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Star Trek: Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru, by Michael A. Martin Book Review | SFReader.com
Star Trek: Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru, by Michael A. Martin Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2008 Review Posted: 1/21/2009 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Star Trek: Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru, by Michael A. Martin
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
The movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opened with a training sequence where Lt. Saavik is taking the Kobayashi Maru test, a test of a potential captain's mettle in a "no-win situation." As Admiral Kirk says, "it's a test of character." So did anybody ever wonder where, within the movie's history, that incident actually took place?
Wonder no more, as we have the new Star Trek: Enterprise book by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, Kobayashi Maru, to answer that question. This book continues the post-television series story of the Enterprise crew leading up to the first war with the Romulans, and it's another excellent outing for these authors. I wouldn't be surprised if they are given all future Enterprise novels, as they capture everything so well (with the exception that Martin is writing the upcoming Romulan War trade paperback by himself).
With attacks on cargo ships for the fledgling Coalition of Planets increasing, most military ships are being tasked with protecting these ships more than finding out who's doing it and why. Captain Jonathan Archer is convinced that the reclusive Romulan Empire, a species which has never been seen to this point, is behind all of the attacks as a prelude to war. He knows, from having received information from his "dead" friend Trip Tucker, sent to Romulus as a spy, that the Romulans have evil intentions, but he can't offer any proof. War is coming, war that could shatter the Coalition before it is fully formed. Political infighting as well as distrust of the Klingons is causing the government to not see what Archer is saying, and a devastating new Romulan weapon could spell the end for everybody.
I will leave the details on just what the Kobayashi Maru is to those who are going to read the book, but I do have to admit that the authors surprised me with it. Archer's decision is not one that I would have thought he would do, and the recriminations and consequences from that decision are excellently portrayed by Martin & Mangels. The fact that the Kobayashi Maru is introduced so early in the novel lends a sense of menace to the entire proceedings for those Trek fans reading the book, but this doesn't detract from things if you are not familiar with what the Maru represents. For those readers, the sense of impending doom comes from the Romulans and the lack of political fortitude within the Coalition.
Kobayashi Maru does a good job jumping between plot lines, from Trip Tucker on Romulus to the Enterprise and Archer trying desperately to find proof (other than that provided by Tucker) of the Romulans' scheming, to Enterprise's sister ship Columbia and their attempts to fight off attacks. The authors have created an interesting new weapon for the Romulans, one that can take control of another ship's systems, keep the crew barely alive, and use it to attack another so that it appears they are responsible rather than the Romulans.
Once again, the authors get the characters almost perfect. I'm getting used to their version of Archer, so that it doesn't jar with my memories of the Bakula's portrayal as much as it did in The Good That Men Do. Perhaps my memories of the series are fading a bit too. I did have a bit of a problem with T'Pol and Malcolm's way of getting off the ship to help Trip, and how gullible that makes Archer look, but that's a quibble in an otherwise enjoyable book. Come on, your chief security officer isn't on the bridge because of stomach problems? And this hasn't been cleared with the doctor?
One other minor problem, not necessarily with the characterization but with something missing, is Travis, he helmsman, and what happens to the ship he grew up on, the Horizon. Why make such a plot point of it if you're not going to have Travis react in more than just a perfunctory fashion? Maybe that will be dealt with in upcoming books, but other than a couple of looks and a couple more sentences, we barely see Travis react to it at all. Shades of the series all over again, where Travis was basically ignored even when he was given a storyline, but at least in television you can attribute that to the strength of the actor.
Overall, though, Kobayashi Maru is another stellar addition to the post-television Enterprise story. Things are leading inevitably to the Romulan War that was mentioned in the original television series. Archer is taking his prominent place in the proceedings even as he's continually frustrated by his government's refusal to see reason. The authors write both the emotional scenes as well as the action scenes well, from the starship combat to the intensely personal honor fight that Archer must go through to convince the Klingons of what's happening. These books are a joy to read, and go by very fast as you have to see what happens next.
Even if you weren't a fan of the Enterprise series, you should give these books a chance. It's a bit too tied into Trek history for the casual reader, but if you do decide to pick it up, Mangels and Martin do a good job of bringing you up to speed without filling the book with infodumps. You should definitely give Kobayashi Maru a try.
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