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Mere Anarchy by Keith R. A. DeCandido
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573315,965 (3.5)4
Meskito: a world on the brink of interstellar travel-- and one that is closely and discreetly monitored by the Federation. When a rogue pulsar sweeps through the star system, threatening to destroy all life on the planet, Starfleet must mount a desperate effort to protect the planet from annihilation.… (more)

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Finally read this collected volume of the 40th anniversary Star Trek e-book series. Interesting to follow one connected story line over many years and how a place fares after surviving one of the Enterprise's dramatic rescues. For once they have to go back and pick up the pieces often left in their wake. ( )
  SF_fan_mae | Sep 6, 2016 |
I think some of the best tie-in fiction tells stories that can't be told in the parent medium. Sometimes, as with Dave Galanter's Troublesome Minds, this is simply a matter of all the people involved in the production of your series having broken up some forty years ago. Sometimes, as with The New Doctor Who Adventures, it is a matter of telling stories too broad and deep for the small screen. Sometimes, as with Star Trek's Invasion! tetralogy, it's a matter of telling stories that span time in a way that could only be done in retrospect-- you can have a Voyager story come out a month after the original series story it's a sequel to. (Doctor Who lets you take this a step further into impossibility, by having a fifth Doctor story come out a month after the sixth Doctor story it's a sequel to.) Star Trek: Mere Anarchy, edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido, is one of these impossible stories: six individual novellas, each telling about an encounter with the planet Mestiko, spanning nearly thirty years of Star Trek history. The first story takes place before the original series even began in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the last one occurs shortly after it draws to a close in the Generations prologue, and the rest happen at scattered points in between.

But it's not just the crew of the starship Enterprise we see evolve over this story; it's the people of the planet Mestiko as well, especially Raya elMora, a Payav environmental activist who events throw into a place of prominent leadership. Raya is an excellent character: her being written by six different writers (counting Ward and Dilmore as a composite entity, of course) at six different periods in her life (she is, in fact, the only character to appear in all six parts of the book) of course gives her a certain amount of depth and complexity, but I suspect that had she only appeared in just one book, she'd still have been pretty memorable.

The series might purport to be "the saga of one crew's career long relationship to one world", but that's not quite true-- it's perhaps the book's one major failing that it's mostly just James T. Kirk's relationship to Mestiko, and especially to Raya. We don't get much of an impression how Spock, McCoy, and the rest relate to the people-- each character gets a moment or two across the entire book, but Kirk gets multiple moments in each individual story, giving us a stronger feeling of what Mestiko means to him than anyone else. This starts from the very first story, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore's "Things Fall Apart", which tells of the disaster that befalls Mestiko and kicks off the entire series. It's a pretty straightforward action/adventure story of the type that Ward and Dilmore typically excel at, but by far the book's best scene is the one where Kirk-- as this point only a few months into his captaincy-- has a talk with his original chief medical officer, Doctor Mark Piper. It's an exceptional scene, showcasing Kirk's tendency to try to carry the weight of entire worlds on his shoulder, and fleshing out a character who got about five minutes of screentime in the original series (and in a way that doesn't make him a carbon copy of Doctor McCoy). This strong scene lifts an otherwise average story.

The depiction of Kirk's relationship with Mestiko tends to make or break most of the stories in the book-- Mike W. Barr's "The Centre Cannot Hold" is a fine enough original series trouble-with-meddlesome-Klingons stories, but aside from a scant few moments, Mestiko could pretty much be any planet in trouble here. On the other hand, the story introduces the character of Doctor Marat Lon, one of the book's most interesting characters, a Martian scientist who eventually "goes native" with the Payav. There's nothing bad about this story, but it's definitely the lightest and the shortest.

Kirk's relationship with Mestiko is at the forefront of Dave Galanter's "Shadows of the Indignant", which surprised me by being my favorite one in the book. His latter-era books have typically not done a whole lot for me, but with this, his first original series effort (aside from a short story in Constellations), he hits it out of the park. The only Enterprise characters in the book are Kirk, at this point an admiral and Chief of Starfleet Operations, and McCoy, retired and in private practice, and from scene one, he captures both of these characters perfectly. I typically don't make much of an effort to match actors' voices to dialogue in books, but with this story, I couldn't help hearing William Shatner and DeForest Kelley reading every line. And it's a good, fun story to boot. I was already looking forward to Galanter's novel Troublesome Minds, but now that feeling has only intensified.

