The Entropy Effect
Posted by Tracy Poff on March 23, 2014
A little break from all these picture books seems to be in order, so let’s go with something completely different: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre, which is #2 in the Pocket Books line of Star Trek novels.
The Enterprise has been in orbit of a singularity for six weeks, Mr. Spock making careful observations of this unusual phenomenon, when they are called away to Aleph Prime by an ultimate override command–to be used only in the most dire of situations.
They arrive to find no great emergency at all. Instead, they’re asked to transport a criminal a short distance to a rehabilitation facility. Captain Kirk would have angrily refused, but Spock asks him to accede to this request. It seems that the criminal in question is a scientist of Spock’s acquaintance, and there’s something fishy about the situation. Spock’s investigation uncovers a threat to the entire universe, which he must handle covertly, if he can.
The Entropy Effect focuses on a few characters only: Spock, McCoy, Kirk, and Sulu, plus Mandala Flynn and Hunter, characters original to the novel. The bulk of the novel follows Spock as he deals with the situation, but it takes time to give us some insight into the others, as well. Importantly, in Trek history, it is in this novel that Sulu is given his name, Hikaru (which wouldn’t be officially confirmed until a decade later, in The Undiscovered Country), and promised a promotion to lieutenant commander.
The original characters are the high point of the novel. Flynn and the security officers under her command are each interesting: Flynn’s desire to prove herself is admirable; Jenniver’s difficulties fitting in inspire sympathy; Neon’s unusual language (consisting only of nouns) and Snnanagfashtalli’s loyalty to Jenniver each merit a mention, as well. Hunter, Kirk’s past love, is of little import to the plot, but she does add some needed variety. She has a child, and is part of a nontraditional family arrangement–it’s good to show that humans, too, are diverse. There are as many ways to live as there are people on the Earth, and space travel doesn’t do anything to simplify that.
Is it odd that each of the characters I identified as being of particular interest is female? Early Trek is certainly a story of men, and this novel, for all its focus on Spock, does somewhat counterbalance that.
The Entropy Effect‘s plot eventually revolves around time travel, and it’s handled fairly well, in a Star Trek sort of way. It’s shown to be difficult and far from consequence-free, and there’s a bit of suspense as we wonder how (though–let’s be honest–not if) Spock will manage his task.
All told, The Entropy Effect is an average book: not great, but fun enough to read once. I understand that several of the original characters show up in other Trek novels; I’ll look forward to reading those, some day.