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The no-win scenario
on 31 July 2010
This is the second book in the Enterprise Relaunch series, picking up a couple of months after the events of The Good That Men Do.
The book on the whole is a fairly good read, expanding on the threads started in the previous book and setting the scene for the Romulan War books. While it is an entertaining read, there are a couple of ways in which this book suffers in terms of enjoyment.
At 475 pages, I feel the book was just too long. There isn't a great deal happens from start to finish, rather a lot of tension building and movement towards the inevitable declaration of war against the Romulans. The main drive of the story is set up in the early chapters, while the next couple of hundred pages involve a lot of going back and forth between characters, plots and even locations in order to get to the finish.
For me, the book was brought down by a couple of minor but important niggles. Firstly, repetition. It was established quite firmly in The Good That Men Do that the Vulcan Captain Sopek was in fact masquerading as the Romulan dissident Ch'uiv. Understandably, this book tries to refresh the reader's memory, but I started to feel clobbered over the head with it by page 400 that the two names referred to the same character, and didn't need him to be referred to as Sopek/Ch'uiv regularly, or the sentence or paragraph long explanations reminding me who he was.
Also in the repetition category, a lot of characters seem to do a lot of 'spreading their hands' and showing 'equanimity' an awful lot, among other descriptions. We spend a lot of time reading lengthy descriptions in between lines of speech, along with an unhealthy dose of jumping into a character's mind and reading their thoughts. It is for this reason, I gave the book only three stars, as I felt the whole thing could have been streamlined a bit to help the pace along and hold my interest. As it was, I found the book took a little longer to get through than other novels by the same authors.
My other concern is personal preference, but I wasn't overly keen on the amount of cursing characters do, even to the point of dropping an F-bomb - which unfortunately was neither well placed, nor lent anything to the action.
The action scenes, such as battles (and indeed the book on the whole), lacked a sense of pace and urgency I felt, and we end up with Columbia playing out almost exactly the same scene twice over the course of events.
While not meaning to rip the book to shreds, it was entertaining enough to hold my interest to the end, and sets up the next story nicely, with a couple of individual cliffhangers and even a mystery of a disappeared ship to tie up - which I'm hoping will see a certain main character to be brought into the fore and see a change in the attitudes and outlook, in much the same way Trip was changed by the Xindi attack in the series.
Very little of the book actually features on the titular ship and the infamous scenario any Trek fan worth their salt will know about. Rather, the book on the whole carries the theme of the Kobayashi Maru scenario - the no-win scenario, and we see most of the primary and secondary characters experience their own no-win scenario head-on at various points. The Kobayashi Maru event itself is dealt with in no great depth or given a large amount of time and doesn't really give us a proper look at the skirmish that led to the iconic training simulation seen in Star Trek II and XI, which was a little disappointing.
Rather than space battles and troop assaults, the story more focuses on the fledgling Coalition of Planets and examines the political side of impending war. I personally enjoy that take on things, and so give credit to the writers, but I would definitely prefer to see more action over politics in the next instalment.
All in all, it's one of those books that is good, not great; but is a crucial part of the post-series arc set up by the authors. Casual readers should probably avoid it if they haven't read The Good That Men Do or have no intention of reading The Romulan War. Enterprise and Relaunch fans will find this to be required reading.