Book Review: ‘Star Trek Academy – Collision Course’

Living on the fringes, 17-year-old Jim Kirk has fled from his father’s Iowa farm to that traditional haven for rebels, San Francisco, where he is a dropout hacker who has seen and experienced too much at a young age: As a wide-eyed space enthusiast three years before on Tarsus IV, he was caught in a nightmare of murder and betrayal, caused by the sudden dictator who called himself Kodos (familiar of course to TOS fans from the episode, “The Conscience of the King.”) We meet Jim as he is trying to clear his Academy cadet girlfriend of false charges, and to show up Starfleet at the same time, for reasons that become clearer as the story goes on.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Spock is living a privileged life as the brilliant son of a high official at the Vulcan Embassy in nearby Sausalito, but a rebellious streak from his human side urges him into a private adventure investigating thefts of Vulcan artifacts from the embassy. The separate obsessions of these two teenagers lead them both to bend the rules and get into dubious situations (as of course they would again), and so the two collide in semi-comic circumstances, and their fates become intertwined, forever.

As the story unfolds, they partly choose and are partly manipulated into joining Starfleet, starting out as enlisted recruits. At the same time their separate adventures collide until they combine, all connected by the horrific events on Tarsus IV, eventually involving Starfleet and a certain starship called the Enterprise.

The story is full of twists, yet is logical enough for even the older Spock. It gets pushed several times towards the implausible, but always gets pulled back to become another surprising adventure, so it’s a fun ride. It’s skillfully told, with clean, swift prose and the well thought-out characters are developed through story. The dialogue crackles, and you can hear both the youth of those familiar voices, and those familiar voices themselves.

Among the other characters in the book, perhaps the most intriguing has a last name simply mentioned in a TOS episode, and shares a first name with a certain Roddenberry and a certain Coons: Eugene Mallory. His secret job within Starfleet is “to see that the unknown dangers of the frontier never took the Federation by surprise,” so he is the behind-the-scenes prime mover of what happens, but as a thoughtful and empathetic phantom father figure, he also sees and nurtures the potential in Kirk and Spock.

Though this book is not at all a Kirk ego trip, his coming-of-age story emerges pretty clearly. Mature for his age in many ways, this Jim Kirk is still recognizably a teenager—intense in his loyalties and his opinions, already shrewd and clever, with outward charm and inward emotional turmoil, but at 17, “his only weapon is defiance.” The authors perhaps take more chances with Spock, but his teenage self-consciousness applied to his Vulcan/human inner conflict is also described plausibly and affectionately. (And yes, Kirk calls him “Stretch,” as he never did on screen, but lots of us acquire nicknames we later lose. Like one of mine… which was “Spock.” It seems quite logical to me.)

There are Starfleet boot camp and Academy scenes in the tradition of the kind of “boy’s books” about West Point and the Naval Academy that were staples for generations from Roddenberry’s youth to Shatner’s to mine. (In fact, these books inspired the West Point and Annapolis TV series of the 60s that provided Roddenberry with some of his first writing assignments.) These stories depend on details and lore, and having recently read a contemporary nonfiction book on West Point, I can vouch for this book’s accuracy in cadets referring to hats as “covers.” At the same time, this story brings painfully alive in these future settings the contemporary tragedy of child soldiers in Africa and Asia.

As for what Trek fans call continuity and canon, there are some interpretations and one can imagine some anomalies, but basically it’s rock solid. In fact, some of the touches I liked best were derived from the canon, like the deference given to the historic role of Lily Sloane, Zefram Cochrane’s associate in “First Contact.” Characters like Captain Pike and cadet Finnegan have intriguing cameos, Kirk’s father and Spock’s parents have somewhat larger roles, and Kirk’s older brother is a significant presence, at times a kind of “road not taken” version of Jim, at other times a complex character in his own right.

The authors fill in some fascinating background history between Archer’s time and this one– and it is in suddenly considering the role of history that the young Jim Kirk has an epiphany, an insight that changes his attitude. It’s a coming-of-age moment for him, as it was for Star Trek’s 22nd century Earth. I won’t spoil it except to say that it is one wonderful, concise expression of the point of the canon: the soul of Star Trek.