The most problematic story in the book was probably Christopher L. Bennett's "The Darkness Drops Again". Unlike all the other stories in the book, which show a single visit to Mestiko, this one spans three separate encounters with the planet over an eight-year period, more than the first three stories cover all together. The disjointed nature of the story does it no favors; there's no strong narrative drive here, and so it simply ends up feeling like a series of unconnected incidents. The thrust of the story is about Raya's exile from and return to Mestiko, and this is its strongest point, as it shows her as a fully fleshed-out character, her determination to help her planet showcased in both positive and negative lights. But the middle visit has nothing to do with anything, even though it is nice to see Doctor Lon again. (Not so nice to get an adolescent sexual innuendo from his wife, but them's the breaks, I suppose.) On the last visit, however, Kirk is not present (this part takes place while he's retired from Starfleet), and this shows up the weakness of the other characters' relationships to the planet; with Spock and McCoy as the viewpoint characters, there's just not the same level of urgency or interest in Mestiko. It's a positive in depicting how much Mestiko and Kirk mean to one another, I suppose, but it doesn't make for interesting reading. (Clark Terrell, captain of the Reliant, steps into the gap for a scene, too, but it ends up feeling totally random and intrusive.) Also, the characters have a tendency to get a little preachy with one another in this story-- which is fine, I know plenty of preachy people, except that the recipients of this preaching are somewhat unrealistically cool with it. "The Darkness Drops Again" works well in showcasing Mestiko's evolution in reacting to the Pulse (though I'm tired of hypocritical religious fanatics as villains), but as an actually story, it's too diffuse to be effective.

If I were going to accuse another story in the book of tending toward of somewhat generic planet-of-the-week storyline, it would be Howard Weinstein's "The Blood-Dimmed Tide", but fortunately a few aspects actually ended up elevating the story to being my second-favorite in the volume. For one thing, it's just a really dang good generic planet-of-the-week storyline. The crew are characterized perfectly (I could hear the actors again), and the twists and turns are genuinely exciting; I raced through this one to see what would happen next. Plus, there's some more excellent material with Raya elMora, as she deals with an unexpected twist in her relationship with her protege, Theena elMadej. (This twist is one of those things a book like this can do well; having seen Theena as a child from the earliest installments, what happens to her here is even more effective.) Raya's troubles are at the center of this book, given that it also culminates her relationship with Elee, her grandmother, who'd been an (excellent) recurring character in the previous installments. This is perhaps one of the most continuity-heavy stories in the book, as it sets up some of what will transpire in The Undiscovered Country, but it works very well: it's a good quadrant politics story. Weinstein has been absent from Star Trek fiction for far too long; we haven't had a full novel from him since 1994's The Better Man! Hopefully we get him back sometime.

As "Its Hour Come Round" takes place after Kirk's disappearance in Star Trek: Generations, one would expect it to suffer from a lack of Captain Kirk, but Margaret Wander Bonanno actually elevates this lack to a centerpiece of the story, which really makes it work. Almost all the characters here, from the Enterprise crew to Raya elMora to Chancellor Azetbur of the Klingon Empire, are defined by the lack of Captain Kirk. Bonanno's stories since she returned to Star Trek fiction in 2004 haven't done a whole lot for me, but I think that's because they haven't been very original crew-centric; she's back in her element with this one. All of the characters, especially McCoy, are pitch-perfect as they try to deal with the loss of a man who meant so much to them. Kirk might not be physically present in this one, but he's still very much a character in it. My only complaint (and what stops this from being the best story in the book) is its too-sudden conclusion; one storyline had been wrapped up, but I feel like there was more to say about Raya and Mestiko before the end.

I think the biggest tribute I could make to this book is that I don't want to know what's happened to Mestiko by the 24th century. My knee-jerk reaction was to wonder how the planet had ended up a century later, but then I realized that any such followup would be hollow. So much of this excellent book is defined by the planet's relationship with the original Enterprise crew, as embodied in Kirk and Raya, that a story about the planet without any of those characters would just be disappointing; Keith DeCandido and his crack team of writers just did their jobs too well here. I was excited about this project from the moment it was first announced back in 2006, and I'm pleased that upon finally reading it, it took advantage of its unique situation to tell a magnificent story that only a project like this really could.
  Stevil2001 | Jun 4, 2009 |
Originally published as a series of six novellas to celebrate the original series' 40th anniversary, "Mere Anarchy" is now collected as a single-volume, trade paperback release in anticipation of the upcoming reboot on the big screen. The six stories take place across the entire run of classic "Star Trek," from the early days of the original series to the movie-era continuity.

