Did you see Star Trek Into Darkness, the second of J.J. Abrams Star Trek prequels? If so, what did you think? If you’re in the “it was awesome, I love everything to do with Star Trek” camp, you may as well pop out and buy this book, too, as it’s more of the same. Don’t read any further.
If you thought the film was average or worse, however, this book isn’t going to add anything to your enjoyment of it. In fact, it may make the whole thing worse. As you’ll know if you saw the film, the start of the movie is set on a planet where Kirk and the crew end up revealing themselves to a primitive species in order to save them from extinction because they live on the edge of a volatile volcano that’s about to erupt.
This book uses the same premise but in a different situation. On a previous trip, it turns out, Kirk finds a previous captain of a previous Enterprise, long presumed dead, fighting a civil war against Klingon-armed savages. It’s hard, at first, to work out if it’s supposed to be the same planet that’s featured at the beginning of the film or not, because the situation is so similar, but it turns out that it’s not – it just feels like a repeat.
There are some links made to the start of the film at the very end of the book, and I suppose you could argue that it’s Kirk’s experience on this planet that leads him to intervene on the next, but it feels very odd to use the plot device from the beginning of the movie to create another situation around the same concept.
Trekkies might swoon over the fact that the book is essentially an exploration of the Prime Directive – the Starfleet rule that states that humans shouldn’t reveal themselves to or interfere with cultures that don’t have sufficiently advanced technology to have discovered interstellar space travel. Personally, I’m not engaged enough with the brand for such things to excite me.
The script is OK, with a couple of interesting twists, but since we know the ending, there’s no real sense of danger here. The art, again, is OK, though I’d argue that David Messina is better at drawing Spock’s distinctive features than getting an accurate representation of the new Kirk.
What we’re left with is a humdrum Trek story, perhaps designed to appeal to its fans and perhaps succeeding in that, but it isn’t likely to win over any new ones.