Web of the Romulans

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Title: Web of the Romulans
Creator: M.S. Murdock
Date(s): June 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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Web of the Romulans is a Star Trek: TOS pro book written by fanwriter M.S. Murdock.

front cover

Summary

From the book jacket: "Ravaged by a killer virus, the Romulans enter Canara, where the only antidote can be found. Desperate, they incite a victorious USS Enterprise attack on one of their vessels, but Kirk discovers their ruse. Meanwhile the central computer has fallen in love with him, severely crippling the Starship Enterprise. Somehow Kirk must overcome the lovesick computer and bring the antidote to the Romulans, before the galaxy crashes over the brink of war."

Background & Publication

The novel is based on Murdock's 1979 fanzine story "My Own True Love", published in Dilithium Crystals in 1979. Murdock later heard from other fans that Pocket Books was accepting manuscripts for new Star Trek novels, and decided to turn the original story into a novel, keeping "My Own True Love"'s premise of the Enterprise's computer falling in love with Captain Kirk, but building a more serious story around it.

Murdock submitted the manuscript and heard nothing back for nearly three years. Eventually, an editor at Pocket Books contacted Murdock and asked whether she could expand the novel, which she did without any guarantee it would be purchased. Pocket Books finally purchased the manuscript, and published it—according to Murdock—without changing a word. They did, however, change Murdock's original title, We Who Are About to Die, to Web of the Romulans, reportedly because another novel was coming out with a similar title to the original. Murdock was not entirely happy with the change of titles, reporting that it was confusing to fans who thought the novel would have something to do with the episode "The Tholian Web".

See the section on Web of the Romulans in the 2006 book Voyages of Imagination for more from an interview with M.S. Murdock.[1]

Other Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections

Reactions and Reviews

This story Is about a deadly virus that is killing the Romulans, a computer that has fallen in love with Captain Kirk and crippled the Enterprise, a mission to avert a full scale war and a fanatic Admiral who wants a war and believes Kirk and the Enterprise are dead. He takes over the auxiliary control of the U.S.S. Potemkin and starts firing on the Romulan rear guard. The other starship's shield the Romulans and Kirk brings off another miracle.

That's the general plot. It was quite easy to read; however I can't say I totally agreed with the plot. A fanatic Admiral, who had always wanted to fight the Romulans - or better yet beat them. How on earth did he manage to escape the medicals designed to pick up things like that and still be in the Intelligence Corps? Other small things like the monitor Spock found half way through the book on his science console. Surely to God Spock of all people would have noticed this earlier.

All I can say is thank goodness for the zines written by true fans who really care about the story and not a fast buck. I've read better stories written in zines than professionally written ones like this one. There were just too many little things, like a Romulan with free run of the ship, the monitor, the fanatic Admiral. There were several other minor things like Spock not being able to fix the computer, at least to a working degree - no, I can't accept that at all. I did not go out to pick out fault with this story. In fact I thought I would like it. I did, but I could not accept the little things that no doubt Sheila, Janet and Valerie would have picked up on before going to print. [2]
I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I spent with Ms. Murdoch's [sic] book. Not only did most of the action take place on the Enterprise, which pleased me no end, but we are offered some lively portraits of secondary characters, without diminishing the importance of Kirk or Spock. I found no evidence of characterization rape. On the contrary, it's obvious that the author not only knows our heroes well, but has a great affection for them. Happily, we again meet some Enterprise crewmen who haven't been around much lately, like Kyle, Rand, and, even, Garrovick. I especially liked the scene between Spock and Riley which, though brief, was very funny. Riley is trying to punch up some Irish poetry on the computer to ward off boredom, but the computer has fallen in love with our dear Captain, and all Riley can get is Kirk's favorite poem - over and over again. The computer malfunction unfortunately crops up just as the Enterprise is sent into direct confrontation with a Romulan ship. The Commander of the vessel, S'Talon, is a strongly appealing individual, reminiscent of Mark Lenard's Romulan in "Balance of Terror." He appears to be as legendary in his Service as Kirk is in Starfleet. Unfortunately for him though, his superior, the Praetor, irritated by S'Talon's old-school honor and reputation, has sent him on what he supposes to be a suicide mission, while the rest of the Romulan fleet masses to conquer a planet in Federation territory. This planet grows a plant that can save the Romulans from extinction by a disease decimating their population. I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes look at the Romulans and the top brass at Starfleet, one of whom proves to be as dangerous a threat to peace as the Romulan Empire. I strongly recommend this book - it's a good yarn, happily devoid of pretensions, and memorable for the excellent quality of its writing, well developed plot, and absorbing characterizations. Please, Timescape, let this be a sign of the times. [3]
The Romulan Empire is ravaged by disease, and S'Talon, a commander unpopular with the Praetor, is sent into the Neutral Zone as a decoy for the Empire’s main fleet. While there, he faces the Enterprise, and the two ships are soon engaged in combat. Meanwhile the Romulan fleet under the leadership of the Praetor himself is on its way to Canara, a Federation world where the antidote can be found.

