on October 4, 2003
These Khan books are just plain bad. Full of cute trekkie references, they are for die-hard trekkies only. And I'm a huge Khan fan, so I was pretty let down. Really, this is not how I imagined the Eugenics wars at all. Did I mention the writing is atrocious? Some of the worst I've come across. Maybe that's because these were the first Trek novels I've read, so I didn't know to lower my expectations...
Do yourself a favor and skip this junk. Get some real sci-fi instead!
on September 28, 2003
Of all the villains or foes in the Star Trek canon, few compare to Khan Noonien Singh as far as screen presence, charisma, or memorable moments go. Oh, the Klingons were interesting heavies, particularly in the feature films. The Borg had their moments, but their toneless "Resistance is futile" compares palely to Khan's word duels with James T. Kirk in both the 1967 Original Series episode "Space Seed" and the 1982 feature film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Of course, credit must go to Ricardo Montalban, whose wonderful voice and acting skills made Khan one of Kirk's most dangerous adversaries.
Noted Star Trek author Greg Cox's mu;ti-volume series, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh is a clever and fascinating Star Trek "historical" novel which not only "fills in the blanks" about Khan and his fellow genetically engineered "supermen," but also tries to reconcile actual historical events with the established Star Trek timeline.
Cox begins Volume One in the 23rd century, during Capt. James T. Kirk's first five-year mission. Assigned to investigate a colony of genetically engineered humans, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are still mindful about their recent run-in with Khan. While en route to this Paragon Colony, Kirk decides to study the history of Khan and the Eugenics Wars of the late 20th Century.
Star Trek "history" tells us that in the 1990s, a group of some 90 genetically engineered men and women took over vast regions of Earth and waged a bloody series of conflicts that became known as the Eugenics Wars. One of the foremost of these "supermen" was Khan, who at the height of his power ruled one-fourth of the planet Earth. By 1996, however, Khan and 80 of his followers fled Earth aboard the spacecraft SS Botany Bay, where they slept in suspended animation until the year 2267, when the USS Enterprise encountered the derelict vessel and Khan was revived.
Cox's challenge as a 21st Century writer was to mesh this fictional history with such real-life events as India's first nuclear test in 1974, the Bhopal accident and Indira Gandhi's assasination in 1984, the Reagan-Gorbachev Iceland Summit in 1986, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, among others. In these 20th Century episodes, Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln (who first appeared in the proposed pilot for Gene Roddenberry's "Assignment: Earth" series)investigate a secret project code-named "Chrysalis." Led by the brilliant but cold-blooded Dr. Sarina Kaur, a team of genetic experts is tweaking human DNA to bring forth a "superior" breed of humanity...a breed which is destined to supplant the existing "flawed" population of the planet.
Cox adds to the fun by adding cameos by other Star Trek characters, including Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV, Redjac from the Classic Series' "Wolf in the Fold," and Ralph Offenhouse from The Next Generation's "The Neutral Zone." And while his basic plotline resembles a mix of Star Trek and Tom Clancy novels, he also injects some witty puns and inside jokes which lighten the tone of this chilling narrative set in one of Star Trek's "dark times" of humanity's past.
on August 4, 2003
I picked up Vol 1 and 2 of this book for cheap, and I'm happy I did. This would be a rage rather than a review otherwise.
With the lack of "classic" Trek books these days I decided to give this a try. While the structure of the writing is good, and the writer clearly has good Trek knowledge and a great imagination, he panders too much to trekkies for my taste. Why is it sci-fi writers are compelled to draw connections between every little aspect of backstories... it's just painful. For example, the author felt compelled to bring into Khan's story every aspect of 20th century Trek lore. From the Deep Space Nine "Area 51" episode to Gillian Taylor (from Star Trek IV) to the immortal Methusalah. Perhaps he thinks he's paying homage to Trek but to this reader it's pure pandering without purpose (these characters bring nothing to the story that a new character couldn't). It's just a nod to trekkies and nothing more.
