Before taking a look at the soon-to-be-released and long-anticipated Star Trek: Enterprise novel "Kobayashi Maru", the Library Computer is taking a retrospective look at Trek Literature’s first major foray into the mystique of the no-win scenario. This week, therefore, brings a retro review of 1989’s "The Kobayashi Maru" by Julia Ecklar.
The Kobayahsi Maru simulation is the toughest test a cadet can face at Starfleet Academy. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan showed us the test for Saavik and described James T. Kirk’s famous ‘solution’ to the test (and with a new Star Trek prequel film in the works, we may just see how he did it). Ecklar’s 1989 book "The Kobayashi Maru" tells the tales of how some of the other Original Series crew members faced the test.
REVIEW – THE KOBAYASHI MARU (1989)
When a group of the Enterprise’s senior officers is stranded aboard a mortally damaged shuttlecraft, their thoughts (naturally) turn to how they have dealt with such situations in the past. For any Command School cadet, one common thread in such a discussion becomes the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Julia Ecklar dedicated the final Star Trek novel of the 1980’s to unfolding the story of the fabled scenario, exploring the solutions of Jim Kirk, Pavel Chekov, Hikaru Sulu, and Montgomery Scott in the simulator, and its effects in their lives.
While the setup for the story (the disabled shuttle) is pretty unimaginative, the stories that Ecklar crafts are not only entertaining, but are easily in keeping with the kind of approaches that the fan would take when thinking about the kinds of solutions that each of the four officers would put forth.
Kirk, of course, revises the ‘conditions’ of the test (i.e., he cheats) with humorous, worshipful results, but in his cheating, we get an idea of the passion that drives him in many hopeless situations. Chekov’s Kobayashi Maru experience is really only the beginning of his odyssey, with his deepest test to come after that, in the passageways and systems of a lunar station in the midst of a more unique exercise. Sulu’s solution is rooted in the feelings surrounding the death of his grandfather, while Scott’s shows the kind of engineering prowess and utterly unintentional hilarity that we all expect from the best engineer in the fleet.
With the book coming in at little more than two-hundred and fifty pages, each of the scenario-based stories is necessarily short, but they easily keep the interest of the reader, and manage to shed light the frame of mind of Academy cadets. Most importantly for this story, Ecklar ‘gets it’ when it comes to applying the mindsets of our heroes, and the background of Star Trek. She nails each of the classic crew’s forays into the hopeless with the kind of skill that shows what the mind (and heart) of a fan can do when given the chance to play in the 23rd century sandbox.
If Harve Bennett’s early-90’s "Starfleet Academy" film idea had been approached in this manner, it could well have succeeded. Ecklar’s creative writing, unique situations (particularly for Chekov), and strong sense of Star Trek lore ensure that "The Kobayashi Maru", nearly two decades after it first hit the shelf, is an entertaining and enriching part of Trek history.
The Kobayashi Maru is available used at Amazon
Next Week – Review of "Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayshi Maru"
Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels’ "Kobayashi Maru" tells the story of the original (and very real) encounter between Jonathan Archer and the crew of the NX-01 with the Kobashi Maru (see previous TrekMovie preview). Can it live up to Ecklar’s tale? Well, you’ll just have to stop by next week to find out.
Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru is available for pre-order at Amazon
(ship date: August 26)