This was a fun book. It wasn’t the near-perfection that the first book achieved, but it was a lot of fun. It’s a different writer this time, and book 3 will be as well, so it’s interesting to see how this collaboration is being pulled off. The consistency between the styles is interesting, which I think is partly achieved by the consistency of character beats and that classic Star Trek feel that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Much of this one dealt with the fallout of the first book’s cliffhanger ending, which for the sake of preserving spoilers means I really can’t discuss in detail. Suffice it to say, Kirk had a very personal vendetta, and the fallout of it makes book 3 a personal quest for both Spock and McCoy.
There were some problems that kept this one from being a 5 star read. In fact, this one was nearly a 3 star book, but strength of character and the bigger picture largely kept it at the higher level. This piece of alien tech that’s at the heart of the story is so incredibly dangerous that it was passed captain to captain, behind Starfleet’s back. By the end of this book, major powers all know about it, and I dare say there’s only one way that can play out for the final book. But then, given the cliffhanger ending here in regards to Spock and McCoy’s quest and the characters involved, it’s not the ending that’s in question. The fun will lay in how they get there.
The climactic space battle is the biggest problem I have. It’s actually an in-atmosphere combat between Enterprise and the foe I can’t name to preserve spoilers. They didn’t ruin the surprise in the summary blurb, so I won’t ruin it either. Suffice it to say, imagine if you will a starship the size of an aircraft carrier doing combat maneuvers that would make Han Solo jealous. All credit to Sulu and Scotty for doing the impossible to hold her together, but Enterprise isn’t a fighter craft, and she doesn’t have wings. The writer has this annoying knack of hanging a lantern on everything I had a problem with, be it this combat and the idea that the ship’s saucer should have snapped clean off, or the fact that everyone suddenly knows the secret of the transfer key because secrets mean nothing, or that Kirk is suddenly ok with the idea of sharing sensor intelligence with the Klingons. Somebody on staff would question it, and that made it ok? No… that’s why it lost a star, almost 2. Too convenient.
I can’t fault the writer for keeping up the quality on nearly everything else. There are some truly human moments here between Dr. McCoy and his estranged daughter Joanna. We’re given a chance for Uhura and Chekov to really shine. The (secret) villains of the piece are great fun, and I love the political in-fighting. These are the things that sold it for me.
And what I truly admire the author for is a little character statement that was made near the opening of the book. Kirk is the youngest captain in Starfleet’s history, and he’s only a couple of years into his command at this point, and well-decorated before he got the post. He achieved all of this because he’s a by-the-book officer, and he thinks of himself as such. In the wake of the events of the first book, he’s told Starfleet of the transfer key, and in light of the peace accords with the Klingons, Starfleet ordered him to go after it with the knowledge that he’d be disavowed as a rogue operative if things go wrong. He did it anyway because his service to the fleet is more important than his image. This idea that he’s a loose cannon is part of the perpetuated myth of Jim Kirk that doesn’t quite hold up. When he goes against orders, it’s for the greater good of his ship, his crew, and the Federation as a whole… which is how book 2 ends. These kinds of moments, if you look at his record, are not the norm. They are the exception, made under exceptional circumstances by an exceptional hero. This is what separates the wanna-be players from the people who get Kirk. The fact is, we see all these extraordinary moments in the stories because those are the stories worth telling. It skews perception.
And yet… giving military technical data to the Klingons? I’m still struggling to reconcile this. If this plays out as I think it will, this should have the Klingons joining forces with the Federation long before the Khitomer Accords in Star Trek VI. That’s part of the mystery that brings me back. That, the unnamed enemy, and this new threat from the parallel dimension. It’s all so very cool. And it’s just so good to come home to Star Trek as I understand it, flaws and all.
Book 3 comes out in a month. I’m glad I have plenty to occupy myself in the meantime, and glad I don’t have to wait a year or more, but still… I want it all, and I want it now. That’s a sign of a good story.