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By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at May 23, 2004 - 7:09 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers: #38 Orphans
Author: Kevin Killiany
Publication Date: May 2004
Format: eBook
ISBN: 0-7434-8085-6

There's a lot to like about the new S.C.E. tale Orphans. Written by three-time Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contributor Kevin Killiany, Orphans adds some new twists to the familiar plot device of a runaway ship.

In a first for this popular series the crew of the USS da Vinci teams up with their counterparts in the Klingon Defense Force, the crew of the I.K.E. Qaw'qay. Sent to investigate a runaway colony ship headed for Klingon space, the joint team of Starfleet and Klingon engineers discover that the pre-industrial inhabitants of the ship have more than just mechanical problems. Even if they can repair the ship, the colonists may be doomed.

Killiany uses words quite cleverly but tries to do too much in a story that can be a bit confusing at times. Many of the scenes in the first half of the story are told from the aliens' point of view but the reader doesn't yet know enough about them or their world to really understand them. Everything comes into focus in the last third of the book but there are a few 'huh' moments along the way. I personally don't enjoy lots of detailed description of technical information in a story (odd, I know, for someone who enjoys a series about engineers), so that aspect of Orphans bogged the narrative down for me at times but if you like that stuff you'll be in absolute heaven.

Rather than focus heavily on one or two regular characters Orphans is very much an ensemble tale although Pattie, the da Vinci's Nasat structural specialist, really stood out for me. Killiany captures Pattie's unique sense of humour extremely well and does an adequate job with most of the other S.C.E. regulars but the Klingon engineers don't come off the page as well. With the exception of Kairn, Gomez's equivalent on the Qaw'qay, we barely get to know them.

Overall I'd have to say that while I didn't really enjoy Orphans there was enough that I did like about the author's writing style for me to be happy to have read it. Killiany demonstrates a real flair with prose that in this story was overshadowed by the meandering plot, but the talent is obvious. Definitely a lot to like, but regrettably not enough.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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