Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kobayashi Maru

This is a book review. There'll be spoilers.

Kobayashi Maru follows directly on from The Good That Men Do, continuing the adventures of Archer and most of the regulars on the Enterprise and an undercover Trip Tucker in the Romulan Empire. The Romulans are trying to start a war by using a weapon that takes control of other ships, giving them a number of Klingon and Vulcan starships they can use to stage attacks that will cause turmoil and leave the Romulans safely unsuspected by the other parties. Meanwhile, Trip is trying to keep the Romulans from developing faster warp technology. Archer and Columbia's Hernandez are doing milk runs, escorting civilian ships. And a couple of civilian starships, the Horizon (home of Travis Mayweather's family) and the Kobayashi Maru, are conducting business far from Earth.

The order of business here, then, is to depict the original no-win scenario involving the Kobayashi Maru, and to set the stage for war.

The Romulans keep attacking, people keep falling for it, lots of people get killed. Meanwhile, back in the Romulan Empire, it's starting to seem like everybody knows Trip isn't a Romulan, but different people let him stay alive for different reasons, not that he's entirely aware of it. He's just not spy material. T'Pol and Reed manage to steal an Enterprise shuttlepod and sneak into the Empire and have a little reunion with Trip, who declines to return with them, because the leading warp 7 researcher is dead and he has no one to spy on so he has to make sure no one else is getting anywhere with warp 7, even though he now has reason to suspect his cover is completely blown. T'Pol and Reed manage to safely return from their pointless excursion.

Back on Earth, we revisit one of Star Trek's dumber classic traditions. The so-called diplomats representing the Coalition of Planets member worlds are a bunch of loudmouth dumbasses who yell at each other and generally refuse to act like grownups. They don't really need the Romulans' help in destabilizing the Coalition. Not that the Romulans are presented in a better light; some of them are less dumb, but too many of them are one-dimensional villains who might as well be members of the Moustache-Twirling, Evilly Cackling Bad Guys Club.

Another key issue: now that we've saved Trip Tucker from his stupid and pointless death as depicted in Riker's holodeck program, what do we do with a guy who everyone has to believe is dead? Sending Trip a long way from home disguised as an alien is a good way to keep people from knowing he's still alive, but the whole spy angle is threatening my willing suspension of disbelief. At least he isn't being presented as so successful that no one blows his cover, but even so, one of the many Romulan villains should think he serves no real purpose (other than forwarding misinformation, which he does) and have him killed.

Meanwhile, the authors want to carry on the Trip/T'Pol relationship. I'm fine with that; I finally watched the Enterprise episode "Bound" for the first time a few days ago, and the T/T stuff was by far the best part of the story. But something has to change; either Trip gives up the spy mission, or T'Pol joins him, because her little jaunt to find Trip in this book really tested my suspension of disbelief.

One of the surprising developments in the book also struck me as a bad idea. Mayweather's family is killed and their ship destroyed. Enterprise never did enough to explore boomer culture, and that's something the books could have done more with. The Horizon could have been an interesting way of exploring the effects of the rapid pace of change for humans in space -- new alliances, new enemies, new technology. (I may be misremembering, but ISTR that Horizon's fate was explicit, and that Mayweather won't be getting a happy surprise later on. What is it with Star Trek characters and dead or missing parents, anyway?)

Overall, the book was... okay.


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