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Double Helix: Infection
John Gregory Betancourt
Pocket Books, 239 pages

Double Helix: Infection
John Gregory Betancourt
John Gregory Betancourt was born in Missouri in 1963. He sold his first short story professionally at 16 ("Vernon's Dragon," in 100 Great Fantasy Short-Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov et al.) and his first novel at 19 (The Blind Archer, published by Avon Books). In college he became an assistant editor for Amazing Stories magazine, then co-editor and publisher of a revival of Weird Tales. He also worked on a freelance basis for such publishers as Avon Books, Signet Books (now part of Penguin USA), Tor Books, Bluejay Books and Berkley Books. His novels include Johnny Zed, Rememory, and Rogue Pirate. With his wife Kim, he runs his own small publishing company, Wildside Press.

John Betancourt Website
ISFDB Bibliography: John Gregory Betancourt
Wildside: A Science Fiction Resource

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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The seemingly endless stream of Star Trek books out there continually amazes me. Books dealing with The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, as well as trivia books and nitpicker's guides. At last count, there were at least 72 New Generation books. Make that 73 as we add Double Helix: Infection. Actually make that 78, because Infection is the first of 6 books, launching a new Next Generation series.

While you may not recognize John Gregory Betancourt's name, you will recognize some of the other authors of the remaining books in the series, including Dean W. Smith and Kristine K. Rusch, Diane Carey, John Vornholt, Peter David, and Michael Jan Friedman.

Infection introduces the master plot for the series. Jean-Luc Picard, our favourite Star Fleet Captain, is in his first year as Captain of the Enterprise. The Enterprise and her crew are sent to Archaria III, where a raging epidemic is sweeping the planet. The Enterprise's orders are two-fold: quarantine the planet and track down fleeing inhabitants; and assist in finding a cure for the plague. It's a particularly nasty disease that only strikes down individuals with mixed genetic backgrounds. (I'll give you a moment to let you think of which Enterprise crew members are at risk...)

I'm sure I'm giving nothing away when I tell you that Dr Crusher works her magic in Sick Bay and discovers the infectious agent. Her discovery that the virus was engineered comes as a surprise to the crew of the Enterprise, but not to the reader. For Picard and the others, the natural suspect is the Purity League, an anti-alien hate group violently opposed to inter-species mating. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. It's up to the crew of the Enterprise to stop the epidemic and discover who was responsible for it.

As with any media tie-in book, this series has certain advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we are all very familiar with the characters, the Star Trek universe, and how things work. No one has to explain how transporters work, what a Vulcan is, or give a detailed description of the Enterprise. That familiarity lets the authors concentrate more on plot and character development. On the other hand, there are limits to what the authors can do with the characters. We know none of the major Star Trek characters are going to die. There will be no startling revelations about their personal lives, no skeletons in the closet or steamy romances -- everything is Star Trek squeaky clean with no gratuitous sex or violence.

As far as Star Trek books go, Infection is very entertaining. It's also a pretty good science fiction book, but one that's pretty inaccessible to non-Star Trek fans. You will not get a lot out of this book if you haven't watched the TV series or read a few of the general introductory novels. The concept for the virus is rather clever, if not exactly consistent with current scientific and medical knowledge. But, hey, this is science fiction, right? The series promises to offer quite a bit of suspense and mystery as Picard and his crew unravel what has happened on Archaria III and contemplate what is likely to happen next.

The best news is that you won't have to wait for years for the series to be complete. By the time you read this, all 6 books in the series will already be available. So if you like Infection, you can immediately go crazy and get the remaining 5 books in the series. (How I wish that were true of all of today's fantasy and science fiction series!)

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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