Series: Star Trek: The Original Series #13
Published by Pocket Books on December 1983
Genres: Science Fiction
An alien scientist invents the Intergalactic Inversion Drive, an engine system that transcends warp drive — and the U.S.S Enterprise™ will be the first to test it! The Klingons attempt to thwart the test, but a greater danger looms when strange symptoms surface among the crew — and time becomes meaningless.
Now Captain Kirk and his friends face their greatest challenge — to repair the fabric of the Universe before time is lost forever!
The Wounded Sky is, along with Duane’s My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way, one of my favorite Star Trek (TOS) novels. Duane’s understanding of the “regular” characters goes deep, and is apparent not only in their words and deeds but in Jim Kirk’s reflections on his friends and crew members. She also “gets” the soul of Starfleet and the Federation; her Enterprise crew, like her Starfleet, is far more diverse than anything we saw in the original series, and a little more so than even than STNG or DS9, since their crews were constrained by what could be portrayed by human actors. That diversity is both taken for granted and celebrated within the novel, in ways that make it a powerful message of hope and inspiration, particularly in an era in which racism and prejudice of many kinds appear to flourish once more.
The plot also fits with Roddenberry’s vision for the show. There is conflict, yes: a battle with Klingon ships—but it’s not the main focus of the storyline, and occurs fairly early in the novel. Instead, the plot focuses on the Enterprise’s true mission: to explore the Galaxy, and in this case, beyond. Duane brings together what was, at the time, cutting-edge physics (the concepts are still pretty mind-boggling), concepts of time, ethics, the importance of play, and even spirituality and religion (in a general sense, without naming any specific faiths), weaving them into a fascinating and ultimately challenging quest to save the universe. Or universes.
That Duane is able to turn this melange into a compelling adventure as well as an enjoyable study of the major and minor characters—and the “character” of the Enterprise crew as a whole—is a tribute to her skill as a writer and storyteller. I particularly enjoy some of her invented characters and species, both human and nonhuman. (Some of them show up in subsequent books as well.) K’t’lk, the Hamalki designer of the inversion drive, is a delight, and almost makes me rethink my fear of spiders. And there are wonderful moments sprinkled throughout the book, including bits of several filk songs I’ve heard at various cons and a rewrite of John Denver’s “Calypso” praising the Enterprise rather than Jacques Cousteau’s ship.
Honestly, if you are a fan of Star Trek, give Duane’s novels a try, beginning with The Wounded Sky. I’d be willing to wager that you, like me, will find they quickly become head-canon. She really is that good.