Author: L.A. Graf
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Science Fiction (Media tie-in for Star Trek: The Original Series)
Firestorm is #68 of the iconic Pocket Books run of Star Trek novels. The pseudonym, L.A. Graf (which jokingly stands for “Let’s All Get Rich and Famous), in this case refers to writers Karen Rose Cercone and Julia Ecklar. This is the same duo who penned Death Count, (which I previously reviewed for Geeks Under Grace), and at least twelve other Star Trek novels.
Spiritual Content: N/A
Violence: This is one of the more violent Star Trek novels I’ve read so far. As much danger as the volcano puts our heroes in, the warlike cultures of the Elasians and the Klingons are far more immediately threatening. Not only do Enterprise crew members (Chekov in particular, as always) and Federation scientists suffer pretty grotesquely at the hands of the Elasians and Klingons, but these aliens also torture their own people. One of the main descriptions of violence is centered around the use of the Klingon agonizer, a torture device featured in the TV series in the episodes “Mirror, Mirror,” and “Day of the Dove.” This may be disturbing to some readers. Also, Chekov loses a lot of blood, and some of the scientists get severely maimed.
Language/Crude Humor: The characters use the words h*** and d***, and occasionally take the Lord’s name in vain. The language is similar to what you would hear in the Star Trek Original Series movies.
Sexual Content: N//A
Drug/Alcohol Use: N/A
Other Negative Content: The Elasians, like the Klingons, have a culture that glorifies suicide and murder in order to achieve an “honorable” death.
Positive Content: Uhura mentors the young Dohlman Israi, ruler of the Elasians, and teaches her that there is more to leading a people than simply being the most powerful and strongest in battle.
During the second five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise (after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Captain Kirk and his crew are given the mission of conveying a group of Federation geologists to the planet Rakatan, where they will monitor the intense activity exhibited by the planet’s many volcanoes. However, they get more than they bargained for when they run into the Elasians, an alien people-group they helped on their original five-year mission (Star Trek, “Elaan of Troyius”). The leader they befriended, Elaan, has died, and been replaced by her prideful younger sister, Israi. In order to communicate with this incredibly matriarchal culture, Uhura pretends to be the ruler of the Enterprise, and takes her “underlings,” Sulu and Chekov, with her on her diplomatic mission to the planet. While there, the Enterprise officers research Dohlman Israi’s claims to the planet Rakatan and discover that the young woman is under the thumb of her controlling aunt, the Crown Regent. The plot only thickens when the Klingons become involved, trying to persuade the Elasians to join them in their struggle to control the galaxy. All the while, the massive volcanoes of Rakatan threaten to rain down destruction on all those stationed in the tiny dilithium mining encampment the Elasians have set up.
Once again, the authors who write under the synonym L.A. Graf have given more characterization to the secondary bridge-crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Uhura and Chekov definitely take the lead in this novel. The authors shed light on their inner strengths and weaknesses, fears, and potential. Sulu is also given a chance to shine. The other main Star Trek characters–Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty–are also faithfully written, but they aren’t given much to do. Israi is interesting, once Uhura is able to break through her tough and arrogant exterior. The scientists and Elasian servants are somewhat sympathetic, but are usually portrayed as obnoxiously stubborn about getting their way with the planet Rakatan.
The plot of Firestorm is a bit complicated, and heavily reliant on a previous knowledge of Star Trek lore. However, most of the people who are interested in reading Star Trek novels are well-versed in the stories and universe, so this is not too much of a problem. The plotlines that involve Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, Israi, and the others on the planet Rakatan are very compelling. However, whenever the action shifts back to the Enterprise, not much happens. Kirk, and his crew that remain shipside, have little to do other than wait and worry about their friends, which makes these sections seem superfluous and “skimmable.”
The most compelling themes of the novel come from Uhura’s leadership style. Young Dohlman Israi is used to leading by exercising control over others. This is what she learned from her culture and her aunt. However, her friendship with Uhura provides her with an alternative method of leadership. Though she is a very strong woman, Uhura leads her team with respect for them and their personal dignities. In the end, both the Israi and the readers can clearly see that Uhura’s is the more effective way to deal with the people under your authority
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0743420195,0671865889,B00474BW70]
+ Strong female characters + Good characterizations of Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov
- Violent - Some extraneous and "skimmable" plotlines
The Bottom Line
Uhura's example of leadership in Star Trek: Firestorm is a good reminder that we best lead others when we respect them and their personal dignities.