I didn’t pick up William Shatner’s 1996 novel, Man O’ War, expecting much. Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek and has been the star of several Priceline.com commercials, is not known for being a writer.

What surprised me was that the book wasn’t half bad.

Benton Hawkes is a diplomat who has a knack for solving problems. He’s the one they send in when a conflict cannot be solved by anybody else. So when a Martian mining colony totters on the brink of civil war, he seems to be the perfect man for the job.

But Hawkes proves to be too perfect in this energetic sci-fi story, thwarting numerous attempts on his life and plotting a course toward the very solution his superiors wish to avoid.

There’s not a ton of originality in this story, and in many ways it reads like Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress moved to Mars and hyped up on steroids. But it lacks the depth of Mistress which I really enjoy in a sci-fi novel. It’s sufficiently interesting though, and has a lot of shoot-em-up space action.

Shatner is not an expert writer, and occasionally I found myself cringing at his run-on sentences and strange constructions. But the vast majority of Man O’ War is readable, and the story isn’t too bad if you can forgive his borrowing plot points from Heinlein and other sci-fi greats.

I certainly don’t regret reading it, it kept my interest, but it’s nothing great.

3 out of 5 stars.