Read again? Nope.
The main thing I remember about this book is that I bought it and read most of it on the first day in my own apartment, December 20, 1996. This will be the second reading--and based on one line on page 9, I doubt I'll go for a third.
Several books back, I ranted briefly about Trek writers who don't "get it" with important stuff about key characters; too many writers make the mistake of claiming Vulcans have no emotions. This isn't so! They HAVE feelings--but they've developed a system of logical thought and self control so that their feelings aren't in control!
Oltion stepped in it. I remember mentioning in a previous Trek book review about a book where "Spock came dangerously close to feeling emotion." This is that book. Two points off the top, one for each pointy ear! Even worse, in later parts of the book, Spock shows emotional reactions--suspicion, humor, sarcasm, irritation. It's clear that Oltion intended to say something other than "dangerously close..."--and if that's the case, he should have said the something other. Someone who makes a living putting words together should be better at putting words together.
The story opens with Kirk presiding over a wedding. There's a brief argument between bride and groom over the word, "obey" in the vows (he's surprised it's in there and refuses to obey--good man--but after a brief argument, they agree to a different word). Then Scotty (the best man) substitutes a joke ring. Then the newlyweds push cake in each others' faces.
See? This is going to be a comedy. Ha. Ha. Ha. *rolled eyes* I can hardly wait.
Fortunately, Enterprise gets diverted to investigate the sudden breakout of peace between a pair of worlds in the Nevis system that have been at war for 12,000 years. Spock's thinking about this when he gets "dangerously close"...you know, I'm tempted to take off another two points just because I came dangerously close to quoting the whole stupid phrase again. This could well come dangerously close to negative numbers in the rating.
It turns out that Harcourt Fenton Mudd--Harry, in casual circumstances--is the broker of the peace. Apparently all he's doing is selling fruit, and that's enough to bring peace to Prastor and Distrel...it's the fruit they've been at war over. See, there's this conveniently-striped fruit that's conveniently made of alternating purple and white sections. Eating one or the other is harmless, but eating one of each will conveniently kill one before one hits the ground. The war started because neither side wanted to eat the white ones. Now that Mudd's selling those white bits, there's no reason to fight. Wait, what? They go back to fighting again? That's pretty good, since we're only a third of the way into the book. Might get boring, otherwise.
Of course, Harry's got an angle; he's a con man, right? Kirk and his merry crew know this--but the Nevisians have some secrets and angles of their own. Seems that when they blow each other away with their fancy zap-guns, they get transported, processed, and sent back out into the world to live a new life. Turns out it works on humans, too: first the red-shirt-wearing bride from the wedding scene gets wasted. Then, in short order, Mudd, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty and Kirk all buy it.
No idea how canonical it is, but Mudd mentions that a distant grandfather of his was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who was convicted of conspiracy in Lincoln's assassination and sentenced to prison at Fort Jefferson, off the Florida Keys. Neat little tie-in with reality.
Overall, it's not an awful story, if predictable. Oltion's style flows well, so it's a quick read. I'd like to see better characterization, and a better grasp of those cold-blooded, pointy-eared Vulcans.