 

Star Trek Academy Collision Course
Pocket Books – 452 pages (Hardcover)
by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
…available now at Amazon

 

RELATED: Interview with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

 

Bill Kowinski (aka Captain Future) also writes on Star Trek, Doctor Who and related matters at Soul of Star Trek

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trektacular

I am first, and Spock had already served with Pike before meeting Kirk right?

trektacular

This changes Spocks background since he was really serving with Pike when Kirk first joined the Space Service.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia doesn’t say anything about how Kirk and Spock met. Everything it does say about them is consistent with the basic facts used in this book.
It also gets past the “first Vulcan in Starfleet” problem from ‘Enterprise’–the Okudas say Spock was the first Vulcan to “enlist” in Starfleet, which he does in this book, as enlisted personnel, not an officer candidate. As for Spock serving with Captain Pike, that comes later.

Stanky McFibberich

Glad I don’t read these things.

Decker's Stubble

I’ve heard endless conflicting arguments about whether Spock and Kirk attended the academy together, but it is possible that Spock was immediately assigned to the Enterprise, while Kirk went through various ships on his way up the command ladder. That way they were together at the academy, but never actually served together until Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise as a newly-minted captain.

As far as the ‘first Vulcan in Starfleet’ stuff, that’s a little hard to reconcile with the U.S.S. Intrepid, manned solely by Vulcans, that existed and presumbly contained commanders and a captain. All these officers were subordinate in seniority to Spock? It’s possible, of course, but seems a little odd that Spock, who ‘a legend among his people’ would be supersceded in rank so quickly by a bunch of late-comers. A lot of good that would do them, though, once they encountered that space herpe.

Cervantes

I’ve never felt the need to find out the untold ‘origins’ of certain fictional characters, and wish that this upcoming Movie DIDN’T include Captain Kirk’s ‘Mom and Pop’, *cringe*, taking up good screentime, instead of good old adventuring…

ObiWanCon

THIS IS RUBBISH

I don’t think the Reeves-Stevenses can ever be accused of writing rubbish. But, your trash is my treasure. They should be writing the movie.

Toonloon

You don’t get charged by the word, you know.

Awdraper

#8
The Shatner/Reeves-Stevenses book “The Return” is one that should have been the Star Trek VII movie…One of the best Star Trek reads in a long time…

“I am ….Vger…”

The Master

I would agree with number 6, I don’t care about ma and pa Kirk.. give me and aventure wher Pike and crew come across Lt Kirk ‘s Farrugut and they do battle only to be saved by Captin Decker , whose crew includes ensign Uhrah, and Sulu, and a wiley Dr. McCoy
before they transfer and get a promotion to lt. and are subordinates of Kirk on the Farrugat.

Kirk's Girdle

I think that was “We are… V’Ger.”

ZoomZoom

sounds like fun.

Commodore Z

I’ve always liked their stuff, on the screen and on the page. I’ll pick it up and give it a try.

GeneRoddenberryFan37421

This is more gracious by a mile than the review @ TrekWeb. Being the manager of a Barnes & Noble, I’m gonna have to check it out & see if it’s worth any hype. http://trekweb.com/stories.php?aid=470867edbb876

Jordan

Its not really canon, so you shouldn’t judge it on its acuracy. If its a good book than have fun.

Iowagirl

It sounds like an interesting plot with some special moments – anyway, I always thought it better to read a book that has background and soul once in a while than to see a lot of films that haven’t.

sean

The problem I’ve always had with Shatner’s books is that he seems to have no real knowledge of the characters, one of which he has played for a good chunk of the last century. Sure, I can accept the occasional out-of-character behavior or action in extreme circumstances, but these books consistently play everyone – aside from maybe, Scotty or McCoy – as though they were completely different characters. I won’t even get into the way he treats the TNG characters, which is nothing short of disdain.

Ashes of Eden was right on the money, but beginning with The Return the situations just became so far-fetched and ridiculous I couldn’t get into them anymore. It seemed like it was less about the character James Kirk and more about the actor William Shatner.

