The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A story of first contact and one of the more unusual introductions to the galaxy wide family of sentient species await the people of the world Gullrey located far on the edge of the Milky Way. Their position which is well outside of the normal traffic patterns leads to an usual event, a race from the nearest Federation Starbase to Gullrey open to all starships who are willing to abide by some basic performance rules. In essence the great starship race is a promotional and marketing event for a world desperate to belong after being alone without even a hint there could be any other life in the galaxy.
The event welcomes Starfleet vessels, private commercial vessels, representatives of independent and Federation worlds and surprisingly a Romulan vessel who all agree to the rules of the race. This course consists of a number of waypoints carefully hidden amongst the naturally occurring navigation hazards of this space, speed is not the only consideration rather the skills and luck needed to make the right choice which will lead to the next beacon in the list ultimately revealing Gullrey itself.
I have to admit The Great Starship Race as a book title was not that inspiring but I do like the writing of Diane so never a doubt I would be reading the novel. It opens up on two fantastic events, both first contacts one involving a Romulan Battlecruiser (doesn't go well) and the other the Starship USS Hood which goes better. We then get into the meat of the novel as the Captains of the competing ships are learning the "rules" and given that relations between them are not all sweetness and light we are promised an interesting race. The only drawback as Kirk sees it is that if any ship gets into trouble there is no question a Starfleet vessel will help, other ships may not abide by that unwritten rule. As you would expect the IRV Red Talon commanded by Valdus Ionis Zorokove is not there to win a race and we learn the motivations of Valdus and his crew as the race progresses. The upside is that Valdus is written very well, he is a classic TOS Romulan in the truest sense, yes he is ruthless but there is a core of honour and respect for a worthy rival that shines through. As always a good "villain" makes for a good story for our "heroes" to work within and The Great Starship Race turns out to be far better than you might have expected.
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