Star Trek Enterprise novel

Another of my other site’s “Chapter By Chapter” series finished up, and once again it’s time for a full review. This is not based on the series with Scott Bakula, by the way. In fact, this novel came out before Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is supposed to be the first ever voyage of the Enterprise crew we all know and love–Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Rand, Sulu, they even get a Checkov cameo in there. We’ve seen other possible origins in official channels as both the comics and the JJ Abrams reboots have done their own version. The question is how this one stacks up. First, the stats:

Star Trek: Enterprise – The First Adventure

by Vonda N. McIntire

Pocket Books (September, 1986)

It’s Captain Kirk’s first mission on the Enterprise and he’s not happy with it. Having survived a damaged ship where he was in a regenerative fluid when he received command, Kirk must now play intergalactic USO for a vaudeville company at a time when nobody remembers what vaudeville was. It’s a modern take (for the time the book takes place) but it still manages to entertain. It’s not a completely uneventful trip, as Kirk finds himself attracted to the pretty magician and owner of the company (that’s nothing new, and just after his break-up with Carol Marcus), as well as going through trouble both keeping the company happy and dealing with a crew who was loyal to the previous captain, Christopher Pike. Now they’re all getting used to each other. Throw in a rebel Klingon and an amazing find into the third act and you have the basic plot of this story. I’ll try to remain spoiler-free. If you want a spoiler-filled chapter by chapter breakdown there’s a link in the first paragraph.

I wanted to like this book, and if you read the introduction article you’ll see that I thought I did, or at least I did when I originally read it a very long time ago. It’s the first voyage of the famous crew of the USS Enterprise, for crying out loud. McIntyre does a good job capturing the voice of the characters as well as giving personality to the new characters. Koronin, the rebel Klingon, is a fascinating villain, with her own sense of honor and self-interest. She’s quite likable for a villain and I hope she pops up again in other novels. I like the idea of someone in the future trying to bring vaudeville back and even the last-minute edition of Stephen, a Vulcan who grew up with Spock but forsakes his Vulcan training to seek….emotional experiences (and not only what the euphemism implies) bothered me. I don’t like him because he’s kind of a jerk, but he’s less insufferable than Mr. Cockspur, the guy who modernizes Shakespeare and fakes being sick to ensure that his Hamlet soliloquy is what the show ends on. Him I wanted to punch in the face. Stephen I just want to slap upside the head.

Without giving away too many spoilers, there are a lot of problems I have with the story. I kept waiting for something to actually happen in the story. Roughly 2/3rds of the book are character development and backstory but I didn’t feel like most the characters made any connection, especially Mr. Scott, who goes out of his way to hate the new captain without giving him a chance, as if he wanted a carbon copy of Pike. That kind of makes Scotty look bad. Maybe it’s because he’s the only one who doesn’t get a history…although he’s better off for it as everyone who does gets a rather depressing story. None of the crew joined Starfleet just to see the universe. Sulu and Janice Rand probably have the more depressing childhoods, which drives Sulu to want to fight and Rand to withdraw into her shell. It’s rather depressing that anyone with a history joined Starfleet to escape from rather than run to. It’s rather depressing, actually.

Then, and this is going to be tough to describe without spoilers but I’ll try, there’s the third act mystery that both the Enterprise crew and Koronin’s ship come across. It’s a little TOO mysterious for Star Trek, and double so for a first mission story where nothing happened for most of it. Had this been properly dispersed through the second half it might have worked, but out of 13 chapters the big event doesn’t happen until chapter 9. Otherwise, it’s depressing backstories, the crew helping create flyers and get dirt for the horse/eagle hybrid that’s part of the troupe…that’s another thing. What was the point of this animal? The science here doesn’t feel like it came out of Star Trek but a different science fiction, including one where a blanket was created that will actually die if it doesn’t wrap itself around someone. Who would create this stuff? There’s no reason given for it and the mystery, while interesting in idea, never really makes sense and Kirk looks like an idiot who can’t grasp the concept of a society without leaders. Spock does something stupid as well and I’ll say is he was rather quick in breaking out the mind meld, something Vulcan’s don’t do that often. The regenerative fluid is right out of The Empire Strikes Back and while it’s a good idea it’s not something we ever see in Star Trek.

Enterprise – The First Adventure isn’t a bad book or even a bad science fiction story. As a generic sci-fi story it’s rather good, if not depressing and suffering a pace issue. As a Star Trek story, however, it’s not as good as I remember. This is the first novel I’ll be sending to the sell page once this post goes live (factoring in the damaged cover). It’s a good story but having read it again it’s not the first adventure for Captain Kirk and crew I’m all that interested in and I don’t think I’ll read it a third time. It’s good but not what I’m looking for.