H.A.R. - Enterprise War
Greeting ladies and gentlemen, and….our readers! This is the first written review I’ve done in quite some time so please give me a little leeway as my writing is somewhat rusty. Let me first start off by stating that I’ve always been a huge reader ever since my mother gave me a paperback copy of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1992, and from then on I devoured Star Wars novels. I, for whatever reason, never got into the Star Trek novels. That has officially changed; as this review is my first Star Trek book, and the first of many written HAR’s to come.
Just to familiarize everyone with the Half Assed Review (HAR) format that we use on the podcast, I’ll give a brief synopsis and general review of the material before diving into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller is a novel released in the Star Trek: Discovery line of tie-in books and is a telling of what occurred with Christopher Pike and the crew of the NCC-1701 during the first season of Discovery. The Enterprise is on a year long mission to the Pergamum Nebula to study the dense and volatile region of space not yet surveyed by the Federation. While there they receive a brief message that the war has broken out with the Klingons and Pike is eager to return and help. They are told in no uncertain terms to stay where they are and finish their mission. While away on their mission, some of the Enterprise crew is kidnapped by a group of alien warriors calling themselves the Boundless who are at war with a species called the Rengru, and the Enterprise is caught in the middle with a broken ship and a conflicted captain.
Overall, I liked this book. Or I should say, I really liked this book. As it is my first Star Trek novel, I was immediately drawn into that “space” and was fully invested by the time the prologue was over and I arrived at chapter 1. The way the book was structured by Miller and the prose style was fully engaging for me and I do believe that this would be a great introduction for any reader interested in further Trek lore outside of the visual medium. I think Miller did a fantastic job of capturing the voice of preexisting characters like Pike, Number 1, and Spock while making the new characters feel fleshed out and wholly real, making this book a worthwhile read. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Captain Pike. Miller makes considerable effort merging the Pike we see in The Cage/Menagerie flashbacks to the one we see throughout season 2 of Disco. Not only are we gifted with reading the conflict within the character but we get that real sense of resolution to that very internal conflict. This is no new feat for Miller as an author as anyone familiar with his work in a galaxy far, far away. Miller did the same thing in his novel Kenobi, where he blends the prequel Obi Wan with the original trilogy version. I’ll even go a step further and add that Spock gets a similar treatment though the resolution to part of his conflict is more foreshadowed than Pike because Spock’s resolution comes in season 2 of Disco and beyond.
Boundless Armor. As a fan of Heinlein’s Starship Trooper and Steakley’s Armor, I appreciate good battle suit creations and descriptions. Here is where I think Miller really flexes that familiar science fiction trope while giving a unique twist of life to it. You get an all purpose suit of armor that also meets any user species specific need while emphasizing the prison/coffin nature of said armor, meaning, it’ll keep you alive to battle and stay a slave soldier. In turn, the Rengru can become a bio-mechanical suit as well, doing much of the same while not becoming a prison. With the Rengru I found more similarities to things in past Star Wars books I’ve read like the Yuuzhan Vong.
Literature. Star Trek is known for referencing the classics and this is no different. It can be stated that it sometimes falls back too much on the works of Shakespeare and others but I’ve always taken umbrage with that assessment. Referencing the universal themes represented in classical works from our history lends an air of familiarity and makes certain subtle or not so subtle themes more recognizable. Here, when the crew to stranded on a desolate planet, the classic works of ship wrecked literature like Robinson Crusoe provides levity and authenticity.
Number One. It should be well known to trek fans how criminally underserved this character has been. Yes, we get more from the character in season 2 of Disco but there she’s also relegated to a tertiary role as Pike and Spock, and even Nhan get more to do throughout the season. Even here in the first half of the novel she gets more of a back seat role while pointedly interjecting wisdom to Pike when he needs it, but the latter sections of the book she takes a prominent role and is pivotal to the resolution.
To tell the truth, there’s not much I would put in this category. It very well could be due to my unfamiliarity with Star Trek novels in general or that I have a case of rose tinted glasses. However, I could take elements of my good and easily place them in the bad. Elements of Number One could fall within the bad as it does take half a book to get her to a more forefront roll as a primary character.
Canon. Is this book “Canon?” I honestly don’t have an adequate answer. From what research I’ve done, most of the Trek literature and comics were just elseworld tales that could interconnect and contradict whatever happens as was necessary. That is not meant to be a knock on them. The old Star Wars EU (now Legends) sometimes did the same thing though there was an attempt made at cohesion in the narrative across platforms. The real contradictions there came when the prequels were made which invalidated certain references made elsewhere. I’m venturing a guess here that this is official canon as it is a tie-in novel until it’s not. Like in the other franchise this will be canon until we see something different on screen because the visual medium supersedes all else.
I don’t know if this should be in the bad category but I do have a gripe about one thing. There are several references to the Xindi and the Delphic Expanse that I found incorrect or simply wanting. Don’t get me wrong, I love season 3 of Enterprise and it’s one of my favorite seasons of Trek ever, however, after that season the Delphic expanse began to return to “normal.” And here there was references about the Pergamum Nebula being as impassable as the Delphic Expanse is. Which felt incorrect but I’m still happy anytime Enterprise gets acknowledged.
Connolly. This might come as a shock to those that have read the book because in this book Connolly is a well written, complete and rich character. However, “The Ugly” lies in the fact that the character does not translate to the one episode we see him in season 2 of Disco. Here, Lt. Connolly is an eager young officer that ends up kidnapped and shanghai’d into service in the Boundless where he survives and learns valuable lessons about being a member of Starfleet/Federation. When we see him in Disco, he’s a smug and condescending officer that is disregarding of other officers opinion, namely Burnham, and as a result is quickly killed. These two do not correlate, and it is this fact that kept worming itself into the mind as I read.
As we’ve come to the end of my first written review I hope it is helpful to any of you that read or want to read John Jackson Miller’s The Enterprise War. I can say that, as an introduction to Star Trek novels, it has left me wanting to read more and further dive into the rabbit hole that is the final frontier...