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austinchapman

in libris

Read much. Talk little.

Currently reading

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September-October 2017
Tract Canfield, Eldar Zakirov, Edward M. Lerner, Jerry Oltion
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Eleven
Joe Abercrombie, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Jonathan Strahan
Progress: 384/507 pages
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. A: Middle Ages
Stephen Greenblatt, Alfred David, James Simpson, M.H. Abrams
Progress: 367/543 pages
Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours - David Mack

The first Star Trek: Discovery novel is a mixed bag. The good bits include interaction between the Shenzhou (the starship in the pilot episode of Discovery) and the Enterprise (commanded by Captain Pike), interaction between Michael Burnham (star of the new show) and Spock, and an intriguing alien mystery. The bad bits include a very much by-the-numbers separatist-colony subplot and the underdevelopment of the alien-mystery plot.

 

The major motivator of the plot is Michael Burnham's candidacy for First Officer of the Shenzhou. The author, David Mack, does a good job (most of the time) of keeping our eyes on this target, and the resolution of it is satisfying. It also works as a focus for character interactions, because the dynamics between Burnham, her nemesis Saru, and Captain Georgiou get some space to play here. Although the book was written before the show premiered and by now we've only seen a little bit of how Burnham interacts with others, there's been enough established that at least this one novel can play out some of these threads.

 

It's unfortunate that this novel suffers from the all-too-common Trek malady known as the Subplot. Now, I do not hold the Subplot per se in disfavor. But I recognize that it is not a thing to be taken lightly and that it is difficult to make satisfactory. There is a subplot in this novel involving a separatist colony. Why exactly they want to separate was a mystery at the beginning of the novel, and the causes and potential effects of separation are almost completely abandoned by the end of the book. In a word, this subplot was pointless. As far as I'm concerned, the only good that came of it is that it gave an excuse for the chief medical officers of the Shenzhou and Enterprise to meet and exchange banter for about one and a half pages.

 

That said, I was usually entertained by the story. Many elements of it are time-honored Star Trek story elements, and the sense of discovery is palpable... at least if you can remember to be excited by the alien mystery amid the fiery distractions of numerous firefights.

 

One more thing I enjoyed about Desperate Hours is that the oldest Star Trek (Pike's Enterprise) meets the newest. At this point, I think it's always going to be a challenge for Trekkies to reconcile these iterations produced 50 years apart from one another and yet supposedly occupying the same canonical space. But I applaud David Mack for giving it a genuine effort. On the page, at least (where visual effects are... less visible), it's fun to throw them together.

 

UP NEXT: Well, I was going to continue Strahan's Year's Best vol. 11, but while I was at the bookstore, I picked up the Sept/Oct issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, just on a whim. It's been years since I've read a sci-fi magazine and the urge overcame me. So, I think I'll read that next, then jump back into Strahan's anthology.