Mission to Horatius

Mack Reynolds' Star Trek Novel

In 1995, I started this page by writing: "There are a few publishers who specialize in unlicensed books about Star Trek. An author affiliated with a couple such companies posted a request on rec.arts.startrek.current for reviews of Star Trek novels. So I did one for the hell of it and sent it off to him. Will it be printed? Who knows? Will the book be distributed well enough that I can find it? Again, who knows?" In 1999, Ed Gross's book on Star Trek books is nowhere to be found, but Mission to Horatius is back in print... in a relatively small print run, according to Pocket's John Ordover. Maybe this edition will become a collector's item, too. (See below for more info on the new edition.)

Book cover. Sorry the file's about 82k, but the original scan was over 1 Mb As Mission to Horatius begins, the Enterprise is long overdue for shore leave for the crew and maintenance and repairs for the ship. McCoy is especially concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of cafard, a contagious and often deadly psychological disturbance also known as space strain and confinement syndrome. However, Kirk refuses Scotty's requests and McCoy's demands to head for a starbase and instead announces that it's time to open his sealed orders for a secret and urgent mission. The tense mood on the bridge is lightened somewhat when Sulu's pet gets loose. Much to Sulu's surprise, it's not an alien pet... it's a brown rat.

According to Kirk's sealed orders, the Federation has received a distress signal from the Horatius system. This system, far from Earth, has three planets civilized decades earlier by humans dissatisfied with 23rd century life. Neolithia is a "back to nature" world, Mythra was populated by religious zealots, and Bavarya was populated by political nonconformists. The mission is secret because Starfleet does not want to draw the attention of the Klingons and Romulans to this remote and underpopulated sector.

As the Enterprise approaches Neolithia, the crew becomes more bored. The novelty of Sulu's pet rat doesn't compensate for a serious shortage of too-often read books and too-often watched Tri Di shows.

Neolithia is a world free of modern technology, according to Spock's sensors, and is unlikely to be the source of the distress call. Nonetheless, Kirk leads a landing party, which is attacked on arrival by a youth on horseback. After counting coup on Kirk with a stick, the youth is stunned by phaser fire. When he wakes up, he identifies himself as Grang of the Wolf Clan and accuses the Enterprise crew of being the raiders from the sky. Kirk meets with the leaders of Grang's clan and confims that they did not send the signal, though they are in need of assistance. The Enterprise leaves orbit and heads for Mythra.

Somehow, Grang has been beamed aboard the ship. Kirk decides to let him stay aboard because he can identify the raiders, and because he'll provide some novelty for the crew.

Mythra is technologically advanced enough to have radio communications -- the "sacred airwaves" -- but not subspace radio. Once again, this world is clearly not the source of the distress signal, and its technology, aside from radio, is on a par with medieval Europe, insufficiently advanced for it to be the homeworld of the raiders. Before leaving Mythra, however, Kirk decides to free the inhabitants from the LSD in their water supply, depriving the priesthood of its docile work force.

Meanwhile, cafard still threatens the Enterprise crew. Sulu's pet rat, Mickey, disappears. And the Enterprise approaches Bavarya, the most technologically advanced of the three worlds, and the likely home of the raiders. But Bavarya presents some mysteries for Kirk and his officers. Somehow, in only a century, the population has grown from a thousand colonists to five million.

As Kirk, McCoy, Spock, and the others try to solve the mysteries of Bavarya, a new and more dangerous problem arises. Sulu's rat is seen dancing in the corridors... and as McCoy points out, dancing rats were a sign of bubonic plague. The hunt to find Mickey begins.

The late Mack Reynolds was a popular and prolific science fiction writer. Mission to Horatius is well written, with few concessions to the young adult readership for whom this book was intended. (It was one of a series of hardcover books based on TV shows. Other series represented included The Invaders, Hawaii Five-0, Rat Patrol, and Mission: Impossible.) The plot has a few twists along the way, and the characterization is handled pretty well. Kirk's dialogue is off at times, but not by too much. The feel of the book is much like a first season episode, as the junior officers and crew receive their fair share of attention. The idea of forgotten human colonists who left Earth to pursue an unusual lifestyle is a familiar one in both the original Star Trek and The Next Generation, and the cafard subplot gives the book that feeling of deep space exploration that Star Trek often had but that The Next Generation, with its more comfortable ship and journeys in Federation space, rarely evoked.

This book doesn't stretch the boundaries of the Trek universe, nor does it offer insights into the inner lives of the characters. What it does do is offer a light diversion, a quick read. It's not a neglected masterpiece, but as an artifact of the time when the original series was still on the air, it creates a moment of nostalgia for a time when the Star Trek phenomenon was a simpler thing, and the Star Trek universe was a simpler place.

Mission to Horatius update: in early 1999, Pocket Books published a new facsimile edition. It's in the same hardcover format, though there are a few cosmetic differences (for example, the Pocket logo on the spine in place of the TV screen logo Whitman used on its TV-based novels, and a UPC bar code on the back cover). Inside, there's a different copyright page (obviously), and a one-page introduction by Pocket Star Trek editor John Ordover (on a page corresponding to a blank page in the original). The illustrations don't look quite as good, but the original art is probably long lost, and Pocket probably scanned the illustrations from someone's copy of the book. The difference isn't especially significant, though. One difference that is significant: the reprint is priced like a regular hardcover novel, not like a typical kids' hardcover like the Hardy Boys books. The new edition costs as much as the going rate for a good copy of the original.


Mission to Horatius page on Pocket website
Mission to Horatius excerpt on Pocket website
Mission to Horatius on Amazon.com
Mission to Horatius on Bibliofind (if you want to buy the original)


forgotten books - mission to horatius - lost books - the god thing

This page copyright Steve Roby, 1999. No infringement on the rights of Paramount Pictures or Pocket Books intended.