Book Review: ENT – The Good That Men Do

Didn’t like the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise? You’re not alone. Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin (and, incidentally, Pocket Books) are counting on that as they present "The Good That Men Do." The book is the first in the ‘relaunch’ of the Enterprise series in novel form. Primarily it is an attempt to undo the damage that 24th century Trek imposed on Enterprise in "These Are The Voyages," while also setting up the arcs for where Pocket plans on taking the series (story here). The book adequately performs these duties, but not without running into its own problems along the way.

NOTE: SPOILERS BELOW

It’s a dark and stormy night as Nog slops through the Louisiana bayou to locate an old friend. Yea, that’s right. Nog from Deep Space 9…and no you haven’t gone into the wrong review. Jake Sisko answers the door, Nog enters, moments of awkwardness follow, and then we are handed an astounding little gem: It seems that recently declassified records contain differing accounts of early Starfleet history. Thus begins the serious issue that is the 25th century framing story. There isn’t much positive to say about the frame. The pages spent developing a semi-credible reason for the middle aged Jake and Nog to be in the novel would have been far better served by expanding the narration in other places… on Coridon, for example, or at Starfleet Headquarters, or in Trip’s bedroom. Further, by placing them into the novel with the premise that they are ‘researching newly uncovered history,’ the authors have made "The Good That Men Do" just as potentially disposable as "These Are The Voyages." It may be an excellent story, but the fact that it comes with maximum ‘reset switch’ potential damages the overall credibility of the remainder of the book.

Entering the 22nd century through the field of the holo-projector, we find ourselves picking up the Enterprise story about a month after the events of "Demons" and Terra Prime." Commander Tucker has become disenchanted with the idea of playing his harmonica while waiting for Starfleet or the Earth government to do something about the looming Romulan threat. He feels that his personal reports and warnings have gone unheeded and, after sharing his thoughts with Malcom Reed, Trip enters into some conversations about how his services might be applied to the situation at hand. Little does he know that his inquiries that will lead him off the Enterprise into the heart of the Romulan Empire. It means a significant sacrifice, but in light of the loss of his sister at the hands of the Xindi and the death of his daughter, Trip simply can’t allow himself to sit around anymore. He has to take some kind of action.

Trip isn’t the only person with issues, though. T’Pol continues to work on her emotional state after the loss of her mother and her daughter in the span of less than a year, and Shran, the former Andorian military officer, encounters whole new dimension of loss in the company of a pacifistic Aenar whose chances of finding redemption in Shran’s eyes are beyond slim to none.

"The Good That Men Do" strives to be an exciting adventure while holding firm to the Star Trek maxim that the human adventure must remain at the core. In spite of the many themes one could take away from the story, the most telling thread that weaves through the tapestry is one of broadened horizons. Trip, T’Pol, Shran… even Archer are all forced to look beyond their previous experiences. Each do so in different, expansive ways, and each of them end the story at a different place than when the story began.

On the political side, Earth is dealing with the fallout from the Terra Prime incident and is working to finalize and sign a formal mutual defense and trade compact with four other major races. But while Earth is working to mend fences and slap up the ‘We Love the Aliens" signs, the pressure cooker that is the Romulan Empire has decided that the for action against the looming alliance is now. The Empire’s scientists are closing in on an engineering revolution that will give them a competitive edge in the inevitable confrontation with the Terrans… or anyone else who might happen to get in their way. 

The Romulan storyline is a highlight of the tale, as it takes us deeper into the inner-workings of the pre-war Empire, building on the foundation built by Enterprise episodes like "Babel One" and "The Aenar." Of particular interest is the Romulan warp drive specialist Ehrehin. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much to him beyond "insert convenient disposable player one into generic danger situation A", but Ehrehin goes far deeper than that. His interactions, with his kinsmen, and with those from outside, cast him as a unique fill to the formulaic plot device, and he serves as an individual for whom you find an incredible liking, if for no other reason than his willingness to make difficult decisions and live with the consequences. He is a man of principle, and serves to show the positive side of what a patriot can do when faced with unvarnished truth. Romulan admiral Valdore, however, is Ehrehin’s opposite. Valdore – driven by a disfigured sort of patriotism — is a ruthless bastard, despicable in every sense of the word… so easy to hate that you can’t wait to find him on the next page.

