Greg Cox's delightful Assignment: Eternity brings back Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, the secret agent from the future and his 1960s American sidekick who appeared in "Assignment:Eternity." That episode was supposed to be the spinoff for a new series in which Gary Seven would save the Earth from assorted historical disasters created by our own politicians, and this novel makes reference to some of those - I particularly liked discovering that he was Deep Throat during the Watergate investigation.
But the main premise of this novel concerns two major moments in the lives of Kirk and Spock: one set during series-time, when Gary Seven hijacks the Enterprise for a secret mission, and another set several decades in the future at the Federation-Klingon peace conference at Khitomer. A Romulan agent from 2269 learns of the events which will transpire at Khitomer in 2293 and assassinates Spock, thus preventing him from meeting Pardek and beginning the process of Vulcan-Romulan reunification, which alters the history of the entire galaxy.
A colleague of Gary Seven's sends him a desperate warning about the Romulan's actions, and the Enterprise is the nearest available ship for him to commandeer in the mid-23rd century so he can prevent the events at Khitomer by preventing the Romulans from traveling forward in time. Ultimately, he is forced to go to the peace conference, so we get to see Kirk and Spock in both their television and film incarnations.
Considering that there's very little suspense - the novel begins with Spock's death, an event we can be sure will be reversed by the conclusion - the story is engrossing and a lot of fun, mostly because the shipboard scenes are written from the point of view of Roberta. She somehow comes across as both the flaky chick played by Teri Garr on the series, and as a resourceful, intelligent, gutsy character who's a victim of expectations about women from her own era. Kirk doesn't consider her much of a threat and fails to throw her (or Isis, the cat-woman) into the brig, so she has free rein first to reprogram the food synthsizers for pineapple pizza and then to take over the computer system to free Seven and prevent the ship from leaving.
At one point Spock must mind-meld with her to decide whether to follow Kirk's orders or to assume that whatever Seven thought was at stake might be even more important. He shares her memories of skipping grades, going off to New York on her own, rescuing JFK, sharing a joint with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. She emerges as thoroughly likable and interesting enough for her own series. Her personal rapport with Spock and McCoy end up swaying their decisions, so she is as vital to protecting the future as we know it as is Seven.
The Kirk-Seven story is more familiar, though still engrossing: beaming down to a planet which Seven's people have cloaked but which has been discovered by Romulans anyway, they must fight to the control center to stop one of the enemy agents, who has used the mind-sifter on one of Seven's colleagues and learned about her species' future. Their major ally is a large cat (and it should be noted that Isis also saves the day, back on the Enterprise).
Kirk's heroics are mostly physical while Seven makes decisions based on events Kirk can't possibly know anything about. There is one utterly unconvincing moment where Kirk, faced with an enemy who can destroy the future of the galaxy, decides not to shoot her because of his oath as a Starfleet officer, but otherwise he comes across very well in this novel.
I enjoyed this more than many of the hardback original series novels, and I hear there's a sequel in the works where Seven (whose name is the one drawback of the entire book - there were a couple of scenes where I instinctively started picturing Seven of Nine from Voyager, and recoiled in horror) takes on Khan Noonien Singh, and launches the Botany Bay on schedule in 1996. That ought to be a total blast.
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