DavidJ

I haven’t read a Star Trek novel in YEARS, but this one I might actually check out. It sounds like a cool time period to explore, and I’ll be interested to see what the Reeves-Stevenses came up with.

As for canon, as long as they get the broad strokes right, I’m happy. What’s more important to me is whether there’s a good story and engaging characters.

221b baker

I liked it very much.

It doesn’t contradict canon, while giving an interesting interpretation of what might have been. It is well written and, in my opinion, doesn’t fall into the the-whole-universe-centers-around-Kirk hole that some of the other stories have fallen into. Of all the Shatner/Reeves-Stevens books, I like this one best.
Like the review says… whenever one thinks that things are getting unreasonable they turn it around and make you go: “yes, of course!”

I think people should reserve judgment until they’ve actually read the book.

I’m looking forward the next one and for once don’t mind one bit that it’s another trilogy.

OneBuckFilms

3 – Actually, TPol never joined Starfleet.

She was there as a Vulcan representative on the crew.

Enterprise did not break canon here.

Daskill

T’Pol joined Starfleet in the 4th season.

OM

…Kids, let us be thankful that this was *not* a Michael Jan Friedman hack job.

To me, Enterprise itself was un-canoniacal. Apocraphyl. Imaginary. But the 4th season was cool.

Jeffrey S. Nelson

I think Spock is much older than Kirk…and would not have met him until Kirk became captain of the Enterprise. They cartainly were not at the academy at the same time.

According to the Trek Encyclopedia, Kirk was born in 2233 (established in “The Deadly Years” TOS episode) and Spock was born in 2230 (“This Side of Paradise,” “Journey to Babel.”) So Spock is no more than 3 years older, and depending on birth dates, he could be 19 when Jim Kirk is 17. And they could easily have been at the Academy at the same time, especially since age isn’t necessarily a factor.

As for the all-Vulcan Intrepid, the first mention in canon is in 2267, about 20 years after the events in this book. The prospect of an all-Vulcan Federation ship is mentioned in the book, so it hasn’t happened yet.

Kigs

After reading the book- I have to say it was “fascinating and interesting” to say the least. I won’t give anything away, but I do feel that WS made a couple of slip of here and there, but all in all, it was a good read. I look forward to the continuation of the story in the next book. Even if it is only to see what happens with WS creative vision. I wonder if he calls LN “stretch” in real life? Thoughs to ponder….. hmmm (raised eyebrow)….

cbspock

I just finished the book. I haven’t enjoyed a star trek book like this in years. It was a fun read. The book is filled with a bunch of trivia from Enterprise to the original series. I look forward to the next book in the series.

I also enjoyed all the little tidbits of trivia. Mallory was mentioned in the episode “Obession”, Sam in “What are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Operation Annhilate” and of course the backstory to “Conscience of the king” plays a huge role in the story.

The book may not be perfect, but it does capture the soul of Star Trek.

Thanks for the review and all the great comments. This first Academy book was a lot of fun to write, especially since so little has been established about this period of Star Trek history so there’s lots of room for invention.

One detail from the book we’ve noticed many people mentioning is that seventeen-year-old Kirk calls nineteen-year-old Spock, “Stretch.” (And no, that’s not what W.S. calls L.N.)

What can we say, other than we can’t remember any letter coming into Enterprise expressing puzzlement that the adult Captain Archer no longer referred to Soval as “Ambassador Pointy,” as he did when he was twelve.

There’s a story about Stretch – stay tuned for Book Two!

J&G

Johnnie F

#30 – J&G Reeves-Stevens

I think it’s great that you two (or three) actually read and comment on this discussion line. I just bought your book today and can’t wait to read it.

Lee

Does anybody know if the book is going to be traslated to spanish language?. Will it be comercialized in other countries?. At least, in Spain, only 14 books related to Star Trek Original Series have been published by now. I think it is really a small number compared to the huge number of novels which have been written along years about the matter.

MK

this was such a good book, and i would really like to know when the next one is coming out. such a good background story for the two and i really hope that bones is in the next one!