Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Star Trek: Enterprise: By The Book - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Title: By The Book
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Published: 2002
Chronological Period: 2151

Available at:
Amazon UK

By The Book is actually the first original novel that was written for the Enterprise series, so I was looking forward to reading this as it would be something new.

The story itself is actually fairly standard for the Star Trek Universe, but it was still reasonably enjoyable. The Enterprise and its crew encounter a new planet which seems to have two distinct species. Unfortunately Captain Archer blows first contact with one of the species due to his enthusiasm and lack of patience. Things then go downhill from that point and when a crew member is incapacitated during contact with the planet's 2nd species it seems like humanity's attempts at peaceful communications with these two races may be doomed before they really have begun.

The first comment I am going to have to make about this story is that alongside the first contact plotline there is a sub-plot going on which follows a selection of crew member that are playing a table top role play game. I have to admit that this sub-plot did at times distract from the main storyline and it almost felt like the authors were rushing through some sections of the story so they could get back to talking about the game. It didn't bother me hugely but I just found it hard to get excited or overly interested in some characters in a fictional universe pretending to be some other characters in another fictional universe. The role play game plot did dovetail with the main first contact storyline if you really delved into it and grasped that both the game and what they were going through on the planet were making the same point in regards to not just jumping into things but I don't think it was really required. I may have accepted the need for the game more if it really enhanced some of the characters but it is mainly secondary characters playing the game and none of them are really expanded upon anyway.

Outside the role play game I did fine the story to be quite interesting and enjoyable but it was definitely a cerebral story with very little action or suspense involved. A large portion of the story covered the crew trying to understand the two species on the planet below and what protocols and structures they should be following in regards to both first contact and the running of the ship itself. This does means the story can move along quite slowly which does make it quite hard to get into. However, once the story was in full flow, I did find the debates and discourse between the various characters to be rather thought provoking and engaging.

The biggest issue though with the novel though is probably the characters; some of them seem to act in very strange ways that don't really match what I know of them from the TV series. This is probably understandable though, as when the book was written the TV series itself hadn't had enough time to produce any real character development to assist the authors. I did feel that the characterization was at least slightly better than the previous novel, Broken Bow. Therefore, I am expecting that as these books progress the ability of the authors to capture the characters will improve.

In addition to that I also felt that some characters were mentioned at various times to make sure that they would be in the book. The main one I am thinking about here is Trip; he just seemed to spend the entire novel hanging around the bridge for no real reason. It just got a little bit irritating constantly seeing pointless narrative about Trip standing there or making some inane comment.

In summary, no matter the issues I have detailed above, I did actually find the book to be a reasonably enjoyable afternoon read. The small issues with the how the characters acted compared with what a reader may have seen on the TV show was understandable and it didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book anyway. If you don't normally read Star Trek then the characterization aspects won't mean a thing to you anyway, so if you want to try out a first contact storyline in an established Universe then consider this but be aware that this book is more about the ideas and thoughts than the action. For Star Trek fans, I believe that if you enjoy the more thoughtful and slow paced stories then you will probably enjoy this book as long as you take into account when this book was written.