Review: ‘Desperate Hours’ Novel Tie-In Delivers Thrills And Insights Into ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

REVIEW: Star Trek Discovery: Desperate Hours

Written by David Mack
Published by Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books


“Another round of fire from the Juggernaut blew out the life-support station and filled the bridge with bitter smoke. The captain winced at the new damage, but she remained resolute. ‘Our job is to hold the line. Come blood, come fire, come hell itself – we draw the line here.’

Her courage proved contagious. Around the bridge, chins were raised, shoulders were squared against the approaching storm. No one was backing down. Not today…

Georgiou smiled. ‘That’s the spirit. Look alive, people! This is why we’re here!’”

Desperate Hours, the brand-new book from David Mack, is the first tie-in novel associated with Star Trek Discovery, and was timed to come out the week after Discovery’s debut on CBS and CBS All Access.

Short spoiler-free review

Mack has crafted an absolutely thrilling novel that had me turning the pages furiously to find out what happened next, and it’s filled with the kind of fan service that had this old- school Trekker drooling. The story turns on the accidental awakening of a massive, ancient alien vessel on an isolated Federation colony world, and along the way it works through themes of fear and loss, of cultural differences and preferences, and the old standbys of corporate greed and relativistic ethics.

I was stunned at the amount of insight the novel gives into the characters of Captain Georgiou, Michael Burnham, and Lieutenant Saru, but also by the excellent treatment of some old Trek favorites, as well. Along the way, Mack answers some of the objections some fans have made to the production design of Discovery, sometimes in very humorous ways. It’s a great sci-fi book in general, and an outstanding Trek novel in particular. Well worth the purchase for any fan of the franchise.


Cover for first Star Trek: Discovery novel

The emergence of the alien Juggernaut and its subsequent attacks on the Federation colony require the intervention of not only the U.S.S. Shenzou, but of her larger cousin, the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. The story takes place one year after Pike’s first visit to Talos IV (Star Trek’s “The Cage”), and one year before the events in the pilot episodes of Star Trek Discovery (“The Vulcan Hello”). The arrival of Enterprise brings the crew of the Shenzou into contact not only with Captain Pike, but with Number One, Jose Tyler, and of course, Mr. Spock.

Desperate Hours focuses on the crew of the USS Shenzhou before the events of the Discovery premiere

I liked the interactions between Mr. Spock and Michael Burnham, as they work together to try to sabotage the Juggernaut. Together they face a series of trials that test them physically, intellectually, and eventually emotionally. Spock and Burnham had very different experiences being raised by the same couple at different times, and as it turns out each needs what the other received. These scenes are exciting and emotionally resonant.


Captains Pike and Georgiou come alive in a contest of wills, as Pike is ordered to carry out unthinkably difficult actions, and Georgiou is forced to stand in his way. What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Watch Pike and Georgiou! A particular highlight of Desperate Hours are the scenes between Lt. Saru and Lt. Commander Una (aka Pike’s “Number One”). This story endorses previous novels and comics that described Number One as being a human raised by Illyrians, a people with great mental discipline and control. She seems to be an excellent friend and mentor for Lt. Saru, with the Lieutenant going so far as to say to himself, “If she were Kelpien, I would fall in love with her.” Una’s understanding of Saru’s character helped me to understand him as more than just a “cowardly lion” foil for Burnham’s directness.

The crew of the Shenzhou work together with the crew of the USS Enterprise under Capt. Pike in Desperate Hours

We get a few details about minor characters, though perhaps not as many as we might like. The mysterious junior tactical officer Lt. Jira Narwani, seen on board the U.S.S. Shenzou bridge in the pilot episodes appears in this book. We learn that she is wearing a tactical targeting helmet, and she participates in bridge dialogue, but there is little information about who she is under the helmet. The same is true for other bridge officers and crew.

Desperate Hours gives some details on other Shenzhou characters like the helmeted Jira Narwani

After the first third of the novel sets up the conflicts well, the rest of the book is fast-paced, nail-biting action, suspense, and thrills. Mack intercuts between Pike and Georgiou in orbit above the planet, Spock and Burnham aboard the alien Juggernaut, Saru and Una trying to figure out the mystery of the Juggernaut’s presence on the planet, and a hostage situation engineered by the planet’s colonists. Only this last thread of the plot feels superfluous. The other three strands are tightly-woven, exciting, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The novel is large-format paperback, so it will not fit perfectly on the shelf with the majority of Star Trek novels, but the extra size calls attention to the prestige with which this book is being treated. For the first time, Star Trek novels are being developed hand-in-glove with the televised production. That means that, though they are not exactly canon, they are as close to it as can be. The things you learn in Desperate Hours about Burnham, Georgiou, and Saru are not likely to be easily contradicted on the show, and will in fact serve as provisional background for the show’s writers themselves. That’s pretty cool.

Bottom line

Desperate Hours will enhance your appreciation for the show, but it also stands on its own as a fantastic, exciting science fiction novel. I give this book my highest recommendation.

Available Tuesday

Star Trek: Desperate  by David Mack will be released Tuesday, September 26th. The large-format paperback retails for $16.00, and you can by it discounted for $11.00 from Amazon where you can also buy the ebook

Desperate Hours is also available as an unabridged audiobook, also available at Amazon. You can get the audiobook for free and get a 30 day free trial by joining Audible (and help support TrekMovie) by visiting


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While it’s a cool idea to have Disco’s crew working with the Enterprise, I’m really hoping this is the sort of “crossover” they avoid. It should stand on its own.

