The professional fan fiction of Star Trek novels are useful for finding new authors, and the biggest find I’ve ever had from them is Diane Duane, who had written many very good books outside that universe. This is where I first discovered her, and it is also one of the best Star Trek novels I’ve read. Thirty years after I last read it, several scenes still stand out in my memory.

There are, perhaps, a few too many MacGuffins floating around. There’s artificial ion storms, 4D chess (with a mini-transporter to ‘time’ pieces in and out), and the big problem of the book, a Romulan project to enhance psionic potential. But all of them relate to the plot fairly strongly.

Part of the main point of the book is to take a closer look at the Romulans. About half the book is from the viewpoint of Ael t’Rlailiiu, a Romulan starship commander who feels that the Empire’s latest project will only lead to ruin, and so makes common cause with one of her gravest enemies. An interesting touch is that Romulan dialog is given untranslated, with only a character’s reactions and internal thoughts providing a sense of what is being said. Thankfully, it isn’t done much as it would get wearying, but it is an interesting device for what we do get.

There’s plenty of action, and it’s all well done, but there’s plenty of build-up and planning before that. Duane introduces a number of new characters here, including Ensign Nahraht (the only Horta in Star Fleet), which have been fan favorites since. The characters are smart, and generally act like it (there’s an amount of ‘but of course I planned for this’ that borders on the excessive), and of course there’s the wonder of early Star Trek unburdened by special effects budgets. Recommended for all TOS fans, and action-adventure fans.