Ex MachinaBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at February 11, 2005 - 7:56 PM GMT
Title: Star Trek: Ex Machina
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Release Date: January 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A life long Star Trek fan whose contributions to the Star Trek universe already include the Starfleet Corps of Engineers tale Aftermath and the short story "...Loved I Not Honor More" in the Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change anthology, Christopher L. Bennett's debut novel Ex Machina is a pleasant departure from the norm in a number of ways.
Written with an assurance that only someone who really knows his or her Star Trek can pull off, Ex Machina is a stylish page-turner and wonderful science fiction.
Still reeling from their encounter with V'Ger and the sacrifice of Captain Willard Decker, the crew of the Enterprise has barely had time to begin to come to grips with those events when Dr. Leonard McCoy receives a plea for help from someone he hadn't expected to ever hear from again, his ex-wife Natira, the former high priestess of the Fabrini. Since settling on Daran IV, a world they call Lorina, the former inhabitants of the worldship Yonada have become divided by what they see as conflicting ideologies, a conflict that has now turned violent.
Thought provoking stories are one of the hallmarks of Star Trek and stories rarely get more thought provoking than Ex Machina. It would be easy to just categorize Ex Machina as a follow-up to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the classic episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" and of course it is, but it is also more than that, much more. What Christopher L. Bennett has done with Ex Machina is to meld together the themes of both into a story cannot help but resonate with anyone who has ever read a history book or a newspaper.
Ex Machina is also a heck of a lot of fun to read. The narrative is liberally sprinkled with homage's to multiple incarnations of Star Trek, including the novels, and reads like a who's who of Star Trek alien species. At the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture the crew of the Enterprise was the most diverse Starfleet had ever assembled and Bennett takes full advantage of that. Bennett goes way beyond just mentioning the species; he takes the time to allow us to get to know them.
As impressive as Mr. Bennett's world building efforts are in Ex Machina he never loses sight of the characters, and it is his depiction of those characters that makes the whole thing work. Taking into account not only the effect of the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the individual characters but also of the novels set between the final episode of TOS and the first movie, several of the main characters are at a crossroad in their lives and uncertain about the direction their lives are taking.
Guilt ridden and unsure James Kirk is floundering. Kirk knows that he does not have the full support of the crew, many of whom feel that Decker and his staff were pushed aside unfairly to make room for the old guard, and he can't help but wonder if they are right. Spock is struggling with his recent epiphany about emotions and McCoy is feeling way out of his depth with the diverse crew. Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, Scotty, and Chapel all have their moments as well.
Ex Machina is refreshing, interesting and contributes a great deal to the already rich Star Trek universe. Based on this impressive debut I can't wait to see other contributions Christopher L. Bennett makes to that universe in the years to come.
Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.