There are touching moments as well. Trip and T’Pol recount the burial of their daughter, Jonathan Archer delivers difficult news to Trip’s parents, and we get the perspective of Trip’s brother and his husband on how events unfold. These ‘background moments’ of "The Good That Men Do" help to evolve the story from narrative blocks to interweaving threads, and the story is the better for it.

Sadly, the most significant problem that many are likely to face with the story has nothing to do with its quality or its premise – both are quite good. But in spite of all their efforts, the authors weave a story that only serves to further divorce Enterprise from the established Star Trek universe. I don’t blame the authors or their editor. This problem squarely rests on the failures of "These Are The Voyages." "The Good That Men Do" attempts to cast some sensibility onto the events of that final episode of the Enterprise era, but it fails because in doing so the authors are forced to rely too much on shadowy agencies, human paranoia, and the same excuse for undoing the events as we got for seeing the televised version in the first place. Certainly the introduction of these elements came into play in the final season of the show, meaning that one can hardly blame anyone for taking advantage of their presence to tell the tale of ‘Trip the Undead,’ but it just feels wrong for this time in Earth history. Even with the looming Romulan threat, humanity is now taking a place in the galaxy as a political, exploratory, and military leader… and the abject paranoia that seems to be gripping everyone strikes me as an unrealistic overreaction to the Terra Prime and Romulan threats that were explored in the final season of Enterprise.

In spite of these problems, however, the intricacies of plot, the quality of the writing, and the setup for future Earth-Romulan interaction help buoy this story higher than any criticism of the book can overcome. While I may believe that it is difficult to classify this as a Star Trek story in the ‘known’ Star Trek universe, it is a solid adventure that is certain to please those who wish to open the cover and settle in for the ride.

Overall Rating: 3 / 5

 

 

NOTE: This is the first TrekMovie.com book review. As part of our expansion to ‘all things new in Trek’ we plan on making book features, news and reviews a regular part of our coverage. To that end we welcome Robert Lyons to the TrekMovie.com family. Robert is a life-long devotee of spaceflight, Star Trek, and space-based science fiction. He has reviewed Star Trek and science fiction books for various outlets over the past five years. For more reviews from Robert, visit his site.

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Xai (with shields down, looking for a new read)

First?

I have said before I like these backstory kind of novels, including the crucible series now in paperback. This makes me want to read this more. Thanks.

pcumby

First?

Xai (with shields down, looking for a new read)

By the way… welcome Mr. Lyons

pcumby

Shucks

ok people…i will say this one more time…this isnt AICN! no more ‘first’ comments ok…think of something to actually say!

by the way…if you are interested in getting the book, then buy it via the amazon link and TrekMovie.com get like $0.02!

John Pemble

Awesome! For every great series there are awful episodes and story arcs that you just have to pretend never happened. Sci Fi has a lot of that. The majority of Voyager, most of the first and second season of Next Generation, Star Trek V, Galactica 1980 and the last episode of Enterprise. That’s the problem with a series or movie sequels, there has to be one that sucks sooo bad you just want to dig a hole and bury all copies of that episode.

RonS

I almost picked this book up today. I bought “Vulcan Glory” instead. I will go get this one sometime next week.

Good review; sounds like a good book. I love “Enterprise” but wasn’t too fond of the last episode.

stallion

Hell yeah I love Enterprise.

Eric Gillis

Trip’s “brother and his husband”??? Have I missed something here?

Skippy 2k

#7. Star Trek V as a awful ep to pretend never happened…. Today at work a friend I was talking with a friend I work with about the James Bond movies (I having not ever seen any) and the different bond actors. Well a customer looking at the dvds overheard and said the guy we were talking about being in the worst bond movie and I asked what it was. He said “Oh her majesty’s secret service” saying it was the Star Trek V of the bond movies…. even though I didn’t know him it was an explanation easy for me to understand :-)

I don’t generally read the books, have all the series on dvd but as many as there and being “non-cannon” :-) However I have allways wanted to pick up “The Eugenics Wars” books to give some history to the wars, I thought this might be a good one to maybe pick up on as well after TATV.

