Posts Tagged With: Greg Cox

To Reign In Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh, by Greg Cox

With time on my hands, and my future on hold, it is the past that occupies my thoughts.  Old decisions, and new regrets, haunt me, compelling me to embark on a solemn pilgrimage to the site of what may have been one of my greatest mistakes…..
-From the personal logs of Captain James T. Kirk

With the two books that chronicled the past of Khan Noonien Singh chronicled in The Eugenics Wars, the reader was left with one more major portion of Khan’s life left untold-the time spent between the episode of “Space Seed”, and the coming of the U. S. S. Reliant in “The Wrath of Khan”.  Well, the author of those books has written the untold story of Khan’s exile on Ceti Alpha Five.  To Reign in Hell is a very appropriate title, given Khan’s classical leanings (and more so given how the exile turned out).

This story, like that in The Eugenics Wars, has a framing story, taking place between the movies “The Voyage Home” and “The Final Frontier”.  While Mr. Scott is busy making sure that the U. S. S. Enterprise-A is ready for space flight, Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Sulu head for Ceti Alpha V to see if they can piece together just what exactly happened on this world that Captain Kirk marooned Khan and his followers on after their encounter in “Space Seed”.  Kirk wonders if he could have predicted what disasters would befall the doomed world of Ceti Alpha VI, and hopes to discover what drove Khan to his single-minded quest to see Kirk dead.  Fortunately, Khan has more than enough ego to record a journal for posterity.

When Khan and his followers-including Starfleet Lieutenant Marla McGivers, who had fallen in love with him-are marooned on Ceti Alpha V, he envisions building a new empire.  Even though Khan’s people have only rudimentary equipment (by Trek standards, anyway), he believes it’s only a matter of time before he successfully builds what he calls a superior society.  Of course, there’s a number of tiny issues that might interfere-such as the fact that some of his followers are thinking that Khan’s time as a leader is past, or the fact that some of them think that McGivers doesn’t belong with the rest of them, or the fact that the planet has a few predators that even genetically enhanced humans can’t withstand-including the infamous Ceti eels.

And all that is before Ceti Alpha VI explodes….

When I picked up this book, I had high expectations; that’s what Greg Cox gets for doing such a good job with the first two books chronicling the rise and fall of Khan back in the 20th century.  With To Reign In Hell, I’d say that Cox does a good job in meeting those expectations.  There’s a good supporting cast involved-such as Joaquin Weiss, who doesn’t speak much, but is very much a constant presence by Khan’s side; Zuleika Walker, who quickly makes it clear she isn’t fond of Khan’s choice of girlfriends, and Harulf Ericsson, who thinks that he would very much be the best leader for a new world.

The real gems, though, are Marla McGivers and Khan himself.  Marla is faced with a hostile group of super-humans, but is sustained by her love for Khan-a love that he returns; she proves herself to Khan to be a “superior woman”, even though she isn’t genetically gifted (well, not designed, anyway).  That isn’t to say that there aren’t some significant bumps.  She also demonstrates that her sense of ethics is still strong enough to make choices that she feels are right-even in the face of the wrath of Khan.  As far as Khan himself…well, would you believe I was actually rooting for him?  Okay, that might be putting it a little too far, but the challenge of taming Ceti Alpha V was something he was certainly rising to.  And although he maintains the harsh discipline he was known for, one has to admire how he was able to get his people to the point where they might have thrived-if not for that inconvenient explosion.  I did also find it rather interesting that on a number of occasions, Khan would wonder just when Kirk or Starfleet was going to look in on them to see what was going on; as time goes on, the silence from the stars has an effect on Khan, and it isn’t nice.

When Ceti Alpha VI explodes, things start going downhill; a large number of conflicts start reaching their climax, with both man versus man, man versus nature, and perhaps man versus himself.

As far as the framing story goes…naaah, we don’t really care too much about that, do we?  It’s a means to an end.  I will concede, however, that Cox does a credible job on explaining a few of the little details you’d think would’ve been accounted for in “The Wrath of Khan”  (such as, how the heck to you mislay an entire planet on a scouting mission).  All the same, To Reign In Hell is all about Khan, and is a fitting conclusion to his story and his legacy in Star Trek.  Fans of Khan and original series aficionados would do well to pick up this book.

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The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume Two, by Greg Cox

Khan cursed himself for failing to think three-dimensionally.
-Khan demonstrates a flaw in his tactical reasoning…not for the last time

We left off with the last volume with the Klingons having sabotaged the protective dome at Paragon Colony, leaving it to Kirk and McCoy to….

Heh.  That’s not what you want to hear about.  We wanna know about Khan.  So scrap the framing story out of your heads, and let’s get back to the real plot of this book.  We left them off with Khan finally ready to start his effort to conquer the world, ruled by himself and his chosen subordinates-all products of the Chrysalis Project.  He’s gotten a bunch of useful information from Gary Seven’s computer, and has used that information to build a weapon unlike any other-a satellite that rips holes in the Earth’s ozone layer.  Really, really big holes.  As he’s no dummy, though, he uses it much like the U. S. uses nuclear weapons-a deterrent against military conquest against him.

Of course, Khan still has a couple of irritants to deal with.  Seven and his ally Roberta Lincoln are still working against him-although only rarely coming into direct conflict.  As annoying as they are, however, they pale to the threat posed by a small number of other genetically enhanced people-whose agendas clash with Khan’s.  Each has a somewhat different outlook, from the Amazonian, to the militant American, to the fellow who believes it’s all foreordained by the “starfathers”.