Not only are Kirk and his crew facing the Romulan vessel, but they are also up against the Enterprise computer which has fallen in love with the captain, addressing him in endearing terms and refusing to answer to anyone but him. To be with her "loved one," the computer has also cut off all communication with the outside universe.

After Starfleet hears no word from the Enterprise, it can only presume that the ship has been destroyed with Kirk and his crew lost. Therefore, the Federation fleet under the direction of an admiral who believes all Romulans must be destroyed sets out to confront the Romulan contingent near Canara. It’s up to Kirk to find a way to outwit his computer and work with Commander S’Talon to avoid a war which could destroy both sides.

While the book contains several humorous moments as the Enterprise computer finds ways to impress Kirk with its love, there are also several extremely tense moments as S’Talon and Kirk face each other in battle. When the computer removes everyone’s records from the computer, effectively making Kirk the only one aboard, Scotty must find a way to regain control of the ship before the Enterprise is destroyed. It is during this time that we see the main characters in unfamiliar situations: the usually unflappable Mister Spock experiences much irritation; Doctor McCoy has to work blindly with no medical records for anyone but the captain, and Captain Kirk must find a non-emotional way to work with an emotional computer. Readers also learn more of the workings of the Romulan Empire and the lengths the Praetor will go to in order to stay in power, even if it means sacrificing his best commanders.

