Star Trek: Twilight’s End
© 1996 Jerry Oltion
Somewhere in space lies a planet that’s not spinning, and that just shouldn’t be so. Tidally locked, it poses a great inconvenience to the colonists who occupy the permanent perimeter between frozen wastelands and scorched deserts. Their swelling population of 2 billion has destroyed what fragile biosphere there was, and rather than deciding to stop with the whole being-fruitful-and-multiplying business, they have decided instead to litter the planet with great big engines and then turn them on. The planet doesn’t want to spin? Too bad, because they’re going to MAKE it spin, and Captain Kirk is going to help.
Twilight’s End is a classic Trek adventure in which the Enterprise attempts to come to the aide of a world president/damsel in distress. Smooching with Kirk before he’s even gotten his bearings, her plan for spinning the planet is scoffed at by a full panel of naysayers. While there exist sensible opposition (attempting to force a planet to spin is rather drastic) and somewhat more suspect opposition (Denialists who contend the poisoning of the atmosphere is perfectly natural and will correct itself eventually), there are others who are on the crazy violent side, those who believe this is Fate, that mother nature has decided that any race that could break two planets is just begging for extinction. (The colonists fled to this planet after stripping their last planet of all resources, then accidentally rendering it inhabitable when they hijacked an asteroid and directed it their way to mine it.) The crazy violent ones in due course kidnap a scientist, attempt to blow the Enterprise up, and give all the characters something to do while they are waiting for the planets to align the correct way. The sensible opposition, with McCoy on their side, believe that bioengineering is eminently more practical and less likely to blow the planet up: simply pore through the major plant species’ genomes, find genes that would make the plant hardier, turn them on, and hey presto! An elegant solution to the problem. The plants will correct the toxicity by dumping oxygen into the atmosphere. Can McCoy find a suitable breed of tree before the engines start up? It would be nice if he could do it before, because between the crazy-violents and class warfare, this place won’t stay peaceable for long.
Written in 1996, the book’s tone seems vaguely reminiscent of the then nascent arguments about global warming, though the baddies are less global warming deniers and more ecological nuts, the kind who believe that human beinsgs are a cancer on the body of Earth who need to be eradicated. The leading opponent of the spinning planet is personable enough, and even causes some friction on the Enterprise when Kirk realizes his chief medical officer agrees more with the opposition than the people the Enterprise is helping. It’s a fun novel, sometimes on the silly side; the author is obviously partial to beer, since characters throughout the story comment on their favorite kinds, and Kirk at one point comes up with an escape plan that involves brewing beer and getting some hostiles good and drunk. In the end, of course, technology saves the day; this is Star Trek, after all, where technology can do anything. The dialogue produces a few good moments between the core characters, and all told it’s a fun bit of light reading.