Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (Audiobook – 9 June 2020)
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Length: 11 hours and 41 minutes
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
One of the leading figures in the Star Trek expanded universe, Dayton Ward, returns with another exciting and compelling novel about the Enterprise, Star Trek: Agents of Influence.
For years, the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire have been engaged in a dangerous cold war, with each side trying to gain an advantage over the other through any means necessary. Starfleet Intelligence has launched an ambitious secret plan to infiltrate the Klingons with surgically altered spies. Thanks to radical surgery, advanced technology and intensive cultural and linguistic training, these undercover agents have managed to infiltrate the highest echelons of the Klingon government, obtaining some of the most sensitive intelligence about Klingon technology, military plans and political ploys.
However, Starfleet’s three most highly placed agents have somehow been discovered. With their cover blown, the agents manage a daring escape from the Klingon home world and engage their emergency extraction procedure. The agents successfully make their rendezvous with the USS Endeavour at the edge of Klingon space before everything goes terribly wrong. A Klingon warship suddenly engages them in combat while mysterious energy fluctuations ensure that both ships are destroyed.
With hostilities between the Federation and the Klingons building, Starfleet dispatches Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise to the crash site in the hope of salvaging the situation. Forced to comb through some of the most dangerous territory in the entire galaxy, Kirk hopes to find the remnants of the Endeavour and any survivors of their crash. However, mysterious events are occurring within the border zone and the Enterprise soon encounters unnatural conditions, pirates, Klingon warships and a top-secret weapons experiment. Kirk and his crew must navigate through all these dangers carefully if they are to avoid another destructive war. However, it soon becomes clear that Starfleet are not the only ones with highly placed spies and Kirk must find a way to uncover an enemy agent if his crew are to survive.
Dayton Ward is a veteran science fiction author who is easily best known for his work on the Star Trek expanded universe. Ward has written a significant number of Star Trek novels over the years, which tie-in to several of the different Star Trek television series and movies. I have so far only read one of his books before, Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, Available Light, which I really enjoyed. This new novel from Ward, Agents of Influence, is a brilliant standalone novel that follows the Enterprise during the period that Star Trek: The Original Series was set.
One of the things that I really like with Star Trek extended fiction is the amazing range of different stories that the authors can produce within the expanded universe. Agents of Influence is a really good example of this, as Ward has come up with an excellent story that highlights a very interesting aspect of life in this universe: espionage between the various alien races. This proves to be a really cool plot basis which the author utilises to his full advantage by producing an exciting and action-packed narrative. This is a fast-paced book that sees the various characters involved in all manner of danger and intrigue as they attempt to extract the spies and thwart the efforts of their Klingon opponents. There are several excellent action sequences designed to get the blood pumping, including a couple of fights between starships and one particularly cool pitched battle between two large opposing forces in spacesuits in the bowels of an asteroid. There is also a really compelling storyline that sees the protagonists attempt to locate a spy aboard their ship, with a number of potential suspects adding in intrigue and drama as a result. The author makes effective use of multiple narrators to tell his story and this ensures that the reader gets to see every side of this exciting and enjoyable narrative, including from several antagonist characters. This helps to really pump up the intrigue and action, and I really appreciated seeing the different sides of the conflict, especially as you get to see rival plans go up against each other. The various character perspectives also helps to build up all the major side characters present throughout the book, allowing the readers to get a good idea of who they are and what their stakes in the plot are. All of this comes together into an exciting and compelling overall read that is very easy to enjoy.
Agents of Influence was also excellent piece of Star Trek fiction, set during the events of Star Trek: The Original Series. Ward once again does an incredible job capturing the tone and feel of the original Star Trek television series into this book and it actually felt like I was watching an episode of the original show. The author is really talented at bringing iconic Star Trek characters to life in his novel and each of The Original Series characters featured in this book gets their chance to shine throughout the narrative. Like most novels that tie in to a particular media franchise, Agents of Influence is a book that will mainly appeal to dedicated Star Trek fans, who will appreciate Ward’s latest contributions to the extended universe. There are a variety of fun references to various episodes of The Original Series, including some of the episodes that featured characters using plastic surgery to alter their appearance and disguise themselves as members of other species, such as the iconic episode The Trouble with Tribbles. Ward also makes several references to some of the other novels in the Star Trek expanded universe, especially those featured in the Star Trek: Vanguard series of books. This includes the USS Endeavour and its crew, who previously appeared in these novels, with some of their previous adventures and their interactions with the Enterprise explored throughout the course of the book. However, all of these references are really well explained to the reader and even people who have less familiarity with Star Trek and some of the expanded fiction should still be able to enjoy this novel without any issues.
I ended up checking out the audiobook version of Agents of Influence, which turned out to be an extremely fun and easy way to enjoy this fantastic book. The Agents of Influence audiobook has a run time of nearly 12 hours and is narrated by Robert Petkoff. This is a fairly typical length for a Star Trek audiobook, and I found that I was able to power through this one’s intriguing narrative in rather short order while getting a feel for the plot and the characters. One of the main reasons for this is the exceptional narration provided by Robert Petkoff, who is easily the most prominent narrator of Star Trek fiction. Petkoff is an amazingly skilled narrator whose work I have really appreciated in a range of previous Star Trek audiobooks, including The Unsettling Stars, Picard: The Last Best Hope, The Captain’s Oath and The Antares Maelstrom. Petkoff has the amazing ability to replicate the voices of the various cast members of The Original Series (as well as the cast members from The Next Generation), and this is on full display in the Agents of Influence audiobook. Petkoff once again did an outstanding job bringing all the key Enterprise crew members to life, and at times you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between some of the voices he did and the original crew. This, combined with the amazing species specific voices that Petkoff produces, really helps to bring the reader into the story, and I had an awesome time listening to the story unfold.
Star Trek: Agents of Influence is a compelling and clever standalone Star Trek tie-in novel that takes the reader on a bold new adventure back with the cast of The Original Series. Dayton Ward has produced a slick and enjoyable Star Trek novel chock full of action, intrigue and references, that I had an amazing time listening to. A highly recommend read for those fans of the Star Trek franchise which will also appeal to more casual viewers and science fiction readers.