Top critical review
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Overdone Theme Limits Otherwise Good Story
on October 22, 2012
When Federation hero, explorer and founder of several colonies, Kostas Spyroukis dies on the Enterprise shortly after being beamed aboard, Dr. McCoy determines that the colony he recently founded is in grave danger. While slow acting, the sun the colony orbits produces unusual radiation that, combined with an abundance of argon in the atmosphere, produces a toxic isotope that will kill every human on the planet. As the Enterprise races to the colony to help evacuate the colonists, it is captured by a rouge Oranian named Enowil, who has also snatched a Romulan ship and a Klingon cruiser. Enowil wants the crews to help him solve a problem on the world he has created, and offers a great reward to the race that finds the answer first. Captain Kirk must decided between saving the colonists or preventing the Federation's enemies from gaining access to a huge technological advantage.
Trek to Madworld is well written and has a very episodic feel to it (a good thing). Definitely a book one can see played out as an hour long original series show. The biggest drawback to me is in the theme - a near Omnipotent being captures the Enterprise and/or crew and introduces a moral dilemma. Since the Star Trek universe has a relatively loose canon (at least compared to, for example, the Star Wars universe) the canvas to develop Star Trek novels is wide open. However, time and time again, writers in the Star Trek universe fall back on this over-used theme. In fact, the previous book in the original Bantam novel series, The Starless World, also had a near-omnipotent being as it's primary antagonist. Whether it's the Organians of the original Star Trek series, the Q Collective of TNG or other god-like antagonists, it's a plot device that's over used and feels like a "cheat" used by a variety of authors to introduce their own moral dilemma plot.
Enterprise characters do feel true to the original series, and the Klingon and Romulan crews are well portrayed, with the Klingons looking for any advantage and the Romulans being honorable but aggressive. Enowil the Organian plays the role of benevolent but somewhat crazy god-like being well, but as another reviewer points out, when you have an all powerful character in the novel, there's no need for the moral dilemma (Kirk must choose between time running out for the colonists and denying the Klingons/Romulans the prize of solving Enowil's problem) because Enowil could resolve the issue at any point simply be rescuing the colonists and giving Kirk all the time he needs.
In the end, any Star Trek fan knows where this is going - that the god-like being will be outwitted or converted to a more humanoid point-of-view, which prevents any real tension from building up for the reader. Honestly, that sort of resolution is very true to the spirit of the original series, but feels done to death at this point.