Star Trek: The Entropy Effect (#2) by Vonda McIntyre

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Damian, Aug 3, 2020.

  1. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I just completed my re-read of this first original Star Trek novel published by Pocketbooks. I read it many years ago, sometime in the early 1990's I believe and remember almost nothing about it, other than Sulu had long hair. So it was basically new for me.

    Despite the cover image, as was common back in the early days, this is definitely a 5YM story. The Stardate is 5001 (granted that doesn't really nail down the era all that well back then) and Memory Alpha lists the year as 2270, near the end of the 5YM which sounds about right. One giveaway is the ranks, Sulu and Uhura are Lieutenants and Chekov an Ensign here. In the timeline though it would likely be a post animated series story as it does depict Kirk's recommendation that Sulu be promoted to Lt. Commander (perhaps a nod to his rank in TMP?).

    The story itself starts off with the Enterprise on a weeks long mission to investigate a strange singularity. During critical experiments Spock is doing the Enterprise receives an emergency transmission from a Starbase names Aleph Prime. A scientist Spock admires, Dr. Mordreaux, has been convicted of murder and they are to take him to a rehabilitation center. While there Kirk meets up with an old flame of his, Captain Hunter, who Sulu also admires. Sulu wants to expand his experience and requests a transfer to Hunter's ship which Kirk grants. Sulu has also fallen in love with the new security chief, complicating matters. Due to a challenge Sulu is growing his hair long (hence one accurate part of the cover photo). Meanwhile there are some strange occurrences. Scotty and the prosecutor of the case, Braithewaite, see Spock in places that don't make sense, in Braithewaite's case before the ship is even called to the Starbase.

    After Sulu disembarks Captain Kirk and the security chief are brutally murdered. Spock and McCoy are besides themselves. Spock reasons he has to go back in time to stop an experiment by Dr. Mordreaux that is basically a time travelling device. At first he wants to go back primarily to stop Kirk's murder but he later learns in his travels, by a future version of Dr. Mordreaux, that his experiment has resulted in universal entropy expanding rapidly and he has to stop the experiment all together.

    So that's the basic gist. I liked the first half of the book better than the 2nd half. This book sort of brought Sulu up to a main character and McIntyre gives greater background on Sulu, including his first name (that would later be retained and 'canonized'). It was nice to see a focus on one of the 'also starring' characters. I liked the security chief as well, Lt. Flynn, and Captain Hunter. McIntyre brings up her idea of partnerships in lieu of marriage (which was revisited in "Enterprise: The First Adventure"), and it reminds me a bit of Denobulan society depicted in Enterprise. Kirk was offered the chance to join the partnership but he bowed out, something he wonders if it was a mistake.

    A few flaws in the book, this is one of those 'the universe is going to be destroyed if we don't fix the disruption to the time stream' stories. A bit overly melodramatic probably. But as a person who watches slasher films, I can play the old 'suspension of disbelief' game and just go with it. I was kind of surprised there was no mention of the events of "The Tholian Web" here, as it features similar circumstances with the belief that Kirk is dead. An odd omission I thought since this novel was written well after that episode came out.

    Braithewaite is a complicated character. He starts off relatively likeable but he becomes almost a villain with his belief that Spock, McCoy and Flynn (who was likewise murdered) somehow are conspirators in Kirk's death. And Scotty expresses doubts about Spock and McCoy as well which seems completely out of character to me. He is brooding a bit because Spock and McCoy won't explain things to him and McCoy is left in bridge command so he can help deflect attention away from Spock's trying to fix the timeline. And McCoy doesn't trust Scott enough to tell him what's really going on, which seems out of character as well. I think we all know Scott would do whatever it takes had he known what is going on to help Spock and McCoy and he could have been a valuable ally. And even if they couldn't tell him for some reason, he would still help in whatever way he can. I can't see him doubting their motives. It just didn't 'feel' right to me. Perhaps that was the point of the story, that things aren't right because of the 'entropy' effect. But it just wasn't working for me. And the final resolution appeared rather sudden. Everything was falling apart then poof, something happens and it's all set right. It felt sort of like she was running out of pages and had to come up with a resolution to close out the story.