But if you can look past this prtentiousness then it's a good read.
on July 13, 2003
I really enjoyed this book, one that shed a great deal of light on a very little explored aspect of history in the Star Trek universe, that of the late 20th century. Covering events from 1974 to 1989, it does not cover the Eugenics Wars per se, but the events leading up to them, largely centering around the origins of Khan Noonien Singh (and his genetically enhanced brothers and sisters) and of Khan's boyhood and early adulthood.
The first volume at least might be well sub-titled "The Further Adventures of Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln, and Isis," characters we first encountered in a Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) episode set in 1968 Earth, where Kirk and company encounter a genetically enhanced human operative from an alien world (operating for a mysterious organization called the Aegis), posted on Earth to save humans from themselves (mostly from nuclear annihilation). Readers may remember that Roberta Lincoln was a young woman native to Earth that became caught up in events in that TOS episode and subsequently became an agent working for Gary Seven. Isis is never really truly explained, but is apparently an alien cat that is able to take the shape of a human woman at times and is highly intelligent. Together the three have apparently had many adventures much in the mold of James Bond, playing behind the scenes spy games to save the world countless times. It is in this role that they become involved in the events described in the book, namely trying to discover what is happening to the some of the world's top geneticists (who are disappearing) and rumors of some mysterious organization that is dabbling in genetic engineering and biological warfare.
I do not intend my statement that the book focuses on those three as a criticism, as it is understandable that they are the main characters, if for no other reason then that Khan ("Noon" as a child) and his enhanced brethren are children for much of the book. Khan for the main adventure of the book is barely present or marginally involved most of the time, though later in the book becomes more and more important as he grows up and starts to flex some of his tremendous abilities.
Genetic engineering is an understandable theme running through the book; Khan and his "supermen," the genetically enhanced nature of Gary Seven, the villainous geneticists in the book, and a framing story set not long after the first encounter with Khan in TOS episode, where Kirk is considering a request by the Paragon Colony on the planet Sycorax request to join the Federation, a human colony long isolated from the Federation and one that had a population comprised entirely of genetically enhanced individuals. The framing story - the "present" of the novel - is interesting though rarely visited, and is a tool for telling the main plot of the novel, as it shows Kirk researching the history of the Eugenics Wars as preparation to the decisions he has to make upon arrival at the colony.
I really enjoyed the interweaving of the novel's plot with previously established events in Star Trek history in the past (such as Kirk and company's visit to 1986 San Francisco to look for whales) and in real world history, many of which are quite cleverly made fundamental parts of the storyline, their importance taking on a whole new light. These historical events are addressed in a nice after word at the end of the book.
All in all I really liked the book; Greg Cox is certainly one of the best Star Trek writers out there. The writing that produced the previous book of his that I read, his excellent Q Continuum Trilogy, is still top notch evidently, demonstrating a very good grasp of the characters and history of the Star Trek universe. My only minor criticism is the cover has little to do with the events of the novel; it appears to show American forces fighting Vietnam (not a part of the novel) and shows Khan a bit older than he appears in the story.
on May 28, 2003
When Khan was introduced back in the 60's, the TV show claimed that he rose to power during the 1990's, which was the "near future" at that time. Since the 90's have now come and gone, I think the logical approach to this story would have been to declare that Khan's reign still lies somewhere in our indefinite future, say, the 2030's. Instead, this book sets up an elaborate James Bond/X-Files-style conspiracy in the 1970's which secretly created Khan and his genetically engineered cohorts while all of "real" history is going on around them. I have not yet read the sequel, which I have to assume is going to set up a version of the 1990's which is completely different from what the world actually lived through, one in which the eugenic supermen did indeed take over the world. This begs the question, if the author was going to write a Harry Turtledove-style alternate history anyway, why not do so from the beginning, back in the 70's, instead of doing all this cartoony "secret organization" conspiracy stuff?
My biggest problem with the book is the use of Gary Seven as the main character. Gary is fun in a campy sort of way (I enjoyed Cox's novel "Operation Eternity"), but he reduces any story in which he appears to about the seriousness-level of an episode of Get Smart. This story is primarily a spy spoof, complete with evil organizations in giant underground lairs with big shiny red self-destruct buttons.