My question though, it says this is the first book of the relaunch? What was the one I saw, pretty sure it had the washington monument on the cover?

I just tried to read “Death In Winter.” Got in less than 100 pages and had to give up. Now THAT was quite a boring book. Maybe it finally got rolling later in the book, but I didn’t make it past the beginning.

#7 I like to pretend Enterprise never happened. Voyager and DS9 as well.

Canonista the Cultist

The books have never been considered canon. I doubt Trek XI and beyond will accept the novels as their Canon either…

I’m glad to see there will be ENT novels. As both a TNG and ENT fan, I was sorry to see TATV. There is pretty much nothing redeeming about the episode. There was no need to tie in Riker/Troi and ENT should have told its own finale story…

At ENT’s best, it wasn’t like either series….for me, largely Seasons 1 & 2. ENT’s worst episodes were the ones where they were trying to go down the ‘dark and gritty’ road (Season 3, Xindi arc) and then when they were trying way too hard to involve TNG (Borg, Ferengi) and TOS (Mirror Universe).

B&B should have kept ENT a cross between NASA-esque and Starfleet……hopefully more NASA-esque than Starfleet. They were doing pretty good at first…but then lost their way, probably chasing ratings on that crappy network they were on. Not enough ‘splosions and evil characterizations in Seasons 1 & 2 to keep the kiddies happy, I suppose.

trogketh

I’ve read this book and I thought it was fantastic; very much like reading the start of the DS9 relaunch which I’ve long held as my favorite Trek series. I like where the series seems to be headed, and I look forward to the continuation. And the book really did take away a lot of the bitterness that I felt after watching “These Are The Voyages…”

11 -> Trip’s brother is gay, and married to another man; it’s really very well handled; very sweet.

12 -> The book with the monument on it’s cover (“Last Full Measure”) is mostly set during the 3rd Season of Enterprise, though the dates in the book don’t really make any sense continuity wise. The prologue & epilogue of that book take place in the year 2238, about a year after the young Spock portrayed in “Yesteryear”, and 7 years before the Emony story in “The Lives of Dax” anthology. The prologue/epilogue of “Last Full Measure” set up the relaunch of Enterprise, but aren’t really considered a part of it per say – as it’s really a very small section of the book.

I loved ENT and VOY but DS9 was one long soap opera. I never understood why the writers had to kill Trip at the last episode.

Thanks, everyone, for your welcome and your comments.

#8: You will love “Vulcan’s Glory” if you are a Pike/Spock fan. I thought it was a highly enjoyable book. That being said, you’ll probably like “The Good…” a lot as well.

#11: As noted by #16, Trip’s brother is gay and married to a man. They are noted in passing early in the book, and they are actually ‘seen’ during a scene towards the end.

#12: “Last Full Measure,” the previous Enterprise novel, contained a ‘Trip’s Not Dead’ framing story where he meets the young James T. Kirk at the base of an obelisk dedicated to fallen Starfleet Officers. Of course, someone just had to tell us how Trip the Undead got there, thus “TGTMD.”

#13: “Death in Winter” sucked hard. It gets my purple-stole special. (For future reference, a purple-stole special denotes that I was forced to put on my stole, chant last rites, anoint the book with oil, and bury it.) Yes, it was that bad. In my review I believe the phrase I used was along the lines of “Michael Jan Friedman, time to hang it up.”

Again, thanks everyone for the welcome… I look forward to joining you in a few weeks with my review of “Crucible: Kirk — The Star To Every Wandering”

RonS

Father Rob

I just got done reading ‘Crucible Kirk’. I will say it is a little strange and a little far out there. It was hard to read at first but got better. Of the Three books I think ‘Crucible McCoy’ was by far the best.

