While transporting an esteemed Starfleet scientist to his new posting, the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a situation seemingly in defiance of the laws of science: an M-class planet orbited by a tiny black hole. As the crew proceeds to investigate the implausibilities of the new planet quickly mount: teleporting down to the planet via transporter is impossible, shuttlecraft no longer function after landing, and phasers can be used to stun the aggressive fauna but will not function when set to kill. Soon the crew of the Enterprise encounter the reason for the mystery — and in the process discover a threat to the existence of the entire Federation.
Regarded today as one of the giants of the genre, Joe Haldeman was just beginning his career as a science fiction author when he was approached by Bantam to write for their series of Star Trek novels in the 1970s. This, the first of two he would write, demonstrates all of his skills as an author: gripping action, interesting scientific ideas, and a plot that engages the reader throughout its length. Like many an episode what starts as a puzzle becomes a problem, then a challenge that threatens like lives of the Enterprise crew. Though Haldeman incorporates a trope from the original series, his employment in it is done in a way that is both fresh and with real consequences for the story. All of this makes for a delightful novel that shows the possibilities inherent in the series in the hands of a true master of the craft.