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Star Trek Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at September 22, 2006 - 8:44 PM GMT

Title: Star Trek Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows
Author: David R. George III
Release Date: September 2006
Format: Mass-Market Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-9168-8

In the forward of the new novel Star Trek Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows, the first book in an all-new trilogy that celebrates Star Trek's 40th anniversary, bestselling author David R. George III explains that initially he struggled to come up with an idea for a trilogy that wouldn't just rehash old ground. After all, how much more was there to learn about Starfleet legends James T. Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy? What aspect of their lives hadn't already been thoroughly explored? Then the light bulb came on.

The back cover description for Provenance of Shadows begins with the sentence, "In a single moment the lives of three men will be forever changed." That could be said of a lot of moments in the careers of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The defining moment that David George has chosen as the launching point for this trilogy is one that most Star Trek fans are intimately familiar with: the fateful choice that allows Edith Keeler to die in the classic episode "The City on the Edge of Forever."

The premise that the consequences of that choice affected everything that followed in the lives and careers of Star Trek's three main characters is what drives the plot of this epic story as each novel in the trilogy explores the consequences and ramifications of that decision by focusing one book on the life of each character. Provenance of Shadows, the longest of the three books and possibly the longest Star Trek novel ever written, starts things off brilliantly. This detailed character study employs dual storylines: one that explores what was, and another that imagines what might have been.

The main timeframe of the story spans approximately thirty years, from right after the events depicted in "The City on the Edge of Forever" to shortly after Kirk's death in the movie Star Trek: Generations. The alternate timeline begins with McCoy saving Edith Keeler at the critical moment and unfolds from there through a World War II that doesn't quite match up with what is taught in a high school history class.

In both timeframes, McCoy must confront the echoes of his own past, keeping the shadows that haunt him buried, hidden from both himself and those closest to him. It takes a while for the "how" and "why" to become apparent, but both storylines ultimately intertwine in the final chapters of the story.

George's richly detailed writing style with its nuanced prose will not be to everyone's taste and the story does start off very slowly, but patience is amply rewarded and you soon find yourself carried away by the narrative flow. The verbose style at times threatens to overwhelm the character development but for the most part it enhances it.

One of the highlights of the book for me is the exploration of the love/hate relationship between Spock and McCoy. The respect and affection they have for each other is beautifully depicted. The author also does an excellent job with the characterizations of the entire Enterprise crew and makes good use of characters like Tonia Barrows, McCoy's romantic interest in "Shore Leave", who has a central role in this story.

Provenance of Shadows is unlike any media-tie in novel I have ever read, and by far one of the most extraordinary. If the final two books in this trilogy, Spock: The Fire and the Rose (Dec. 2006) and Kirk: The Star to Every Wandering (Jan. 2007), even come close to the matching the depth and scope of the character exploration demonstrated in Provenance of Shadows then this trilogy will surely become a classic that ranks right up there with novels like Federation and Imzadi whenever the merits of Star Trek novels are debated.

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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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