I like the Pike Story Books. I read ‘Burning Dreams’ and thought it was great. I may have read ‘Vulcans Gloy’ many years ago but It sounds like it will be a good re-read.

#19 – I’d love to comment now, but then you wouldn’t have a reason to read my review… ;)

RonS

I haven’t seen ‘Death In Winter’ in paperback anyplace. Michael Jan Friedman has been one of my favorite writers, I just hope he didn’t wrtie a bad novel with that one.

I would still read your review even if you did comment. LOL

#21: “Death in Winter” will be released later this year in Paperback. It is currently only avaliable in hardcover.

I actually put the book down and gave up on it, but decided to finish it after I wrote my Amazon.com review for it. That being said, I still stick by these words from the review:

“Sorry, this book just plain stinks. Given the steadily slipping quality of Friedman’s contributions to Star Trek literature, it is this reviewer’s opinion that, given the quality of “Death in Winter” that Pocket needs to simply let Mr. Friedman head out to pasture and take better advantage of their corps of fresh Star Trek talent. ”

And believe me, I mean that. It seems a goodly number of people must have agreed with my assertion, as other review titles at Amazon say “I could weave better tales in my sleep” and the like…

Having finished the book, I am not sure if I could give “Death in Winter” even the 1 star for effort I gave it on Amazon, thus my purple stole special note above.

I suppose when it comes out in Paperback, I’ll have to do a bit more comprehensive review of “Death”… I suppose that means I have to open the book back up again *sigh*…

As for “The Star To Every Wandering” well…. let’s just say that I’ll start working on my review very, very soon… ;)

Rob+

billg

The Jake/Nog frame didn’t bother me. A story like this needs to use some kind of device to credibly set up the fact that it is going to tell readers that what they thought was true isn’t. Without the frame, we’d have a confusing narrative about a guy who was dead, but isn’t now. There are other ways to do it, but Trip’s resurrection has to be explained.

And, it isn’t “history” that Nog finds, it’s recently declassified records. If someone wants to push the reset button, they will need to explain those away.

I also have to disagree about the “abject paranoia”. Where is it? That said, while we can hope that our political institutions will evolve and change for the better, we need to remember that the people in the Trek universe behave pretty much as we do today.

steve623

I read it the week it was released and it didn’t do much for me. Undoing Trip’s death in a way that meant he would never serve on Enterprise with his crewmates again wasn’t much better than killing him in the first place. Or that’s how I felt about it. Your mileage will vary.

soki

I understand here that it’s the first “Enterprise” novel.
I thought there were already books dedicated to this series. Does it means that these books are just relating episodes?

James Heaney

#25: First *relaunch* novel. This is the first Enterprise novel to deal with events that take place *after* the end of “Terra Prime”.

soki

#26: I see…
Thanks for the clarification! English is not my native language, I missed this detail…;-)

laserlover2254

Like it was the FINALE that Fubared up Enterprise?

#23 – A few thoughts… Mild-to-Moderate Spoilers for those who have not read it.

A letter from Trip to T’Pol would have been a far better handle than the Jake/Nog framing story. It would also have the ability to hold a great deal of emotional weight as well, making the story that much more personal.

Concerning the history vs. Starfleet records, I wrote in the review: “It seems that recently declassified records contain differing accounts of early Starfleet history.” Page 7 of the book reads, “It concerns events we’ve been told happened in 2161. But the real events actually occured years earlier, in 2155.” The events are different… and the recently declassified records expose that fact.

As for the abject paranoia, well, covering up history and marring the records by over half a decade… seems like abject paranoia to me. Just read the state of mind that Prime Minister Samuels is in later in the novel… and consider who is involved…

Anyway, just my POV.

I just bought this book yesterday. I was actually going to purchase “Glass Empires”, but it was more than I had on me at the time. Anyways, I’ve gotten through Chapter Eight in “The Good That Men Do”, and it’s… intriguing, to say the least. For the record, I didn’t read the spoilers above, just the opening paragraph and the last two paragraphs; I really hate spoilers.

