Sunday, 21 November 2010

Night of the Living Trekkies, Kevin Anderson and Sam Stall

Zombies wouldn't really be that big a threat in the Star Trek universe – they're basically disorganised, disconnected, weaponless Borg who wouldn't even be able to pilot a starship! Dr Crusher or the emergency medical hologram would take minutes to whip up a retrovirus to sort them out. Perhaps that's why the living dead in this book aren't zombies in the ordinary sense. What they are exactly is revealed in the course of the book; what they do is infest a Star Trek convention, as well as the surrounding city, leaving security chief and former soldier Jim Pike (get it?) with very few options in his efforts to save his little sister.

This is straightforward silly entertainment, with few ambitions beyond raising a chuckle, giving the odd thrill, and diverting the reader for a few hours. It's not a laugh riot – the tone is primarily serious – but there are lots of in-jokes. Like the hero's name they aren't particularly clever ones: a hotel named Botany Bay doesn't make much sense when it isn't in Botany Bay. The chapters take their names from Star Trek episode titles. Most of the best lines are lifts from Star Trek or Star Wars dropped into appropriate situations, but others caught my eye too. "He'd only just met this guy, but he'd already disliked him for years," says Pike of sleazebag Matt.

It's not all that frightening – apart from one brilliant scene where zombies in nearby buildings notice the survivors through the hotel windows - but the action moves quickly and efficiently. Klingon merchant Martock is at the convention to sell replica weaponry, and the survivors put the bat'leth and lirpa to good use. Pike is a resourceful and compassionate hero, with only one blind spot: for some reason, though he discovers early on that taser shocks have an explosive effect on the infections, he doesn't think of applying this method to fresh bites to prevent people turning.

There is a very good sense of place, with the hotel's layout being used cleverly. For example, using the stairwells to get around is a good plan, since the zombies struggle with doors – but what if the fire door on one floor was left open and zombies spilled out from that floor? Another sequence where the survivors move through a series of interconnected rooms is strategically intriguing, each room presenting a new challenge, the heroes learning from their early mistakes.

This isn't an official tie-in, and "any personnel claiming otherwise will be sentenced to one year of hard labour in the penal colony of Rura Penthe", but I doubt that will prevent it from finding appreciative readers among Trek fans. Once you've seen the cover and chuckled at the concept, actually reading the book doesn't add a great deal, but for what it is, it is done well, and if you like the idea enough to consider buying the book you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Night of the Living Trekkies, Kevin Anderson and Sam Stall, Quirk Books, pb, 254pp. Reviewed from a paperback ARC.

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