It’s been a long time coming… and our intrepid reviewer journeyed to San Francisco to try to get to a hold of any debriefing materials concerning the Enterprise’s whereabouts during the Klingon War. While Starfleet HQ was nowhere to be found, he managed to find some documentary data… in the form of John Jackson Miller’s “The Enterprise War”.
The following review may contain minor spoilers for the book, and for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
Arguably the strongest feature of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery was the arrival of Christopher Pike and his enterprising crew. Fans have been clamouring for more of Pike’s story since the season ended, and “The Enterprise War” delivers a tale set in the dark days of the Klingon War.
The days are dark for Pike and his crew, however, because they find themselves in the Pergamum, an expansive nebula filled with layers and eddies of natural challenge and, yes, ruthless enemies. Not that they know that fact when they enter, of course. The Enterprise crew begins the journey out of the nebula when they learn of the declaration of war back home, but they have no way of knowing that a mysterious explosion is the harbinger of a year of division, servitude, and trials beyond imagining.
“The Enterprise War” delivers a good dose of Pike, Number One, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew, but it has a few issues to overcome in the process.
Nebulas are a common source of trouble in Star Trek, but the Pergamum concept felt a little too much like the setup of Star Trek Beyond for me. As a reader, I found myself constantly comparing the setting back and forth. While the Pergamum is fleshed out far better than its counterpart in Beyond, the general concept fell a little flat.
While the ultimate payoff between the two main nebular players – the Boundless and the Rengru – is interesting, their overall conflict lacked dimension throughout. It’s hard to simply write this off as a flaw, as it can be seen as an analogy to the overall lack of sense behind so many armed conflicts. Nevertheless, it was, for this reader, a difficult narrative to really get excited about.
At times the predicament of the Enterprise and her crew dropped into the melodramatic – but, what space opera doesn’t? While I found it hard to fathom exactly what happened to the ship throughout the course of the story, the way her crew responds… that’s the heart of the story.
Miller owns his cast as he writes, and uses them to the fullest advantage. After prefacing the overall story with a flashback to Pike after high school, he runs at full tilt into the story, using Pike’s past effectively and expanding his backstory in the process. We are able to see his longer arc, from early tragedy through Talos and its effects, to the toll that missing out on the war has on him. The fate of his crew and the situation of his ship only adds to the depth, and his ability to write for Anson Mount’s Pike is beyond sublime. While I tried several voices on Pike, “The Enterprise War” squares clearly with the current continuity.
Spock, likewise, is written with great care to reflect Ethan Peck. Never was I tempted away from that visualization as his own unique and isolated story wove through the book. Spock’s story – one of fidelity to his values and internal quest – is quite possibly the most satisfying in the book, even though it is heavily linked, at least initially, with the ongoing conflict between the Boundless and the Rengru. Miller brilliantly sets the stage for Spock’s hospitalization and disappearance as Season Two of Discovery begins, and forms an outstanding bridge to the series.
Lieutenant Commander Una, or simply Number One, has a pretty beefy and varied role – advisor to the captain, leader in her own right, and even alien channeler… it took a bit longer to feel her out, probably because we got comparatively little screen time with her during the season. At times, the voice felt like Majel Barrett’s… but by a pivotal scene about a third of the way through the book, the voice finally felt right. We are given an opportunity to really relish the possibilities for her character while she, in turn, often serves to bring out great moments for others in the story.
Not to be forgotten is Doctor Galadjian, the Enterprise’s award-winning (literally!) chief engineer. Not a Starfleeter, we learn that he is responsible for the ship’s preparations for the mission to the Pergamum. While having some interesting elements in his own right, his main value is the mirror he shines back on other members of the Enterprise crew as help to guide him in the ways of the service while in the midst of the fight of their lives.
On the whole, the positive aspects of “The Enterprise War” far exceed the areas which stalled for me. Miller’s tale is essential reading for fans of Discovery, for fans of the pre-TOS triumvirate (Pike, Una, Spock), and for all who just need another dose of Trek while we wait on our viewscreens to light up with the voyages of, well… any bloody starship we can get.
Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) provided a review copy of this book. No further compensation was provided or offered. The review is the genuine personal opinion of the reviewer.