Set in the period after the episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," the novel moves quickly as the plot progresses. The author manages to move smoothly between the Romulan ship under the command of S’Talon, the Enterprise, the Praetor’s ship, and Canara without the confusion that could so easily occur. While the Enterprise crew may be old friends to the reader, Murdock has also managed to make us sympathetic toward many of the Romulans as well. All in all, this is a very readable novel with plenty of action and intrigue to appeal to all. [4]
First of all, I would like to join in the praise for the new ST novel by M.S. Murdock, Web of the Romulans. I have read almost all of the pro novels, and have enjoyed only four of them, and two of those were marginal. So imagine my stunned surprise to read a really good, well-written, exciting ST novel that was REALLY ST! Wonderful! I sympathize with efforts to get publishers to publish good ST novels, but I see no point to a boycott. I plan instead to write in praise of all good ST novels, and to complain about the bad ones. [5]
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your book was terrific.... Forgive me if I gush, folks, but Melinda has made my dream of good, affordable ST literature come true. I hope she's starting a trend. [6]
"Web of the Romulans" is an obvious exception of the "Law" being promulgated by Verba et al. that there's no such thing as a good pro book. This novel had good characterizations of Kirk, Spock and Scott, good new characters, a multilevel con flict for Kirk and crew to work through and three dimensional characters for his opponents. Nice work, Ms. Murdock. [7]
First, I'd like to say to all of you who aren't planning to buy any pro ST fiction, go to your nearest bookstore, find and buy Web of the Romulans, and read it. It's well worth it (why else would I be telling you this?).Thank you for an exciting and fun-filled 2 1/2 hours. It was great. At first glance I thought that Timescape had done it again; the reversed cover was deceiving (or a symbol of their turn around). [8]
Way to go, Melinda! It's about time one of us "Little Folk" got into the limelight. I thoroughly enjoyed Web of the Romulans. [9]
As a rule, I have never read the profiction. But in the last issue the praises for WEB OF THE ROMULANS were so loud that I decided to stake some green paper on it. And I liked it very much. It felt right, and while it suffered from some of the drawbacks of fan fiction in general, it was still far too good to put down until finished. [10]
I loved Web of the Romulans! It was a great story and I enjoyed every minute of it. I wasn't sure how I was going to like the story after I read the cover. But the more I got into it the more I liked it. [11]
I bought two fanzines at SPACE TREK II, and either of them struck me as superior to both WEB OF THE ROMULANS and YESTERDAY'S SON. The most serious flaw in WEB OF THE ROMULANS was that the first 150 pages could've been compressed into a short paragraph or two without affecting the rest of the story. Further, as a computer programmer, I can find many things wrong with the way the computer malfunction was handled. [12]
I LOVED Web of the Romulans by M.S. Murdock. It was written so skillfully, with relationships explored in depth. I felt for the Romulan characters as well as the Enterprise crew. And it had the true feel and spirit of Trek. The humor and good intent were there. [13]
Most recently I read Web of the Romulans, which I felt was only a partial success (sorry, M.S.). The characters rang true to Trek, but the plot (a standard Romulan/Federation encounter) was a trifle too thin for my liking. (But please bear in mind that I compare everything to the likes of Triangle.)… I thought one of the best things about Web was the inclusion of so many—and intriguing—character descriptions. I also liked the balance between the Romulan side and the Federation side. If you meant that the action in the book was handled better than the romance, I do agree. Somehow the romance just didn't come across as well as it could have, if done with a different style. Being a computer programmer myself, I also took some exception to the computer malfunction. It just didn't make sense to me that the expert Cygnet technicians (people even Spock is "forced to admit" the competence of) could make such a critical mistake in programming which would lead to the computer's "narrow-focusing" on Kirk. For the record, the only part of Web I truly took exception to was the way the computer "fell in love" with Kirk. This shouldn't have been possible unless, as in Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, it had become truly self-aware—in which case, it would have known how important the ENTERPRISE is to Kirk, and never would have disabled it for a moment. Sorry—the misrepresentation of computer technology is a pet peeve of mine, and I criticize it wherever I find it. [14]
WEB OF THE ROMULANS—much better written than YESTERDAY'S SON—falls short in its emotional portrayal of the love between the Romulans, S'Talon and the Centurion. My point is that while these novels are no doubt a definite cut above most other professional Trek novels, they are still often not as satisfying as a good fanzine story. Perhaps Pocket Books feels that descriptions of in-depth psychological motivations would be too wordy and therefore boring—I don't know. [15]
I enjoyed your cover art on I#88 [of Interstat]. I agree with [Betsy B] that your story letters are wonderful. I loved Web of the Romulans, but still hope you will continue writing for zines. If not, I hope you'll come out with another pro novel soon! [16]

References

  1. M.S. Murdock quoted in Voyages of Imagination by Jeff Ayers (2006). See Excerpt from Google Books.
  2. by Joyce Devlin from IDIC #7
  3. from Interstat #69
  4. reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline at Orion Press
  5. from Melissa M in Interstat #70
  6. from Linda S in Interstat #70
  7. from D. Booker in Interstat #70
  8. from Clifford E. D in Interstat #70
  9. from Jean M. D in Interstat #70
  10. from Mark C. H in Interstat #71
  11. from Lucia J in Interstat #71
  12. from Joan V in Interstat #71
  13. from Bev L in Interstat #71
  14. from Lisa W in Interstat #72
  15. from Michele A in Interstat #73
  16. from Melissa M in Interstat #89