Star Trek 968: Planet of Judgment

968. Planet of Judgment

PUBLICATION: Bantam Books, August 1977

CREATORS: Joe Haldeman

STARDATE: 6132.8 (after The Immunity Syndrome)

PLOT: The Enterprise discovers a strange and lethal rogue planet (dubbed Anomaly) where the laws of physics and biology don't seem to apply. A number of shuttles and crew are stranded there with only partially-working technology and no contact with the ship. When a a crew member is transformed into one of the native life-forms, it starts testing communicating telepathically with them. He is a powerful Arivne trying to protect himself from an Irapina invasion, a multi-billion alien army due to arrive in 1000 years, though they may have sent advance scouts. The Arivne tests some of the crew by making them relive memories that feature both difficult decisions and treachery to better understand its enemy's motives, as well as testing their willpower. The scouts arrive and the Big Three are required to defeat them in various contests on the mental plane. With the Arivne's boost, they defeat the Irapina and make the scouts turn away from the both the Federation and Arivne.

CONTINUITY: Spock has a flashback to Amok Time. McCoy has a flashback to his marriage ending (his daughter Joanna appears in it). The USS Lysander was on a mission to recover Intrepid debris (The Immunity Syndrome) before it was diverted. The Irapina also tried to fight the Organians and failed (Errand of Mercy).

DIVERGENCES: For the first time ever, Kirk and his landing party are wearing body armor. McCoy seems a lot more comfortable and knowledgeable about "ancient" medicine (like sutures) here than he is in ST IV. McCoy has a communicator with an antenna (unless they mean the flip cover acts as an antenna).

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK - The landing part burns a scar on Anomaly that will eventually be its encampment.
REVIEW: Though it fits with Star Trek's more fanciful view of super-advanced alien beings toying with reality, Planet of Judgment is still imbued with hard SF concepts, in that almost educational way that more youth-oriented books often are. And while the plot is fine, the landing party's early efforts to survive particularly well thought out (if at times, violent), the real highlight is the attention to character. Haldeman isn't afraid to fill in some details, such as McCoy's wife leaving him or Spock's first visit to Earth as a 10-year-old boy. As characters fall asleep, the prose turns into readable stream of consciousness that also gives us an insight into the regulars, and Spock confides in McCoy about how to best deal with the Chapel situation. Even scenes that have no real impact on the plot as such, such as McCoy's memory of being played for a rube on a frontier planet, retain the reader's interest and stand out. Both alien races are very strange, but efficiently drawn in just a few words. One of the writer's other qualities is the throwaway element that you wish he'd explore in more detail, but that satisfies you as a part of the story. A good bit of fun from a multiple Hugo and Nebula Aware winner.

Next for the SBG Book Club: Power Hungry (TNG), Warchild (DS9), The Riddled Post (SCE), Vulcan! (TOS)


Bully said...

This is my favorite of the Bantam Star Trek novels...some of those were very hit and miss (I'll be interested to see what you will say about Vulcan!, which has some very un-Roddenberry personality aspects to it). Have you done Trek to Madworld yet? It's essentially Star Trek meets Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (with the Klingons as Veruca Salt).

Siskoid said...

I'm doing them in order of release, which puts Madworld 3 away, so early November?

hiikeeba said...

One of the best Bantam novels, for sure. It turned me on to Joe Haldeman, who, for my money, can't write poorly, nor can he write enough.

Siskoid said...

Sadly (for Trek at any rate), he only wrote one more, and only because he couldn't get out of the contract.

Probably true to say he was wasted on such projects, though.


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