Anyways, I find the whole attempt to “rectify” the events seen in TATV very interesting; one of the problems so far is that the events are still unfolding via hologram. In other words, we still don’t know if it’s what REALLY happened (not that it matters much, since it’s non-canon). Were this to be adapted into a TV movie or something (yeah, like that would ever happen), I think the Nog/Jake framing story would have to be taken out entirely to prevent this from becoming just another holodeck interpretation. Anyways, I can’t wait to find out why Starfleet/Section 31/whoever decided to move the events of 2155 up to 2161, to give Shran and Jhamel a daughter, etc.

By the way, to trogketh@16, the events of “Yesteryear” actually take place place in 2239, not 2237. I know the latter year was accepted for a while, but it’s changed since… at least, on Memory Alpha, it has. In addition, Spock’s year of birth is now 2232. Of course, that’s only if you accept TOS as canon (I don’t, personally, but MA does). You can read the whole sad story for yourself at the Reference Desk forum entitled “Change to Spock’s birthyear” on Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.org/en/index.php?title=Forum:Change_to_Spock%27s_birthyear&t=20070221060143). Um, if you have any comments about this, it’s probably best to leave them on the forum and not here; we don’t wanna get too off topic. :P Anyways, enjoy. :)

Wow, that link got cut… here it is again.
http://memory-alpha.org/en/index.php?title=Forum:Change_to_Spock%27s
_birthyear&t=20070221060143

Again, enjoy.

The finalé of ENTERPRISE should have been Archer christening the NCC-1701, and meeting Robert April and his exec, Christopher Pike. A young Vulcan stands nearby, the camera pans back out of the spacedock window, and the theme we know — in rich, sweeping form — begins to play.

The Human Adventure is Just Beginning.

Xai (Turning the pages..)

#32 Ralph,
I kinda like that.

spsblue

#32 I like the image, and although I’d like to see April chrstening the NCC-1701, I don’t think Pike was part of April’s crew at the beginning (according to Best Destiny – my favorate novel)

I’d love to see the new film being April’s crew rather than Kirk’s, with a British actor and attitude. Then the Gold / Blue poster would refer to Robert and Sarah (Command and Medical).

Trip's brother's husband

#11: No, I’m sure you read that correctly. This is an Andy Mangels novel, after all.

Trekkie33years

I am notoriously easy to please when it comes to Star Trek novels. I see them as diversionary fun. I waited months to read the Titan series of novels, having been the only person in America who loved Nemesis and wanting to see more of Riker’s command.
Imagine, then, my horror at the 2 Titan novels I managed to painfully slog through. It was the literary equivalent of passing kidney stones. THEY SUCK. Easily the absolute worst Trek novels of all time (mind you- I’ve read Triangle!)
Now, unlike many, I loved Enterprise and I thought that the novels would be a great place to continue the too-short voyages of Archer and crew. I really thought that Pocket would do the sensible thing and put the Reeves-Stevens on them. Imagine my HORROR to discover it was Mangles and Martin instead. I haven’t read this book- there is NO WAY I ever will. All that I have read by Mangles and Martin not only is poorly costructed as a narrative featuring horrid examples of insipid characters and a disarming disrespect for Trek and its themes (HUMAN adventure- and if you’ve read Titan you know why I put it that way), BUT ALSO is written as if by half literate fourth graders with a D&D monster manual serving as a guide to alien races and a homosexual fetish (didn’t Gene Roddenberry insist that Trek be better than a soap opera????)
I would recommend that every reader of Trek novels go and buy every Mangles and Martin book they can find, dip them in sewage and send them to Pocket. Maybe then we can get some decent authors on Enterprise novels! Grrr!
LOL
Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

southdakotaboy

Well, I just got into it and I for one am glad they they decided to save Trip and T’Pol. They were one of the most interesting couples in the multiple shows (T/B of Voy come close). I would be perfectly happy if they just wander off with Trip and T’Pol and just let the rest of the crew fade into the background for awhile. It would be interesting to see those two have their own adventures for awhile.

eurocop

what is the theme of this book