As I read the short novellas, I will offer up my thoughts on each one and then do one big "wrap-up" review once I've read the entire 500 plus page story.

Book One: "Things Fall Apart" by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
A pre-"Where No Man Has Gone Before" story about the earliest days of Kirk's command of the Enterprise. The planet Mestiko is one being observed by undercover teams of Federation scientists to determine if the planet is ready for first contact. While there, it's discovered that a giant pulsar will pass close to the planet and while it won't collide with Metisko, it will irradiate the planet, causing environmental hazards and virtually destroying all life on the planet. The Enterprise is assigned to deploy a series of satellites that will create a shield for the planet and avert all of this damage.

"Things Fall Apart" showcases an era we don't know much about in "Trek" history--that of the time before McCoy joined the crew and Gary Mitchell hadn't yet had his accident. It's nice to see the Enterprise crew slowly gelling into what it will become in later episodes and the movies and it's nice to see the Kirk and Spock friendship before it's really established. Of course, since there are five more chapters in the saga and we know the writers wanted a reason for the Enterprise to return to Mestiko, it's not easy to figure that things won't go according to plan when it comes to deploying the satellites. But despite being somewhat predictable if you've read a good deal of "Trek" fiction, the story works because we see a young Kirk facing the challenges of his command and accepting the burden when things don't go exactly according to plan--even though the failure isn't the fault of Kirk or anyone else really. The story also does a nice job of world-building for Mestiko, giving us a glimpse of the society and seeing the reaction to the potential catastrophic destruction coming.

"The Center Cannot Hold" by Michael Barr
Set during the original series run (early season two, I'd estimate) the story finds Kirk and company returning to Mestiko with a series of satellites that could clean up the atmosphere. Of course this being classic "Trek" at its height, the Klingons are also on hand, competing with the Federation for control.

Of the six stories in the book, this is the most straight forward. It puts elements into play that will pay off later in the series, including a thread about the mistrust of the Federation by certain factions on the planet. It's probably the shortest of the novellas contained here.

"Shadows of the Indignant" by Dave Galanter
Set in the "lost era" between the end of the original five year mission and the start of "The Motion Picture," Galanter's entry finds Kirk teaming with McCoy to head back to Mestiko on a covert mission. Early on the story is intriguing as we get some nice interaction between Kirk and McCoy, but overall I found this one of the more disappointing segments of the story.

"The Darkness Drops Again" by Christopher L. Bennett
The longest of the novellas and the most entertaining. Set after "TMP," Bennett shows why he's one of the best classic "Trek" writers currently working. A lot of that may be that the story isn't limited to a short number of days or weeks, but unfolds over a longer periods. The mood on Mestiko has changed and led to turmoil and a general distrust of the Federation by certain political factions who come to power. One scene I really liked sees the planet's people wondering why the Federation couldn't scramble to save their world as efficiently as they did when it came to V'Ger threatening Earth.

Bennett's story is the strongest on the characters and really the turning point of the set of novellas.

"The Blood-Dimmed Tide" by Howard Weinstein
It's been far too long since we were treated to a "Trek" story from Howard Weinstein. Back in the day, his books were those to be looked forward to and he certainly seems to have not lost his edge here. All the elements introduced in the first four installments come to a head in this story and Weinstein really delivers the goods. A fast-paced, exciting entry.

"Its Hour Come Round" by Margaret Wander Bonano
And then, there's the epilogue. Set after the death of Kirk, this is a character-driven coda to the story. It's nice to see Bonano back and writing for "Trek" again, but I wish this had been a stronger story along the lines of her Captain Pike novel released around the same time. ( )
  bigorangemichael | Apr 23, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
DeCandido, Keith R.A.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barr, Mike W.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bennett, Christopher L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonanno, Margaret WanderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dilmore, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Galanter, DaveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ward, DaytonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weinstein, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Mere Anarchy was originally published as six eBooks for the 40th anniversary of the initial airing of the original Star Trek
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