Huge story with lots of scope,
This review is from: Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing (Star Trek: Enterprise series Book 13) (Kindle Edition)
It's been about two years since I read Kobayashi Maru, so I was worried I'd be totally lost jumping into this. Fortunately, that fear was unfounded as Mr Martin eases you back into the story while dropping in helpful reminders along the way - something I, thankfully, didn't feel clobbered over the head with as I did with Kobayashi Maru.
Some readers may be disappointed that the Enterprise crew have a drastically reduced role in this book - indeed, they only occupy a few chapters. But considering the story is about a war that has embroiled two political powers - and the Coalition is made up of four distinct races anyway - it would have been criminal to just focus on the titular ship and just drop references in to the rest of the major players.
The scope of the book on the whole really did impress me. In a nutshell, Enterprise (and Archer in particular) is still reeling from the loss of the Maru, Mayweather transfers off the ship and becomes an Albatross, Starfleet is trying to temper Earth's media - which is damaging morale on two fronts by criticising Starfleet and advocating xenophobia - as well as trying to find the middle ground between the MACOs, the United Earth Government and even the Coalition Council. Meanwhile, Vulcan has its own problems, leading the Tellarites and Andorians to work more closely together. The Romulans are also given some decent development as we see Valdore trying to lead a successful campaign while dealing with internal dissidents, an insane Praetor, a major push to achieve warp seven and even protecting his own family while the usual Romulan cloak and dagger politics abound. Thrown into all this, you still get perspectives from the Ordinary Joes across the Coalition and Trip's continuing spy mission.
As an added bonus to all this, Michael A Martin starts dropping hints and pulling various plot points together to start moving the Enterprise era closer to Kirk's TOS era - we start to see a change in attitude to starship design and the reasons behind why technology in Kirk's era seemed more mechanical than Archer's. He also manages to include an explanation for Spock's comment that the war was fought using atomic weapons - something continuity fans should get a kick out of.
Meanwhile, he has managed to give just about every character, whether minor or major, a unique voice and character. This leads to a rich and satisfying story, as we're not just hearing nondescript lines of speech being delivered by equally nondescript redshirt characters.
However, I did mention in my review of Kobayashi Maru that I would like to see an emphasis on action over politics, and while this is true to some extent, big space battles just aren't all that common in this book.
If I did have one complaint about Beneath the Raptor's Wing, it's one that it seems other reviewers agree with - and that is the inclusion of far, FAR too much alien language. By the end of Kobayashi Maru, I was starting to get the hang of what a Romulan hour, minute and second was, but after two years and having similar language barriers with the Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites and even the Klingons, I was just wishing the book had been built with its own universal translator to rid myself of these race-specific phrases. If the phrases had been used once, explained and then dropped, this would've been fine. As it stands, unless it was plainly obvious (like Andorsu and Tellarsu races) or it came up frequently enough to remember (i.e. hevam = human), the italicised foreign language only served to throw me out of the book - frequently - and frustrate me.
Likewise, the chapter headings that used other race's calendars meant nothing to me, which is a shame as it's usually this kind of detail I enjoy reading. As long as I had an Earth date, I was fine - and these are important considering the massive jumps in time between some chapters.
All in all, a very satisfying experience, and I look forward to going straight into part 2 of this story!