In the meantime, while Seven and Roberta play their chess-like game against Khan’s ambitions, and Khan busies himself with getting ready to take over the world and surviving attacks by his brethren, a small group of people who have unwittingly (and in most cases, unknowingly) had contact with the future get together to design what will become the most advanced spacecraft of this time.  Characters who have shown up in episodes of the original Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager all are represented here (I don’t think anyone was in Next Generation, but I can’t prove a thing).

This book really took me by surprise.  Volume Two, I’d expected, would be somewhat apocalyptic, far more overt than it actually turned out to be.  In many ways, I found it far better than my expectations; as with Volume One, it takes a very significant number of real life events and ties them to the war between Khan, his compatriots and Seven.  And make no mistake-while the warfare is not open, there are definitely large amounts of casualties justifying the antipathy Earth holds for the genetically enhanced even in the time of the Next Generation.

Khan is written totally in character…shifting between gentility and raw fury with equal ease, and every bit the master strategist you’d expect (except, naturally, for a minor tactical flaw as mentioned in the quote above).  His associates, Ament and Joaquin, balance him quite nicely-one a voice of reason, and the other the fanatic bodyguard who really hates it when his master puts himself in harm’s way.  Seven doesn’t get too much time in this one, as he’s gotten significantly older, and so plays the part of Roberta’s mentor more than before.  Roberta’s finally gotten out of some of her more annoying habits, which was a relief to me.

Aside from a very important plot point I figured out by chapter two (and most readers will probably catch it too), I found the journey of getting to Khan’s final destiny to be rather enjoyable.  Greg Cox is to be highly commended for putting together a pair of books that only peripherally touch on Star Trek as a whole; if you switched some names and removed the framing story, it’d stand out quite nicely as a science fiction novel on its own merits.  The fact that it is a Star Trek book, though, allows it to hit some rather nice touches that it couldn’t have done otherwise.  I highly recommend The Eugenics Wars to any fan of Star Trek, and especially to those who loved the original episode “Space Seed” and the movie “The Wrath of Khan”.

(Side note:  Cox once again includes a handy afterword with historic references…enough to make me wonder if Khan’s legacy isn’t still with us)

(Another side note:  I wonder if we can find a way to get Cox to write up the third world war mentioned a couple times in Trek…after this one, I think he’d be a natural)

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The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume One, by Greg Cox

The problem, and the danger, Ms. Lincoln, is genocide, of one form or another, and the very real possibility of genetic warfare.  Galactic history teaches us that once a species succeeds in creating a ‘superior’ version of themselves, it’s then one very short step to viewing the rest of the species as unworthy, obsolete, and ultimately, disposable.  Just as their baseline contemporaries often regard the genetically or cybernetically augmented as monsters to be destroyed.
-Gary Seven, on the dangers of genetic engineering

Star Trek has had its share of memorable villains.  In the movies alone, we’ve had the Borg Queen, the Klingons Chang and Kruge, and large alien probes.  But there is only one that can truly be called the Trek villain, as far as I’m concerned; the star of what is arguably the fan favorite movie-Khan.

Khan had his origins in the classic Trek episode “Space Seed”, played by Ricardo Montalban; he showed up again the “The Wrath of Khan” in theaters, in a tale of maddened vengeance.  However, we never got to see too much of his full motivations, being first the typical megalomaniac, then driven by a need to kill off Kirk.  There are hints dropped involving an attempt to take over Earth in the 1990’s, but that was about it.

So…introducing The Eugenics Wars.  There are two things to keep in mind about this book.  First, it that it’s volume one.  Don’t expect the really nasty stuff…yet.  Second, in spite of the logo “Star Trek”, this really isn’t about Star Trek; oh, sure, there are multiple reference in the book to the various series, which long time fans will recognize.  But in spite of a framing story with Kirk and Co, this really isn’t following them.  The logo should really be replaced by “Assignment:  Earth”.

“Assignment:  Earth” was an episode that introduced a fellow named Gary Seven, a human raised on an alien world who was returned to Earth with advanced technology to help humanity avoid destroying itself.  He is assisted by his secretary, Roberta Lincoln, who had no idea of what she was getting into in that episode, and a cat named Isis who is far more than she appears.  The author, Greg Cox, dropped hints of Seven’s role against Khan in his previous Trek book, Assignment:  Eternity; now, he goes into detail.

Which (finally) brings me to the The Eugenics Wars.  Seven and Lincoln, having been active for six years, attempt to track down a group of scientists who have gone missing-geneticists and biochemists.  Seven deduces that somebody is preparing a genetic-engineering experiment.  The investigation takes them on the trail of Dr. Sarina Kaur of the Chrysalis Project, a project dedicated to designing perfect humans…and as an aside, a way to wipe out the rest to make room.  The two take different paths to the same goal-Seven checks with the somewhat-less-than-legal angle, while Roberta poses as a scientist in hopes of catching the attention of whoever is kidnapping/recruiting the scientists.

This investigation/infiltration takes up most of the book; however, things get interesting once Khan steps fully into the scene.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that Seven seriously underestimates him and leave it at that!

The book is, as I’ve mentioned, rife with tidbits from Trek lore; there’s references to some early Trek episodes, one of the movies, and even a Deep Space Nine episode.  But equally interesting is how Cox weaves in the real-life events of the years covered by this book into the storyline, seeing Seven’s influence on events.  I do think Cox was a little heavy on cultural references, though; Roberta’s thoughts seem somewhat jarring, as if Cox is going out of his way to reference what would then be current events.  Truth to tell, though, I got over that pretty quickly.

Volume One is pretty much all build-up, but the climax of the book insures that Volume Two will be moving very, very quickly!  I’m looking forward to seeing how Khan gets from ruling a good chunk of the world to ending up in space for its rendezvous with destiny, and the Enterprise.  (And if you should decide to read this, go ahead and read the afterward!  Chock full of references to the real world!)

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