Agreed, and I am not at all interested in seeing another new Spock. So far I see no reason DISC needs to include Sarek, save a fan link to TOS. Why couldn’t Burnham have been raised by another Vulcan? Why did it have to be Sarek (and Frain’s depiction of him is not too impressive so far IMO)?

Let this new crew stand on their own. Relegate any Enterprise contact to outside shots as she’s cruising by, or limited video interaction, if they must.

Im fine either way.

The hologram gimmick allows them, should they desire, to have a young Nimoy appear, even as an “end” of a conversation. Walk into her quarters as she’s saying goodbye and we see archival footage of Nimoy from The Cage via Hologram…

That’s a brillaint conceit, I’d never thought of that.

Agreed. Subtle nods like that would be pretty cool, without going any further…

I don’t mind it if it’s going to ( ultimately ) be told well. Spock and Sarek were on the outs prior to ‘Journey to Babel” anyway, so Sarek’s mentoring of a ‘stray human’ over his own child may have played into the rift between father and son.

Also, I noted that Sarek reaching out to Burnham via his Katra has some tremendous physical toll – will this likely be what leads to his illness and demise as seen in TNG?

My impression from various interviews is that they specifically wanted to do this in the novel(s) because they don’t want to/can’t do it in the show. I hear the next novel is going to be set 10 years before DSC, which is before Burnham even gets onto the Shenzhou, so who knows what it’ll focus on. Can’t wait!

Had it been established before that “The Cage” took place 12 years before the Original Series?

“The Menagerie” took place roughly a year into Kirk’s 5-year mission, and in that episode Spock says “This is 13 years ago” as the events of “The Cage” appear on-screen during his court martial.

Interesting!So Majel Barrett’s character was eventually Commander Una in ‘The Cage’

I may have to stop by Barnes and Noble on the way home from work and pick this up!

They should totally have Pike and the Enterprise show up in Discovery. I think it would be so exciting that fans end up demanding a spin off series with Pike’s crew. I for one hope that we get some info on what the Enterprise is up to during the Klingon War – hopefully saving countless worlds and preventing the Klingons from violating the Prime Directive up and down Federation space.. or fixing the damage done. That could be a whole series.

Nice to know there is going to be reviews of the tie-in novels and comics. I think it sounds interesting and will give it a shot. I like the idea of them fleshing out Lt. Saru especially. The “cowardly lion” bit got old.

Cowardly Lion is a description I have heard, But, I don’t believe the showrunners have used it.

I wonder if Pike and the Enterprise will look like they do in the Cage with the proper uniforms and the Enterprise looking like it should as shown in the Cage or will they look like the crap this new show looks like

What an objective viewpoint you have.

Calm down Xman, the new aesthetic doesn’t look like “crap.” Stop with the bashing.

Except that it does

Major spoiler alert!!!!

The uniform difference is explained in the book. An officer from the Shenzou notes that the officers from the Enterprise are wearing the newest prototype for the next phase of Starfleet uniforms. So far, these new unis have been reserved for the crews of the Constitution class ships, being as they’re considered the pride of the fleet. The uniforms of the Shenzou, and later Discovery, crew is the final design lineage of the unis from the Enterprise series.

As far as ship aesthetics goes, while Spock is aboard the Shenzou, he notes the design differences. He specifies how the ships were definitely built in different eras. That it’s not unusual within Starfleet for different technologies and different architecture being implemented on multiple ships at the same time. There are multiple different sub-sects within Starfleet in charge of starship design. Eventually, closer to Kirk’s command, everything was eventually consolidated under one roof within the Corp of Engineers.

My whole viewpoint on this? Discovery represents a Starfleet not only at war, but a Starfleet trying to find itself again and return back to its roots of exploration. We saw that in Enterprise, that Starfleet, before the Federation, was struggling with this as well. Constantly thrown into war after war. Similar to what is happening with these early Federation days we’re seeing in Discovery. Its my theory that Discovey will show us how the Klingon-Federation is going to force Starfleet and the Federation into a hard reset. Which would explain why themes from TOS on get a little brighter. We see the same example of this happening within the TNG era. When the Dominion war set in, things went from bright to dark once again. Its an example of one of the most recurring themes in Star Trek. Peace is not everlasting. Its an uphill battle. That even in times of darkness, there is a brightness to look forward to.

That’s just my 2 cents.

Finished the book this morning – LOVED it! Not only gaining more info on Burnham but the other crew members she was working with in the first two eps. Looking forward to the third episode now even more – Really enjoyed this book.

BTW the last TOS books I had read were the 2016 Legacies trilogy… which with Captain to Captain had a wonderful Commander Una story… so I REALLY enjoyed them meeting up with the Enterprise. I mean, I will ALWAYS want more Una!

I’m glad you liked the book! And for me, Commander Una was a highlight. I haven’t read any other stories with her in them. I’ll try to track down the story you reference!

I was pretty surprised to see the Enterprise show up. To have such a major crossover so soon feels a little like if Star Trek Generations came immediately after Encounter at Farpoint. HOWEVER… as this review said, the interaction with these somewhat more known entities (though not REALLY well known outside of Spock) was quite enlightening for the Discovery characters.

Sounds really good! That’s a steep price though. Anybody else miss when paperbacks were $5.96?