    Eventually everything is reset, which it would have to be since we all know Kirk could not be left for dead and Sulu has to remain with the Enterprise. Kirk finds a way to help Sulu expand his experiences while staying with the ship.

    So overall the book started off above average for me. Then dropped to about average in the 2nd half. The story was interesting, it had it's good moments. And once you get past the melodrama of 'we have to fix the timeline to save the universe' plot it was a book I could get into.
     
  2. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Seems like a fair review. After reading E:TFA it seemed that one of McIntyre idiosyncrasies is uneven focus throughout a book. Sulu is very present in the early half and neglected in the second half of that book, too.

    McIntyre's books worked welll mostly in publication order, although I found her ideas about Klingon culture difficult to understand in TSFS novelization, and blatantly clarified in E:TFA later. Next time I read them, I'll read E:TFA before TSFS.
     
  3. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, true. When I read E:TFA she sort of left some things hanging for a while. I liked "The Entropy Effect" more than E:TFA but there was a drop off in the 2nd half. I forgot about her coverage in Sulu in E:TFA, but yeah, she started in strong then seemed to forget about him for a while.

    And for some reason she seems fixated on this idea that Sulu wanted to leave the Enterprise. In E:TFA he didn't even want to be there in the first place and wanted off and in TEE he wanted to leave to help his career. Though in both stories he ultimately stayed.

    There was little of Uhura and Chekov in the novel as well--though not a huge deal. Sometimes when you focus on certain characters other characters get the short end of the stick.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I found McIntyre's Sulu all but unrecognizable -- so insecure and maudlin compared to the cheerful, upbeat go-getter of the series. I didn't mind it in TEE because I figured he was just going through a crisis, but when he was just as depressed in E:TFA, I realized that McIntyre's view of Sulu as a character was just fundamentally irreconcilable with mine.
     
  5. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

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    I remember when I read this book about 15 years ago, I found the last half with the time travelling Spock confusing.
     
  6. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I certainly did see that with E:TFA. Sulu was a brooding character because he didn't get the assignment he wanted (which seemed fantastical too me since it always seemed the main crew were very happy to be there). He did come around at the end but he seemed out of character (and out of position---I seem to remember him being a physicist and someone named Lt. Kelso at the helm :lol: --that must be it, Sulu instinctively knew he wasn't supposed to even be at the helm and it messed with his psyche).

    In TEE he started out ok. He was practicing his fencing and seemed his normal self. Then he was unsure about his falling in love with Lt. Flynn but I figure that's not really abnormal for many guys. And since we never saw him 'in love' during the series here was no frame of reference there. Then he was much more depressed at the end, but I didn't think too much about that since his lover and a captain he had great respect for had passed away.

    And perhaps part of why I was able to overlook it more in TEE is I know later he would become captain, and part of his reasoning in this novel for his being a bit unsure at times is his desire for command and feeling he needed to expand his resume more. I guess it's a bit of retroactively applying how I know his career will end up. And as you noted in the single novel you could also excuse some of it as some sort of phase he was going through. Even the happiest people have moments in their lives like that.

    So in TEE I can sort of see some of the reasons for how McIntyre treated Sulu. But in E:TFA he was definitely off. And taking the two works together it seems she had a view of Sulu that didn't quite jive with his presentation in the series.
     
  7. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    I can see the characterization of Sulu being off, with McIntyre depicting Sulu as maulin and insecure. I think I gave it a pass because I approached The Entropy Effect as part of an alternate universe, so I accepted it more than I would have otherwise. I think I have difficulty spotting inconsistencies in characterizations, in fiction; so Sulu's characterization being off didn't jump out at me (...until I read books like Dwellers in the Crucible and Crisis on Centaurus, where Sulu seems to have unlimited energy and charisma). I was also paying more attention to the backstory details that McIntyre came up with for the character, which I thought were fun ideas. I ended up wishing that McIntyre had been given space to write more about Hunter and her crew in a later novel, and almost felt that McIntyre got side-tracked when she got the movie novelizations gig (although the novelizations are phenomenal, especially how far TSFS is expanded).
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020
  8. flandry84

    flandry84 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I hadn’t really thought about Sulu’s characterisation in this book until now.True the way he is depicted here might be inconsistent with how he was portrayed in the series.However I always think of Sulu as a “man of enthusiasms” what with all the hobbies and such,,that is IMO kinda flighty(no pun intended) and unsettled in himself.
    I could see a guy like that being ready to move on to his next assignment and being kinda down or frustrated if he was somehow prevented from doing so.YMMV
     
