July 21, 2009

Inuit in Star Trek: The Amazing Stories

Star Trek: The Amazing StoriesOutstanding short fiction by top Star Trek authors from the pages of 'Amazing Stories' magazine. From 1998 to 2000, Amazing Stories, the world's oldest science fiction magazine, presented a series of original Star Trek stories written by a number of bestselling authors. Now these little-seen Star Trek adventures are collected here for the first time, together with new tales written especially for Star Trek: Amazing Stories.

Among the highlights of this collection: Spock comes to terms with the death of his father in a touching tale from A.C. Cripsin, author of SAREK; Counselor Troi risks everything to aid the evacuation of a dying planet; Seven of Nine learns a lesson in humanity when the USS Voyager takes on some unusual alien visitors; Beverley Crusher discovers that holographic doctors take some getting used to, especially during a medical emergency; and Captain Proton, Defender of the Earth, faces the awesome menace of Space Vortex of Doom.
Comment:  This book contains only seven stories, so to call five of them highlights is kind of misleading. Excluding the farcical "Captain Proton," these stories would make decent episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Voyager. But I'd say only a couple are highlights: the so-called Spock story, which is really more about Capt. Picard attending Sarek's funeral, and the so-called Troi story, which is really more about Worf.

It's the latter story--"Life Itself Is Reason Enough" by M. Shayne Bell--that concerns us here.

The Inuit story

The premise is that interstellar dust has engulfed a planet of 50,000 or more transplanted Inuit. By cutting off sunlight, the dust will cause the planet's atmosphere to freeze in a few hours. The dust also interferes with transporters, so the Enterprise leads a flotilla of ships to evacuate the residents via shuttles.

The shuttle piloted by Worf and Troi crashes. A trio of old women rescues them. These women have given up their shuttle seats for younger people and are apparently prepared to die. But they agree to help Worf and Troi trek eight kilometers through the snow-covered mountains to the rescue site.

Along the way they fend off a polar-bear attack. (I don't think polar bears could live in the mountains since they're aquatic animals, but maybe these ones have evolved.) To pass the time, one woman tells a made-up legend about how their people came to this world. To escape a ravenous bear, the last man and woman scattered the remains of a fire into the sky. The embers became stars and the ashes became planets to which her people could flee.

Naturally Worf keeps everyone alive long enough for a shuttle to rescue them. The moral of the story is in the title: "Life itself is reason enough" to live. The theme starts with the usual cliché of Inuit elders who go off into the wilderness to die. But by the end, it has neatly overturned this cliché.

The story doesn't delve into Inuit culture. But the names of the characters and their cities seem real enough. I'd say this is a good portrayal of Inuit people in a science-fiction context.

Overall, the stories are about like any collection of Trek stories. I.e., they're generally good and some are very good. Rob's rating for the whole book: 7.5 of 10.

For more on the subject, see The Indian-Star Trek Connection.

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