Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Science Fiction (Media tie-in for Star Trek: The Original Series)
Death Count is number 62 of the Pocket Books Star Trek novels, the first of which came out in 1979. The name of the author, L.A. Graf, is a pseudonym used by writers Julia Ecklar and Karen Rose Cercone. They wrote at least twelve Star Trek novels, occasionally with help from other authors.
There is a good deal of violence depicted in this book. The saboteur aboard the Enterprise commits what could be considered acts of terrorism towards the crew and the auditors. Several people end up killed violently in a transporter accident. Mr. Sulu finds some of the auditors murdered. A bomb destroys part of the Enterprise. Chekov gets brutalized in several physical fights with the saboteur. There are some fights and injuries depicted “on screen”, which would earn a PG-13 ranking if they were depicted in images instead of words.
The crew has a tendency towards the words H*** and D****. The Lord’s Name is taken in vain on a few occasions. The language is no stronger than it is in the Star Trek movies starring the original series cast.
Other Negative Content
There is a good deal of bigotry expressed by the Andorians and the Orions, and occasionally by the Starfleet officers.
The friendship between Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura, which can be seen in the periphery during the television series, is explored in greater depth in this novel. The three care about each other’s physical and emotional well-being and are always looking out for one another. The theme of sacrifice is prevalent in Death Count as well. On several occasions, Chekov chooses to risk his life by staying in a dangerous situation to protect his friends.
A brilliant Andorian physicist has gone missing, along with his ideas for powerful and potentially dangerous new technology. This sparks conflict between the Andorians and their rivals, the Orions. The conflict seems liable to escalate into all-out war, so the Enterprise crew is sent to intervene. Much to everyone’s chagrin, they are assigned a team of auditors from Starfleet, who manage to make their jobs nigh impossible by testing their efficiency.
Meanwhile, a saboteur is running amok aboard the ship, threatening the lives of everyone on board, and pushing Lieutenant Pavel Chekov and his security team to their limits.
It seems that most people who read Star Trek novels want to re-connect with the characters from their favorite television show. That is why I read them, at least. Definitely, the most entertaining part of this novel is the interactions between the characters. Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura, who are side characters in the original series, particularly stand out in Death Count. The authors of this novel have written several other novels — including Ice Trap and Firestorm — that focus on these characters. Their portrayals of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Doctor McCoy are also well done, even if Kirk does seem a bit stern at times. I enjoyed reading about how the crew of the Enterprise interacts like a family.
The plot of the story had me a bit confused. I understood that there was war brewing between the Andorians and the Orions, and that the Enterprise crew was attempting to avert it, but I did not always understand where they were going or why.
Some of the drama seemed forced. For example, there are at least five occasions on which everyone thinks Chekov is going to die. The first few times, it is dramatic and emotional. After a while, I stopped caring, especially because I knew that Chekov could not die in this novel, as he continues to appear later in Star Trek chronology.
I also believe that the authors missed many opportunities to deal with themes of life and death. Though Chekov finds himself on the verge of death many times, he never grapples with the implications of life after death.
The main themes of this novel seem to be friendship and sacrifice. These were displayed in the genuine care that Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura showed for each other in the midst of life-threatening crises.
If you love the side characters of the original series of Star Trek, you may enjoy reading the adventure from their perspective, as presented in Death Count. While it does not have the most flowing prose, the deepest themes, or the tightest plot, this book may still provide a few hours of entertainment to a fan looking for some diversionary reading.
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+ Good character interactions + Told from the perspective of characters who do not usually get the spotlight
- Confusing plot - Missed thematic opportunities - Violence - Forced drama
The Bottom Line
While it does not have the most flowing prose, the deepest themes, or the tightest plot, Death Count may provide a few hours of entertainment to Star Trek fans looking for some diversionary reading.