Review: “The Laertian Gamble (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)” by Robert Sheckley

(Well, I thought that I’d occasionally review books on this blog. They’ll probably be books which I’ve found interesting, inspirational, fun and/or have read recently. A fair number of them may well be “Star Trek” books too…)

It was all of the one-star reviews on Amazon which made me curious about this book. A novel which was “bad” enough to make pretty much everyone give it extremely bad reviews just sounded absolutely fascinating in a slightly strange way.

Eventually, out of morbid curiosity, I bought a copy. Could it really be that bad?

No. It’s brilliant!

One possible way to explain the low reviews for “The Laertian Gamble” is that it’s kind of like the Ferengi-based episodes of DS9, you either love or hate them. This is a fairly light-hearted book (about the closest comparison to it that I can think of are some of Peter David’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” novels) with a storyline which is fairly outlandish, even by “Star Trek” standards.

If you go into this book expecting it to be a “serious” novel, then I can see why you might end up giving it one star. But if you go into it expecting to have fun, then you won’t be disappointed…

The story begins with Doctor Bashir playing the slot machines at Quark’s. O’Brien notices him and points out that he’s been gambling all night without even realising it . After Bashir leaves Quark’s, he soon ends up meeting a beautiful woman called Allura who is from a planet called Laertes. She’s eager to gamble, but has been barred from Quark’s due to her psychic abilities. So, she asks Bashir to gamble for her using her money. The only condition is that he must keep gambling until he either runs out of money or Quark’s goes bankrupt.

Quark, always the keen businessman, agrees to this and Bashir starts gambling. To everyone’s surprise, he just cannot seem to lose. However, whenever he wins, strange things begin to happen in various parts of the galaxy……

It’s hardly “War and Peace”, but it is a surprisingly fun (and funny) story too. The scenes which take place on Laertes also have a vaguely Golden Age sci-fi kind of feel to them too, which is very vaguely reminiscent of Harry Harrison or Philip K.Dick. It’s also the most eccentric “Star Trek” novel I’ve ever read too and, like a dream or an episode of “Doctor Who”, it has it’s own kind of curious internal logic which only really makes sense at the time.

Yes, some could say that this novel can be kind of cheesy and somewhat contrived sometimes… and it kind of is. But so are some of the episodes from every version of “Star Trek”. The fact that it doesn’t always take itself entirely seriously is part of what makes “Star Trek” so brilliant and unique. This book is definately part of this tradition.

Overall, if I had to give it a rating out of five, I’d probably give it three or four. It’s very readable and… well… just good fun!

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