Set during the original five-year mission (and according the star date placing it roughly towards the end of the second season) this book reads like a classic Star Trek episode. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on your tastes, as Star Trek is one of those franchises that proves to polarize it’s fans and non-fans.
When a Vulcan science ship is found completely intact but all the crew dead, and no traces of toxins or foul play, the Enterprise investigates what has happened. Meanwhile, on the planet below, an archaeologist finds the traces of a long lost civilization and a Klingon warship orbits above, threatening the Enterprise.
Whatever has been unearthed on the planet below is affecting Human, Vulcan and Klingon alike. The crews of both ships start acting up, making illogical and poor decisions, and it is up to Kirk and the Enterprise to maintain the fragile truce despite the Klingon’s best attempts to subvert peace.
Gambit is a mystery space opera. There is little action and to be fair, the mystery element gets overlooked often. But, that been said, it is a solid character-driven story. The conflicts arising in this book are from the way the characters are all being individually affected by the planet below, and this presents some very entertaining tension and drama and often some humor.
Unfortunately, what lets this book down is Vardemans inability to write about minorities or women without objectifying them or forcing stereotypes on them. The scenes of what are supposed to be sexual tension come off as awkward, and the mystery takes a back seat, only to be revived towards the end of the book with an anticlimactic resolution.
Gambit is not a boring book, by any means, and thankfully is a short read, so it’s pacing is quite adequate. There was one surprise twist, which I won’t spoil here, that is a really original idea, but as far as plot twists go it was mostly predictable. The most surprising element of the big reveal caught me completely off guard, however, in what was a fantastic concept that could easily have been fleshed out into a more significant role.
I am not a Star Trek fan, and I don’t know if this helps or hinders the book. I recognize a lot of references and archetypes from the films or occasional tv shows I have seen, but I had no expectations of what the book was when I went in. Also, not having any previous attachments to the characters allowed me to enjoy the story more freely without questioning characterizations or story elements which may be contrary to the official canon. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable story which felt relatively true to the series and I would recommend to both fans alike and unalike.
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