To Reign In HellBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at January 5, 2005 - 9:45 PM GMT
Title: Star Trek: To Reign in Hell, The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh
Author: Greg Cox
Release Date: January 2005
Khan. Star Trek's most infamous, charismatic and popular villain. A character that has fascinated fans the world over since first being so memorably portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in the classic episode "Space Seed". A few years ago author Greg Cox brilliantly depicted Khan's back-story in the two volumes of his bestselling The Eugenics Wars novels. Now Cox has done it again as he wraps up his ambitious triptych with the exceptional new novel To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh.
"With time on my hands, and my future on hold, it is the past that occupies my thoughts. Old decisions, and new regrets, haunt me, compelling me to embark on a solemn pilgrimage to the site of what may have been one of my greatest mistakes…" With those words from a log entry by Captain James T. Kirk, Greg Cox grabs your attention on the opening page and sets the stage for the enthralling and tragic tale of Khan's years on Ceti Alpha V. Cox has once again chosen to use a framing story around flashbacks, the same storytelling technique he used so effectively in his previous Kahn novels. In To Reign in Hell, however, Cox wisely keeps the framing story very simple and allows Khan himself to tell the tale.
Set immediately after the conclusion of Star Trek: The Voyage Home, Kirk, burdened by guilt and seeking answers travels back to Ceti Alpha V accompanied by Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Sulu. Hidden on the planet they discover a journal kept by Khan that chronicles the fifteen years that Khan, Marla McIvers and Khan's genetically engineered followers spent on the doomed planet. The exiles struggle for survival is poignantly and graphically depicted as the fledgling colony endures a constant stream of tragic disappointment, and bitterness and sorrow ultimately chip away at Khan's sanity.
With To Reign in Hell Greg Cox has skillfully taken the small amount of material established in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and spun a spellbinding and heartbreaking tale that manages to clarify all sorts of continuity inconsistencies and a myriad of small details such as why Khan's left hand is covered with a glove. In the face of everything Khan maintains his arrogance. Cox absolutely nails the character, which comes as no surprise, after all he knows him intimately by now. It would have been quite easy for Khan's personality to overshadow the story but it never does. Khan's ruthlessness and sense of superiority is nicely balanced by the other characters, especially that of his wife Lieutenant Marla McIvers.
The tone and pacing of the plot is perfect and I particularly enjoyed the classical references scattered effectively throughout the story. We all know how Khan's story ends, but despite that the compelling narrative draws you in and keeps the reader mesmerized allowing the ironic twist at the end to come as a complete surprise. The end also ties in very nicely with The Eugenics Wars novels although it is not necessary to have read those volumes to completely enjoy and appreciate the story Cox tells in To Reign in Hell.
To Reign in Hell is a phenomenal story in and of itself and an extraordinary conclusion to the saga of Khan Noonien Singh that Cox began with The Eugenics Wars.
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.