This is a portion of my review at Trek.fm
Tony Daniel’s first Star Trek book, “Devil’s Bargain,” takes place three and a half years into the first five year mission. It feels just like an episode from an unseen season four with humor and fun, all while touching on some very important issues.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PREJUDICE
When the Enterprise arrives on Vesbius in response to a distress call, the human colony they find is not quite what they expect. The crew learns that in order to survive on Vesbius, the humans there have altered themselves genetically — and the planet itself — to survive. This has left them with a deep connection to the planet and a dependency on Vesbius’ biosphere to survive.
Genetic engineering is nothing new to the Star Trek universe. The Denobulans are accomplished in genetic engineering and have had mostly positive results in their society for using it. It has been another matter for humans. Genetic engineering of the late 20th century led to the creation of super-men like Khan and his army of super-soldiers. As Spock pointed out in Space Seed, “Superior ability breeds superior ambition,” and that is exactly one of the issues that has surfaced on Vesbius. The Vesbians’ genetic change has made some of them wary of aliens, and in some cases, completely prejudiced against anyone not Vesbian.
It seems that the Julian Bashir or Hannah Fabers of genetic engineering are the anomaly, whereas Khan and his augments are the norm. A faction of the Vesbian population is a part of an extremist group known as the Exos. They, like so many mad men before them, believe that they should be the rulers of the galaxy. They believe that humans have become subservient to aliens like Vulcans, have stopped striving for greatness and instead accepted mediocrity. This leaves the Exos believing in not only their superiority but in their belief in a centralized government ruled by the strong. The attitude brings to mind people like Hitler and Khan who believed in a master race — and their own inherent greatness — which drove them to command and conquer.
This book asks difficult questions by showing us that while genetic engineering can have appalling consequences, it can also be used for incredible things as well. Not all Vesbians are hell-bent on galactic domination; In fact, most of them just want to live in peace on their planet. McCoy asks a key question a third of the way through the book as he talks to Kirk and Spock: “…When you open Pandora’s box, who knows what will come out?” This is a question that our world must contemplate as more scientific and medical breakthroughs continue advancing at a rapid rate. How do we deal with the temptations that come as a result of tampering with our genetic makeup and what sort of outcomes will we experience if and when we do?