Taking the author's own words, "Troublesome Minds" was conceived to be read as if watching a new TOS-episode (including "hearing" the opening credits after the introductory chapter) - and I certainly got the nostalgic feeling of being reintroduced to TV-TOS including a gripping story and a strong triumvirate.
Galanter managed to do what the best Trek-episodes accomplished: He established a scenario where there's no right or wrong, no good vs. evil, no clear-cut villain to hunt down. Kirk and Spock find themselves in an absolutely impossible situation as a result of one well intended deed, and what follows is a tale consisting of shades of grey up until (and especially) the ending. And it's those shades of grey, defining them and showing their consequences, but never judging prematurely, where Trek always has been at its absolute best.
I must admit that I particularly enjoyed two aspects: First, and I repeat myself deliberately, that there's no good vs. evil here. Berlis doesn't act out of a will to dominate, it's simply his nature combined with a certain childish innocence and incapability to understand his own influence on others. Also, the Odib aren't immune to reason, they're not a belligerent race, they're just afraid of once again coming under the influence of a Troublesome Mind.
And the second aspect is, of course, the ambiguous ending, starting with how strongly Berlis reacted to losing the connection to the others, Spock's staying with him in the meld and his reasons for it, and eventually leading to Berlis' death and Spock's confusion and grief which felt a bit like "City on the Edge of Forever" to me. A very powerful and poignant sequence which shows that even in a standalone novel characters can be put to the edges of their endurance (and beyond) without the repercussions feeling diminished somehow by not immediately being addressed in a follow-up novel.
The only minor criticism I have is aimed at some liberties the author took for the convenience of the story, such as finding Meshu on a nearby planet and her feeling more like a plot-device, and at the fact that I found the battle sequences a bit tiresome. But again: minor criticism which really shouldn't distract from the fact that this is a well balanced and thought-provoking novel.
I'd really love to "watch" more TOS-episodes such as this one - and I hope there'll be room for that in the future in the wake of Star Trek 2009 and all the ongoing interconnected relaunch novels...
review originally written in 2009