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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 audibletrial.com/trekmovie.