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The original Star Trek's quest was to boldly go were no-one has gone before, but over countless episodes and hundreds of books the different variations of Trek have pretty much been every where. By the time we got to the next generation the society was such that even the Klingons were on friendly terms. It seemed that the makers of the Trek had nowhere to and had to reach for more abstract ideas - Voyager being set on the other side of the Universe, or Enterprise charting the adventures of a pre Kirk Federation. All this flim flam is not what I want; I want to see the oldies getting involved in real new adventures. Perhaps 'New Earth' could be a set of books to do this. Over 6 novels Diane Carey and a series of co-writers follow Kirk and co. as they set out to help some settlers find a new home far from the safety of Federation space. Could these books bring a new and exciting edge to the over worn world of Star Trek, or will they prove so dull that I would rather watch a Ferengi count coins?
'Belle Terre' is the second in the 'New Earth' books and chronicles the arrival of the Enterprise at their destination. It seems that everything is too good, a beautiful planet rich with natural resources far away from rogue aliens. However, this hope proves false when Spock realises that the moon of the planet is filled with a highly unstable material and is ripe for an explosion; one that would rip Belle Terre to pieces. Kirk and the heads of the settler group have a lot to think about in a short time. Should they abandon their new home or try to affect the unstable moon? With only days to decide their choices are made even harder when a group 9 year olds go missing on the planets surface. Can Kirk, Spock, Bones et al once more save the day?
The tie in novel is not a genre rich with great novels. In fact the majority are average at best and a lot down right poor. This unfortunately is the case here with 'Belle Terre' being amongst the dullest books I have read in a long time. What makes matters worse is that the central idea of the book is a good one. The Enterprise truly coming up against the unknown is a refreshing idea; how co writers Carey and Smith got it so wrong is amazing. Firstly, like in most Star Trek novels there is a real issue with character development - or lack of it. The authors of all the Star Trek books are extremely low on the pecking order of Star Trek mythology. This book is set after the films, but before Generations. Therefore, we know that most of the characters pop up again alive and well. Trek authors are not allowed to deviate, kill or change anything important; Carey and Smith are stuck.
The vast majority of Trek authors find a way around this by populating their novels with other none central characters that can be killed or changed. Peter David is a master of this, Carey is not. The leader character and mother character in 'Belle Terre' are extremely boring. They feel straight out of the 'Next Generation' season 1 school of dull people. Why on Earth (or New Earth) they would think we would be interested in these people is beyond me. With no development within the crew of the Enterprise and no one interesting to read about outside as a reader you are left not caring what happens to anyone.
Despite the dull characters it is not this area that proves the most mind numbing, but the story itself. In trying to destroy the unstable moon Carey and Smith write about various Starships using their tractor beams to break the surface. This was an ok idea once, but they repeat the process over and over again until the book reads like an ever repeating cycle. Truly awful structure which is not aided by amateurish writing and weak characterisation. There is a brief glimpse of potential when some scouts are sent out to discover a possible alternative planet only to discover a mysterious entity. Unfortunately, this part of the book is treated badly and you never get a satisfactory answer. Carey and Smith seem to believe that we are more interested in another attempt at dislodging the moons crust - wrong.
I know that no non-Trek fan would ever think of buying or reading this book so I am not worried about the majority of people. However, Trek fans may just decide to read it and even they should avoid this book. There are some books in the series that are strong slices of science fiction; this is not once of them. Instead this is a deathly dull example of an author out of their depth with the ideas they have created. Perhaps books 1 and 3-6 are better, but they obviously did not have 6 strong ideas so the series should have had fewer books - avoid.
Author: Dean Wesley Smith and Diane Carey
Price: amazon uk - £0.01 (second hand)