“But until today, I’d thought I was Sarek’s greatest disappointment.” “Unlikely,” Spock said. “I am quite certain he has reserved that distinction for me.”
I was hoping for the novels to be handed over to the same people who have always handled the novels for what I considered to be the “James Luceno effect.” Which is a reference to James Luceno getting offered to do a Star Wars novel after the canon reboot and the immediate effect being he incorporated as much previous Expanded Universe into the book as humanly possible. In this case, David Mack does an excellent job of handling a much bigger job of making it clear not only does Discovery fit into the timeline of the Original Series but there’s no reason to be exceptionally worried about it.
In fact, I didn’t see this as a likely problem from the beginning as while Trekkies would snarl and hiss about the Klingons looking different or the Saucer-size not being the right number of meters, I knew the novelists would provide explanations. Are they canon? Well, no, but they’re canon to themselves and really it’s all about satisfying YOUR vision of the galaxy isn’t it? What was that moment in Galaxy Quest? “The show is real.” “I knew it!” In this case, Desperate Hours explains away a few of the tech problems and states while the Constitution-class may look a little weird even in-universe, it’s fully capable of kicking the Discovery’s butt back to Earth Spacedock. Which makes sense because they have phasers that go “pew pew” while the Enterprise has phasers that can decimate continents.
The premise for the book is a surprisingly well-established colony of humans (300K+) on the edge of Federation Space has accidentally awakened a 2 kilometer creature I kept mentally picturing as one of Mass Effect’s Reapers. Captain Georgiou, who I hope gets a 22+ book series sort of like the Stargazer adventures, is assigned the task of dealing with the threat only to get Captain Pike added to her detail seconds later. Pike is full of Klingon gagh and vinegar with a desire to simply blast the Juggernaut (as they name it) out of existence. This leads to a conflict between the two which is only resolved by their first and second officers: Lt. Commander Michael Burnham along with Lt. Spock.
I was somewhat surprised to see Spock and Michael interacting as you’d think that’d be something they’d save for the television show but I suppose if they want to overwrite the novels they certainly can. In any case, their interaction is the highlight of the story as we get a sense of what makes the two characters similar as well as what makes them different. We also get a sense of why Spock changes from the somewhat angry young Vulcan in the Star Trek Pilot to the more established one in TOS. David Mack’s mastery of Trek history is full of little references here and there that seem primarily designed to make Discovery’s characters feel welcome as part of the franchise rather than the unwanted new neighbors so many friends are treating them as.
I really like Captain Pike’s portrayal because while the Abramsverse made him basically TOS Captain Kirk 2.0, the one seen in the pilot was kind of an [expletive]. He was angry, unhappy to be in Starfleet, sexist, and generally a piece of work. Here, it’s because he’s overcompensating for being extremely young in his command as well as just being plain meaner than your average Starfleet captain. It makes a nice contrast to Captain Georgiou, who is somewhere between Kirk and Picard in terms of being an officer and a gentlewoman. Mind you, I don’t think even Kirk ever considered firing on a fellow Federation vessel. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the fact it did an excellent job of setting up the Governor as a villain with complex motives yet a truly despicable self-serving core yet she was dealt with anticlimatically. Really, I was looking forward to her getting her comeuppance far more than I was seeing the 9 million year old death machine being dealt with.
This book doesn’t really fit with the events of Star Trek: Discovery season two. There, Spock and Michael’s relationship was explored in a manner very similar to this book. However, it’s still quite entertaining despite no longer fitting into continuity. I very much enjoyed the book and am eager to read more Discovery spin-off novels. Pike, Georgiou, Michael, and Spock are all well-developed and well used in the story. It’s a bit bigger and more video-gamey than a typical Star Trek episode but that’s the benefit of a book’s unlimited effects budget.