Khan himself comes across as a compelling personality. The best scene in the book (warning, I'm about to give something away) involves Khan's witnessing the sheer horror of the Bhopal industrial catastrophe in India, and his indignant fury at the callous human ineptitude which brought it about. (I'm ashamed to say that it's the first time I'd heard of this disaster-it deserves to be more well known in the U.S.). Unfortunately, this poignant scene was an exception, not the rule.
In all, The Eugenics Wars had the potential to be a thought-provoking look at how dictatorships rise and fall, and also at the very real dangers and opportunities of the biotechnical age we are now entering. Instead we got a silly pot-boiler full of chase scenes. Oh well. The sequel may be better.
on February 22, 2003
I could name a number of literary devices that the author absolutely fails at, or the sometimes awful attempts at science writing (Roberta would have been shot dead immediately following her attempts to pass as a molecular geneticist), but I'd rather warn the reader of the failed premise of this story. Kahn and his followers are supposed to take over the planet and yet the author tries to weave "cleverly" Khan's rise into current events. I kept waiting for him to burst on the scene and dominate as he must have for the episode "Space Seed" and the Movie "Wrath of Khan" to work. It looks as if Cox has no intention of changing "current history" to accommodate Khan's past. I suspect the rest of the Eugenics war will be woven into current events. How dreadful! Here is an enigmatic, charismatic character who was supposed to be a "prince, with power over millions" and we are subjected to painful attempts to implicate him in every mishap of the late twentieth century. What next? He helped Art Modell move the Browns? He was working with Monica Lewinsky to defeat Clinton? I advise you get off this train before you are destroyed in the wreckage.
on January 12, 2003
This book is only suitable for kids. The characters are uninteresting at best, and annoying at worst. The female lead character comes out with cutsy remarks that don't fit the mood or action. She is actively annoying.
Also, this book is not really a Star Trek novel. Kirk and company only occupy a few pages near the end of the book.
This is a poor story, poorly executed. I was disappointed.
on January 4, 2003
James Bond should be this good.
The original Star Trek series introduced in the episode "Assignment: Earth" two brilliant characters, extraterrestrial secret agent Gary Seven and his assistant, Greenwich Village hippy Roberta Lincoln, in a sadly failed attempt to spin them off into their own show. Author Greg Cox has an eye for what 1960s television execs missed, and presents the pair - with their added helpmeet, Isis the cat - in another excellent story to follow up his first (Assignment: Eternity).
In The Eugenics Wars, Cox credibly ties the Star Trek universe's own 1960s to 1980s time-bound characters together, in an immensely satisfying spy/adventure yarn. Gary Seven - extraterrestrial secret agent with a mission to keep Earth from destroying itself in its crucially developmental period of the late twentieth century - stumbles upon evidence of a dangerous project in 1974. Famous genetic researchers have been mysteriously disappearing from public view, and shipments of biological warfare elements and plutonium-grade fissionable material have been making their way out of the country. Roberta Lincoln goes undercover as a geneticist in a successful attempt to get herself hired onto whatever project the vanished scientists have been recruited for, and Seven tracks his weapons shipments to the same location: a massive underground eugenics program in India called the Chrysalis Project. There, leading world geneticist Sarina Kaur is breeding a future generation of supermen for world conquest - the most promising of which is her son, Khan Noonien Singh.
Bringing Kaur's mad project to an end, however, is only the beginning of a much longer, and even more involving, story. Seven monitors Khan's progress over the years, eventually recruiting him as a pre-teenager to help him and Roberta with their benevolent mission on Earth. Khan, unfortunately, is not so easily trainable. A product of his environment, the young Khan is horrified at atrocities occurring in his native India (a smallpox epidemic and the notorious Bhopur chemical spill) that Seven, with all his superior extraterrestrial technology, cannot anticipate and prevent. The aging mentor and his brilliant protege come to a parting of the ways, followed by overlapping missions of mutual interest, and develop into uneasy allies-cum-antagonists.
The plot and characterizations alone make this book a superior read in the spy-suspense genre, but Cox makes the experience all the more enjoyable by including references to numerous other Star Trek elements - from original series guest characters to Next Generation personages to occurrences in the movie series - and with a prodigiously researched panoply of true-life historical incidents brilliantly interwoven into the story.
