' the insectoid engineer leaps from her ship onto the back of a plummeting cargo ship carrying a deadly plague virus and rips open a hatch to get at the guidance system. This is not really Science Fiction, it is Saturday morning serial stuff but I enjoyed it.

'Spin' by J. Steven York and Christina F. York has some old Star Trek stand-by plot devices: a planet which wants to join the Federation, a bossy ambassador who is difficult to work with and an alien artefact on collision course with an inhabited world. It's the best hard Science Fiction story in the book mainly because it features some very alien aliens. Too many extra-terrestrials in Star Trek are essentially human beings with wrinkly foreheads or antennae. There are grumpy races, cruel races and nice races but all fit within normal human parameters. This is a restriction imposed by its original medium, television, which has to use human actors. Books give a bit more leeway to the imagination and that's used to the full here. Great ideas and a good story, too.

'Creative Couplings' by Glenn Hauman and Aaron Rosenberg has two plots, a drama based on a holodeck where they are testing a new ship design and a Jewish-Klingon wedding. This latter is actually a bit of a departure because Gene Roddenberry was quite the atheist and kept any mention of religion out of Star Trek, except for daft, primitive people worshipping super-machines which was a favourite theme. Certainly, his sophisticated Starfleet personnel didn't waste their time with God. The drama on a holodeck is definitely not a departure and as a rule I detest them because it always seems a bit phoney, like those crappy old Superman stories where it all turned out to be a dream. Neither of these ingredients was likely to win me over but the writing had a certain charm which carried it off. I particularly liked a bit of exposition where Captain Gold was used to introduce the various participants in planning the wedding by pondering which phaser setting he would use for each. Another winner, all in all.

Honey, they shrunk the planet Koa and fitted it inside a pyramid with a base just forty centimetres in diameter! This is the premise of 'Small World' by David Mack. A huge arachnid alien fleeing a pursuing fleet takes the pyramid to a mining operation at the edge of Federation space. The Da Vinci is summoned to escort him to the Mu Arae system where the pyramid must be opened so the planet can resume normal size. The pursuing fleet has other ideas and another good yarn evolves from the inevitable conflict. At one point, Captain Gold complains about an older race which went around meddling everywhere in the galaxy. This is a bit rich from a Starfleet officer but he and perhaps the author probably wasn't aware of the irony. If the Federation actually followed the Prime Directive then every time they encountered a crisis they would shrug their uniformed shoulders, say, 'Oh well, none of our business,' and go away. This would not make for great stories. However, the silly thing is part of the canon now.

There are soap opera sub-plots which run throughout the book and so, possibly, are not the creation of the individual writers but of the editorial team. They are the usual stuff, one character has lost a loved one and is a bit withdrawn, another has occasional liaisons with a chap but is not sure if they are serious and so on. It is a minor element and does not detract much from the stories or enhance them much if you like it. Three of these novellas are written by a duo which still seems odd to me. My notion of a writer is a lone eccentric struggling to express his personal vision. However, the end product is good so my notions will have to change.

There are arty rebellious types who dismiss this sort of stuff as cosy pap because it does not challenge your assumptions, offend your morals or make you feel a bit ill. That is one function of 'art' but another one is to entertain. We who get quite enough reality in the day to day struggle to earn a crust like to settle down with something cosy of an evening and this well-filled volume fit's the bill nicely. 'Creative Couplings' is the tenth book in the series and the second I have reviewed and enjoyed. I must ask 'Uncle Geoff' if he can get me the first eight.

Eamonn Murphypub: Simon and Schuster. 533 page enlarged paperback. Price: 9.99 (UK), $16.00 (US) $18.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4165-4898-0.check out website: www.simonsays.co.uk

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