Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
PART TWO: The Last Mission chapter 2
The flashback continues. Last chapter we were introduced to the scenario that led the Enterprise crew to their current predicament, as well as an introduction to a race we already know is about to be wiped out. That’s kind of what’s going to be in the back of my mind this whole story: waiting to get to the inevitable. In a shorter story that doesn’t bother me so much since we’re going to get back to it eventually but the longer a story is, like a three-part novel of multiple chapters, the more impatient I feel getting to the answer already. It’s not the same as a mystery since all they’re doing is telling you what led up to the in medius res moment of part 1’s seven chapters.
I’m sorry to hound on this issue but it’s been bothering me the whole time in part one and at this point I’d almost settle for a summary than having to sit through nine chapters total just to learn what happened. On the other hand, for an event so important with characters so important that wouldn’t do so I’m going to have to keep this itch scratching for the next few weeks, and that’s if I don’t end up with another hiatus this year. And I’m putting nothing past 2021 because it’s out to finish me off after 2016 didn’t get the job done!
This chapter starts out with a very brief history of making contact with life on other planets, segueing into the explanation behind the First Contact Office. The FCO exists to establish when a planet is ready to learn about its neighbors. Whether or not it was necessary is up to the individual and I can go either way really, but of interesting note is that it mentions Earth’s first contact was with Centaurans and not the more traditional first contact being with the Vulcans, or at least that’s how I read the opening. I’m not sure why they went that route but maybe it hadn’t been set in stone yet?
Then we get into the actual story, as the ship tries to go into orbit around the Talin moon where the FCO observation station is. Moon, not “planet” as the narrator occasionally refers to it interchangeably with “moon”. A moon isn’t a planet, unless astronomy changed another rule from my childhood. (Pluto needs a lawyer.) We get a bit of action when one of Talin’s exploration ships almost see them. At least someone’s version of NASA is still going to the moon.
It’s here that the Enterprise gets yelled at by someone from the station, named Alfonso Richter. He’s the creator of the Richter Scale. No, not that one, so maybe the authors should have given him a different last name. It’s a cultural scale of when first contact is recommended, though the explanation of how the scale works I ended up just skimming because it’s not really a point of interest and I didn’t understand the parts I did catch. I think that was the point given how McCoy, Spock, and Kirk discuss the scale later but I’m not sure. Richter claims they sent a warning on emergency channels but there’s no record of any such transmission being received. He’s also a real jerk about it, an old fogey being well over 100 years old. I’m already prepared not to like him.
The discussion I mentioned with Kirk and his top advisors comes when they take one of two shuttles down to the base once the coast is clear. Long discussion short Kirk theorizes due to all the security like not using transporters or open com channels, as well as the creator of the “say hi” scale being dragged out here while being older than Keith Richards, that while the planet appears to be on the brink of war perhaps someone might have discovered technology similar to the transtator, a piece of equipment that is at the heart of faster-than-light travel and communications and may be on the verge of detecting the intergalactic phone service everyone uses. That could mean the possibility of first contact but there’s also the potential war to consider. Spock isn’t convinced about Kirk’s theory but it may not matter as Kirk heads straight into a giant rock on the moon’s surface. If this had been on the right page instead of the left I wouldn’t have seen that it’s basically the FCO’s “Batcave”, but either way it’s a good spot to end. I mean, listening to Spock and McCoy argue would want to send anyone crashing their shuttle into the notaplanet.
This chapter has a bit of action but it’s mostly backstory and cultural discussion, which worked okay. Next time I’m guessing we get to meet Mister Richter and see how big an old jerk he really is.