Ah, the second Star Trek novel I have read all the way until the end.
Let’s talk about how I feel about Star Trek.
When I was in grade school, my mother, father and I would watch the newest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when it first aired. I was able to pick up on the complex ideas more often than you would think, for a kid who was under ten years old, but I think that was mainly due to the stellar acting, and character development, I knew how important specific issues were, because of how they affected Data, Worf, Picard, etc.
I remember seeing every Trek movie, from The Final Frontier (1989) up until the most recent, Star Trek Beyond (2016). With the exception of Generations, Nemesis and Into Darkness, I thoroughly enjoyed the other six films. I also have watched and rewatched Voyage home and the Search for Spock, over and over again on VHS and then, eventually, DVD.
Even though it is more hip to say I like Star Wars, I would like to think that Star Trek is more personal, for me.
In the absence of a quality Star Trek film, I think the last true good Trek film was First Contact (1996) and the last “good” Star Trek show was Voyager, I have attempted to get into the various novel series that feature my favorite characters. There was a really fantastic book, Star Trek: Destiny : Gods of Night that told a story that brought in characters from all of the Generation era shows. I really loved that book, but had a hard time locating either a print or audiobook copy of the second book in the series. It was great to be back with Picard, who had apparently became serious with his relationship with Beverly Crusher, and fathered a child with her. That novel was the first in a series of three that would explain the origin of the Borg, an unfortunate motivation for a trilogy of books. I could add to the dozens of Youtube channel stars and critics who have lamented over the fact that the Borg have lost their Mystique and threat, the more and more they have been over explained, but I should probably get to the actual review of this book.
Even though I consider myself more of a Trekkie than the average bear, I have only watched a handful of the Original Series episodes, a few times. I love Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest of the crew, but that is mainly born out of my love for the Original Series movies. This book was able to do something that none of the Kelvinverse trek films have accomplished. Star Trek Beyond did a great job of telling a story that had higher stakes and scale than a regular episode of the Original Series, without the action being too over the top. It also attempted to channel, what I believe to be, the essence of Star Trek - encountering Alien based challenges while exploring Space.
Unfortunately the characterization in Star Trek beyond was still a little off, and even though it was more restrained than the previous Kelvinverse entries, It was still too heavy on the action for a Star Trek story.
This is where Captain To Captain Succeeds. The stakes are higher. A good portion of the story is set in Flashback, when Captain April was in charge of the Enterprise, and Una, who would be Number one to Captain Pike, was a cocky cadet. The book’s focus is primarily on Una, and I couldn’t have been happier for this choice. Though we would assume that she survives the danger she experiences in her flashbacks, we do not know how the rest of the crew of April’s enterprise will fair. Also, I believe that in the “Present” of Captain to Captain, we are at a point in the lore where we no longer know what happens to Una. It is very possible Una could die, during the gambit she takes on, at the beginning of the book. This gives Captain to Captain, a level of Suspense I never expected to experience while reading a story about characters in their twenties, who I know will each make it their golden years.
Brian Cox does a great job getting us invested in Una, Captain April and the rest of that version of the Enterprise’s crew.
The villains in the book are great, too. They have a special secret weapon, which is quite horrific when put to use. It is suggested that an alternate version of this weapon made an appearance in a class Original Series episode. That little bit of continuity makes this adventure even more exciting. The Villains are an intimidating threat, posing true danger, but yet are not a Universe conquering evil, whose lack of mention in any of the Trek movies or TV shows would have seemed suspect. It is great fun seeing April and Una attempt to escape from these evil aliens, while at any moment your worried what these enemies might do to April’s crew.
The best part? I think Captain to Captain is part one of a greater series. That was quite a surprise at the end of the book.
A high stakes adventure, featuring characters whose fates are not necessarily written out in Trek Lore. Count me in!