This year for the Sci Fi Experience, I’m off on The Great Khan Adventure, tracing the story of Khan Noonien Singh through books and movies. After setting the stage with some viewing of Star Trek: The Original Series, I’ve moved on to the heart of my plans: the trilogy of books by Greg Cox, beginning with the ridiculously long titled Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume One.
My guess is that the primary impetus for this entire trilogy of books was one line from the episode “Space Seed,” remarking that Khan controlled a quarter of the Earth during the 1990s. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the 90s quite like that! Cox’s trilogy sets out to tell us what was really going on in the later part of the 20th century, brilliantly melding “official” history with the Star Trek universe.
This first volume covers the rise of Khan, mostly serving as an origin story. The focal point is really Gary Seven, his assistant Roberta Lincoln, and the mysterious black cat Isis (introduced in “Assignment: Earth”). With the help of alien technology, they’re at work to keep the Cold War from igniting into World War III. In 1974, they begin investigating rumors of genetic manipulation, and soon infiltrate the Chrysalis Project, a high-tech compound beneath the desert in India. There they find hundreds of children with genetically-engineered DNA, including a particularly precocious child nicknamed Noon. The book goes to 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall…when a young Khan is just beginning to make his influence felt on a larger stage–but mostly, that’s Volume Two.
There’s a frame story here too, about Kirk, the Enterprise, and a colony of genetically engineered humans, but that’s a small part of the book and the real focus and draw is the history portion. Although I will say–despite how briefly Kirk’s crew is present, Cox still manages to have Spock and McCoy sniping at each other (by page 5 of the Prologue), which I consider an absolute win. No one can claim to be portraying these characters correctly unless Spock and McCoy get to snipe at each other!
After watching “Assignment: Earth” I really wanted to see more of Seven and Roberta’s adventures. This book gave me that–but dropped so many tantalizing hints that so much more was happening, that I now want an entire book series! Ah well… I thoroughly enjoyed enigmatic Seven, always so calm and in control, and of course his mysterious, never-quite-explained cat, Isis. We got Isis’ point of view briefly, and her disdain of Roberta was particularly amusing (and so cat-like!) I kind of want to know more about Seven’s background…but mostly I don’t! I think this is a case where the mystery is better than any answer would be, so Cox is smart to keep Seven’s past, and his alien guardians, pretty much in shadows.
Of the group, Roberta is the comparatively normal (and relatable) one, an ordinary human who stumbled into world-saving by accident. She doesn’t have any special abilities, but she’s clever, confident and dedicated…with the occasional snarky comment or era-appropriate pop culture reference. She’s a kind of Girl Friday who increasingly becomes an equal partner as the story goes on.
This is definitely a book intended for fans, as it’s riddled with references to episodes and movies. Personally, I love that kind of thing! Cox seems to have found every possible reference in Star Trek to the 20th century, and pulled it in–like a cameo from Gillian Taylor, a reference to Guinan, an appearance by Flint, and discussions of the Ferengi who landed at Roswell in 1947. “Assignment: Earth” and “Space Seed” are the only really essential episodes to know before reading the book; for the rest, I think it would be clear enough without background–but it’s more fun when you do know the context!
The book is fast-paced and compelling, with engaging characters and a lot of excitement. Once in a while the writing is a little clunky (Cox is too fond of “stated” as a dialogue tag…which is nitpicking, but it bugged me) but mostly it flows well. Oddly enough, even with all that’s really good here, I may be most impressed with the Afterword. Cox goes through chapter by chapter, explaining how the events of the book relate to the “official” history. Without ever breaking the illusion, it becomes very clear what’s history and what’s Star Trek. I’m impressed by how much real history he managed to weave his story around, and I’m impressed that he laid it all out in the Afterword. If Dan Brown had done something similar, I might feel very differently about The Da Vinci Code than I do…but that’s another story.
This story is an excellent ride through Star Trek and real history, and I am looking forward to the next volume, covering the 1990s–and how exactly Khan ruled a quarter of the Earth!
Author’s Site: http://www.gregcox-author.com/
Buy it here: The Eugenics Wars, Vol. 1