This book, and the equally excellent Assignment: Eternity, are well worth the time and money to read. Hopefully, Cox will succeed in turning Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln into their own successful book series. They really are fabulous characters, and he writes them extremely well.
on January 4, 2003
I suspect that the majority of readers of Star Trek are also inveterate fans of both the various incarnations of the original series and the movie sequels. It is no surprise, then, that Star Trek novels, while containing the standard plot devices of all novels, also feature a myriad of allusions to episodes from the moving screen. In THE EUGENICS WARS (volume one), author Greg Cox brings back one of the most celebrated cinematic villains of all time: Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically enhanced ubermench of the twentieth century. In the original Star Trek episode 'Space Seed', Captain Kirk revives a group of previous earth rulers from suspended animation, each of whom is the result of genetic manipulation that enhanced their strength, intelligence, and viciousness. These supermen are led by Khan Noonien Singh, a brute whose lust for power nearly wrecked a pre-Federation earth. In THE EUGENICS WARS, Greg Cox has written the first of a two volume prequel that fills in the gaps between the time Khan is born and when he next appears in 'Space Seed.' It is very nearly impossible to read Cox's book without keeping in mind the superlative job Ricardo Montalban did as Khan. There was much to admire about the swaggering Khan that even Kirk could admire. Cox takes this multifaceted Khan from the moving screen and, in placing him on the printed page, loses nothing of the fearsome if not perverted strength and allure of Montalban's Khan.
Cox uses a writing device often used by dozens of other Star Trek authors--a framing sequence. Here Kirk is discussing with Doctor McCoy the virtues and vices of human genetic tinkering. McCoy reminds Kirk that it was just such a tinkering that led to a ruinous war that exterminated much of earth's 20th century population. Fascinated with the topic, Kirk uses his ship's computers to spin out the complete story. It is this computerized version of history that forms the bulk of the novel. Despite a strong story line and an equally strong Khan as antagonist, much of the power of the tale was reduced by Cox's overuse of a multiple narrative viewpoint and an annoying use of coincidence to make the plot work. Essentially, THE EUGENICS WARS is told from three perspectives: Gary Seven, who is himself the result of genetic manipulation; Roberta Lincoln, who began the televised episode as Seven's secretary but in this book is his trusted assistant; and Khan himself. As I was led from one perspective to another, I had trouble keeping straight as to who the protagonist was meant to be. Was it Seven, who represents the right use of advanced power? Was it Ms. Lincoln, in whose trendy flip women's lib attitudes that the reader should focus? Or was it Khan, whose unwavering sense of destiny stamps him as the world leader that he surely thinks he is? Ironically enough, Khan's criticisms of Seven as one who has the power to change the world but chooses not to do so are not far off the mark. Seven tries mightily to keep the earth from self-immolation, but he clearly fails at critical times. Clearly, Khan and Seven are opposite sides of the same genetically altered coin. As for Roberta Lincoln, she is the weakest of the viewpoints. Her flippant and juvenile remarks about the many villains she faces leads the novel seriously astray. All too often she comes off like a school girl annoyed at a teacher who has given her detention for chewing gum in class.
Much of the novel was a delight with its many references to the original series and its many spinoffs: the Borg, Q, Jack the Ripper, and Roswell. I have not yet read the second volume, although I suspect that it recounts Khan's gradual grabbing of the seat of world dominion. Even though I know the end of the Khan saga from both the television series and from the movie THE WRATH OF KHAN, I still found THE EUGENICS WARS a fun read. More than once, Khan's use of his enhanced body brought to mind that great power breeds great ambition, which, if unchecked by compassion and humanity, must ultimately lead to great ruin. The calamity of a ruined earth surely attests to that.
on September 24, 2002
This novel works on many levels - the starring role of Gary Seven and references to other Star Trek lore will please Trekkies, and the inclusion of actual historical events ground the story in reality. Not to mention the life story of one of the galaxy's greatest scene-chewing villians, Khan Noonien Singh!