Star Trek: Rules of Engagement (1990) – Peter Morwood

It’s been a while since I haven’t been entertained by one of the Pocket Book Trek novels. But Peter Morwood’s effort, Rules of Engagement left me a little cold. I remember buying this one when I was younger. I even remember when, I had bought it to read during my transit across the country back to university.

But I can’t tell you what happened in it.

It didn’t stay with me then and sadly, reading it some thirty years later, it doesn’t stay with me now.

Set during the second five year mission of the newly refitted U.S.S. Enterprise, after the events of The Motion Picture, but before Kirk takes a desk job again prior to The Wrath of Khan, the Starfleet vessel if given a show the flag mission at a planet that is evacuating out the Federation representatives.

The Klingons are also on their way with new and untested capabilities.

Written long before Star Trek: Enterprise came along and explained what happened to change the appearance of the Klingons this novel presents a different view while also carrying on their worldview as created in the non-canon novel, The Final Reflection.

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The novel works hard to tell its story, and makes it hard work for the reader. Despite tying into the literary universe as much as it can, borrowing the Rec officer, Harb Tanzer, mentioning The Final Reflection by name as a book cadets and crew are reading, and of course references to episodes, and the events of The Motion Picture, this one falls flat.

It doesn’t feel like Trek. Morwood tries to make it detail heavy, makes the Klingon in this story, Kalath, a bit of a mirror darkly version of Kirk – he recently got command of his old ship back, newly refitted, and has a familiar crew around him. Even it’s call numbers include 1701. It’s almost too on the nose.

And it also misses the feel of the universe. The characters feel a little too stiff, and while Kirk admits to feeling older, as he should at this point, he doesn’t feel like the Kirk at the end of The Motion Picture, nor as if he is transition to the Kirk at the beginning of Khan. Sure, there’s five years of stories to tell in that time, but he, and the rest just don’t feel right.

Having spent the past number of years on the blog revisiting a lot of Trek, right from the beginning (series, movies and books) I’ve fairly inundated myself with Trek and I can tell when something doesn’t feel right.

Sadly, Rules of Engagement doesn’t feel right.

But the Human Adventure continues, as there are still so many Trek books to go….

…to boldly go…

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