This, William Shatner’s first attempt at writing science fiction, is an action/adventure story of the pursuit to find a cure for the most heinous drug of the future, tek. The hero is Jake Cardigan, a cop who was framed for a crime and sent to prison, but has been mysteriously released only four years into his fifteen year term. Soon Jake is teamed up with a cyborg to find the scientists who have discovered a cure for tech, and who he hopes will also lead him to the men behind his wrongful inprisonment.
I have never been that impressed with William Shatner. Though I was a big fan of the “Star Trek” series, he was the actor that I always found the most to laugh at. I was never very fond of “T.J. Hooker” either, Shatner’s highly inflected style of speaking never fit in nearly as well with the street smart cop as it did with the testerone-for-brains captain. And then there was his spoken word album, “The Transformed Man”, which to this day is still regarded by many critics as one of the worst albums ever made. In other words, I did not have very high expectations for this novel. However, I was surprised, it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
For the most part, Shatner keeps his love of melodrama out of the novel. None of his characters seem to have his passion for extreme adjectives (the only times you ever read the word “agony” or “ecstasy”, two of Shatner’s favorite vocabulary words, are in the introduction). What I found in this novel is believable dialog by characters that may not be terribly unique for this type of action/suspense type novel (Jake is a tough cop that would rather use his gun than his brain, his partner Gomez is a hot blooded Latino womanizer), but are still interesting. Shatner is pretty good at moving the plot along, he sends his character on an adventure that steadily reveals the story. He doesn’t try to make the story or characters too deep, nor reach for any concepts that might take away from the the constant action in the story. This steady, though predictable, plot keeps the reader interested in the novel.
There were some things in Shatner’s novel that I disliked. Maybe this is getting a little nit picky, but I am irritated that Shatner uses the cliche “suspended animation prison”. What society would make a suspended animation prison? How could a society possibly believe that by freezing a prisoner, and having him wake up the exact same person, he could be rehabilitated? In addition it would have been nice if Shatner had gone a little more into his description of tek. If tek were a microchip, why did you have to keep on buying more, why not just reuse the old ones? And though, Shatner keeps his natural tendency to melodrama under control, it does manifest itself several times in the novel. At one point Jake Cardigan is shoved into a cellar where he has to face three robot bulls; there is a big scene where Jake avoids the bulls through clever foot work. Instead of pushing him into a room full of robot bulls it would have made far more sense for Cardigan’s would be assassins to just shoot him in the back. In addition, it seems that about half of the “bad guys” that come after Jake have big cybernetic claws implanted in their hands, allowing Shatner to create fight scenes where Jake has to avoid getting impaled by futuristic weapons. The only question I have is, why don’ t any of these guys have guns?
In “Tek War” William Shatner creates a pretty generic action/adventure type science fiction novel. In some ways it reminds me of “Star Trek”. There are lots of cowboys with laser guns going after villains with black hats. Although this book will never be regarded by anyone as a great work of science fiction, it does give some fun lite reading.