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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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02/06/2005 Archived Entry: "Trek book review: To Reign in Hell"

Khaaan! Star Trek: To Reign in Hell -- the Exile of Khan Noonian Singh
by Greg Cox
Published by Pocket Books

Reviewed by Kathryn Ramage

To Reign in Hell begins with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming down to Ceti Alpha V. As they explore the site of Khan's abandoned colony, they discover a series of caves beneath the desert surface. In these caves, they find not only Marla McGivers' tomb, but another, unoccupied tomb intended for Khan that contains McGivers' records of the first months of the colony, and Khan's written journal.

What follows is an extended flashback -- the bulk of the story -- told from Khan's and Marla's point of view, beginning when Kirk leaves them on the planet immediately after the series' episode "The Space Seed," and ending on the day when the hapless Chekov and Captain Terrell stumble upon the colony in The Wrath of Khan. Between these two points lies an engaging story.

Readers who haven't seen The Wrath of Khan recently and may have forgotten some of the key plot elements are reminded in Kirk et al's introductory scenes: a neighboring planet will explode six Just really good friends.months after Khan and his Botany Bay colonists arrive, turning Ceti Alpha V into a nearly unlivable desert; Marla will be killed by one of those nasty little eel-creatures that crawl into people's ears. There is therefore no surprise nor suspense about the fate of the colony when Khan and Marla begin to tell their tale -- these events will inevitably occur -- and yet Cox makes their story compelling.

The story takes place in two parts: The first tells of the first six months of the colony's existence, before the disaster, as they try to make a new home on an Pleistocenic world, hunting bison-like beasts on a vast prairie, and being hunted in turn by sabre-toothed cats. Marla faces the hostility of Khan's people, who consider her a traitor and an inferior being who lives only under Khan's protection. Khan has to deal with dissention in his ranks -- not only because of his affection for Marla, but because some of his followers, noticing that his plans to take over the Earth or even over the Enterprise haven't gone very well, have lost faith in his leadership. The second half of the story begins with the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI and the destruction of Ceti Alpha V.

Also just good friends. It's in the second part that the story becomes most harrowing. The survivors of the colony are forced to flee into the caves and it is Khan's will to live -- and his growing desire to have his revenge on Kirk, whom he comes to blame for all that has happened -- that keeps them alive. Khan never gives up the fight to survive even as the dying, poisoned world of Ceti Alpha V grows increasingly hostile, and even as he faces a growing dissention from his followers that eventually turns into outright treachery. By the time Chekov and Terrell arrive and accidentally discover the remains of the colony, we see exactly how and why Khan has become the madman whose hunger for vengeance drives the plot of The Wrath of Khan. Glove

In the midst of this harsh tale of survival, there are some nice little pieces of Trek continuity that I must note I appreciated. We see how Khan injured his hand -- hence the glove he wears throughout The Wrath of Khan -- as well as a rather interesting explanation for how the multi-racial band of exiles near Khan's own age seen in "The Space Seed," are replaced by the considerably younger, Aryan-looking group of followers seen in the film.

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