  9. E-DUB

    E-DUB Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've always liked that one. The fact that Spock really had to struggle to get the timestream back on track seemed compelling. It was almost as if time itself "wanted" to stay messed up. Yeah, the characterization were a bit off, (especially with Scotty) but that was a flaw with many of the early novels. The Spock/McCoy interactions were great.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's just it, though. Between The Entropy Effect and Enterprise: The First Adventure, McIntyre's Sulu doesn't seem enthusiastic about anything. He just seems saturnine and insecure.
     
  11. flandry84

    flandry84 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That can happen.
    Perhaps Sulu was a little manic?
     
  12. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    I think Vonda was also reflecting George Takei's public frustration with Sulu's lack of advancement. He had to be talked into doing ST II. (His promotion line was dropped.) And III. (He was late to filming due to extended contract negotiations and then a beesting to the mouth.) And IV. (His scene with an ancestor was dropped.)
     
  13. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Not sure that would apply to TEE though. TEE was written in 1981, before a lot of his issues came out.

    You could argue that for E:TFA perhaps. And IIRC she did note Sulu's promotion to captain as early as her TWOK novelization.
     
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  14. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Commodore Commodore

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    I seem to recall that Robert Vardeman said in “VOI” that he and McIntyre had actually written their books in 1979, but Pocket couldn’t publish them until 1981 (apparently “The Klingon Gambit” was the first book commissioned, but McIntyre’s was chosen to be released first because she was better known).
     
  15. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    I think Vonda was familiar with the SF conventions, where George, Nichelle, Walter and Jimmy made regular appearances in "Where to now for Trek...?" panels all through the 70s.

    And TEE was written much earlier than 1981. It was put on hold until Bantam's backlog of Trek manuscripts came out.
     
  16. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I think I heard that as well.

    It's possible regarding the promotion that maybe McIntyre added that in to maybe link it to TMP later on. I've heard of authors doing things like that from time to time---where they add something just before it goes to print based on something that happened on screen. It was basically just a few sentences in the final chapter so it probably wouldn't have been a big deal to add it in before it went to print.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As tom said, it was written in '79, the year TMP came out. And there was a lot of advance publicity about the film's production; the characters' promotions were publicly known about by sometime in 1978, judging from some old fanzines I just checked. So it would hardly have been something that needed to be added at the last minute in 1981.
     
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  18. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    McIntyre's take on the Star Trek universe has always appealed to me, in that, even in her film novelizations, the adventures of the Enterprise are really a small part of what's going on. There's worldbuilding in the throwaway lines, like the mentions of Mandala Flynn commanding a mission to the Andromeda Galaxy in the novelizations, that has nothing to do with driving the story she's telling forward and everything about making the reader feel like there's a whole universe out there full of stories and incident that we only get small glimpses of. (The Star Trek universe went in a very different direction in 1987, but damn, I still want to read a Mandala Flynn-in-Andromeda novel.) It's been a long time since I read The Entropy Effect, but I remember a lot of the Hunter material in the same way; she exists outside of the Enterprise sphere, but in the details she makes the Star Trek universe feel more like a real place.
     
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  19. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yes, well, that's certainly true enough. I was probably making it more complicated that it was.:ouch:

    A nice little nod to TMP. And a bit of a clue as to the time frame since that means TEE has to take place after the animated series (assuming that takes place after the original series of course).
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    A lot of the early novelists didn't acknowledge the animated series, either by choice or simply due to being unfamiliar with it. For instance, Yesterday's Son ignores "Yesteryear" and says the Enterprise has only been to the Guardian planet once.