Star Trek: Discovery – Somewhere to Belong
Written by Dayton Ward
Published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, ebook, and audiobook
Release date: Tuesday, May 30, 2023
“He’s right, Doctor.” When Culber eyed them, [Adira] straightened their posture. “I haven’t known her as long or as well as any of you, but I’ve known more than a few Starfleet captains.” They shrugged. “Well, Tal has, but you get my meaning. Not all of them were great leaders, but the ones who were? They all had the same drive to succeed, to face adversity and beat it. They’d get very obstinate and protective when their crews were concerned. Nothing would stop them from keeping their people safe. Not rules, not laws, not being outnumbered or outgunned. Nothing. They’re the ones we read about in history books. Captain Burnham is one of those leaders. If it can be done, she’ll do it.”
At the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, the Disco crew jumped their ship nine hundred years into the future to stop the malicious clandestine AI known as Control from seizing the “sphere data” in the ship’s computers. In doing so, the crew willingly and permanently left behind everyone they had ever known. What must that be like? And how difficult must it be to restart a life from scratch? It would be like an entire crew entering the witness protection program at once, together. That’s the question author Dayton Ward sets out to answer in his new Discovery tie-in novel, Somewhere to Belong, and to answer it, he draws on the legacy of a significant figure from Discovery’s past. SPOILERS BELOW
Set between seasons 3 and 4 of Star Trek: Discovery, Somewhere to Belong follows the crew of the USS Discovery as they are interrupted from an important mission by an urgent distress call from a freighter in peril. As they render assistance, Captain Burnham and her crew are drawn into a high-stakes situation of societal unrest, protest, and government conspiracies. What breaks their hearts is that all this involves an alien race Discovery fans have come to know and love, a race that has fallen on hard times since Discovery left the 23rd Century and suffered greatly in “the Burn.” Trying to be a neutral honest broker, Burnham finds that no matter how much she tries to stay uninvolved, the very presence of Discovery exacerbates fault lines that have grown in the culture for centuries. It’s a diplomatic quagmire in the very best tradition of Star Trek episodes from “A Taste of Armageddon” to “Sarek” to “The Vulcan Hello.”
Along for the trip is Doctor Arbusala, a Denobulan therapist tasked with assessing what the crew of Discovery needs in order to more easily build their emotional connections to the 32nd century. His presence presents an emotional challenge for Dr. Hugh Culber, who has been serving as the ship’s ad hoc counselor. Through his conversations with the crew, we get insight into the sacrifices involved in volunteering for the time jump, as well as the ways in which the crew has been dealing with their losses.
Some of the highlights of the book include the ship’s “movie night” events which bookend the story, the very real and emotional conversations between Culber and Stamets, and the rakish and note-perfect portrayal of Jett Reno.
“What are you going to do, Commander?” asked Bryce…
“Her eyes fixed on the pile of chips as though running calculations in her head, Reno replied, “Slow your roll, ace. What’s your rush?”
Bryce grinned. “…Commander, the bridge called. We just skipped another nine hundred years waiting on you.”
There is a bit of an action thread that underlies the last two-thirds of the book with a ticking clock and some real jeopardy for the crew of Discovery, but the bulk of the material is diplomatic back-and-forth and has emotionally rich conversations between Arbusala and the crew. This makes the book fairly talky, and it wears its feelings on its sleeve, as befits a Discovery tie-in novel. If you’re a fan of the show and its emotionally open approach to its characters, it works. Ward is a skillful writer and captures the voices of the Discovery characters perfectly. The book does a great job of filling out a lot of the questions that the show could not take time to answer about the crew’s transition between millennia. The book also tackles a fan critique of the character of Michael Burnham head-on, offering what I thought was an excellent explanation for her propensity to be the person who saves everyone all the time.
Bottom line? Somewhere to Belong is a fascinating dive into the characters of Star Trek: Discovery—their motivations, griefs, and courage. Its diplomatic and emotional plot makes a fine change from the action-movie-go-go-go of the series itself. It shares many of the strong points of the series, but those strong points do not appeal to all fans equally. Fans of the show will love the novel. Critics of the show will have the same criticisms of the novel. I loved it.
As a side note, after criticizing the generic-looking cover for the last Trek tie-in novel, I was delighted to see the creativity for this new one. Somewhere to Belong features a fantastic painted cover, with flat, almost cut-paper-looking shapes defining portraits of Burnham, Tilly, Culber, and Stamets, as well as Disco herself.
It is also available as an audiobook at Amazon on CD and Audible, ready by January La Voy.
What’s next for Trek lit?
One real-world mystery that this book leaves unsolved is what’s next for Star Trek tie-in fiction. This is the last Trek novel slated for publication in 2023, leaving at least the next seven months potentially with nothing new in Trek lit. Simon and Schuster and Gallery Books still hold the Star Trek license and books are apparently in the works so for now we can only wait for news on the future of Star Trek fiction.
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