by David Mack
Published September 26, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
From Goodreads: Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it.
She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea.
As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Star Trek books through the years. Some of them have been fantastic and some of them, well, I’ve wondered how some of them ended up being published at all. What I’ve always looked for in a tie-in book (based on a movie or television show) is an expansion of the character and not just a space adventure that happens to have Star Trek characters in the main roles. The best ones will add to my understanding of an alien race– like Betazoids or Cardassians– and how their perspectives are different from humans’.
Because there are so many Star Trek books out there, it’s hard to figure out what a person should start with, delve into, or outright skip. The publishers don’t make it easy, either, because there seems to be no listing of the order that the books should be read in. It’s like trying to figure out the expanded Star Wars universe before The Force Awakens came out. Too many books to handle without going a little bit nuts trying to figure out who does what and when.
Since Star Trek: Discovery has only just premiered and the first book is out, I will be able to keep up with the expanded universe of a show I’m already in love with.
This makes a happy.
David Mack has written many Star Trek books, though I’m familiar with only a few of them. Desperate Hours is his latest, having been released a few days ago to coincide with the show’s premiere. I was going to hold out and see if the library got a copy, but in the end (and after reading an article about how closely Mack worked with the show’s producers), I decided not to wait. I bought the eBook on Wednesday evening, read every minute that I could, and finished it on Thursday afternoon. All 386 pages in less than twenty-four hours.
Do I need to say that I enjoyed Desperate Hours? Because I did. A lot.
It takes place about a year before the events of the first episode, The Vulcan Hello, and tells the story of how Michael Burnham earned her position as first officer aboard the Shenzhou. It also provides a character study that shows how Burnham’s personality and upbringing have made her impetuous, a character flaw that has terrible consequences in the show’s two-part premiere.
Burnham isn’t the only one who gets to shine in Desperate Hours. The Kelpien science officer, Lt. Saru, has many pages devoted to him and they helped me to understand his background and his reactions to Burnham and Captain Georgiou. Those relationships were far more complex than I thought they were, and I’m looking forward to re-watching the episodes to see how my view of the characters has changed. I’d also like to say that it’s great to see a brand new Star Trek alien that isn’t completely annoying (like Neelix and Kes were on Voyager). If Doug Jones’s portrayal of Saru continues to be as good as it was in the premier, I think he’ll end up being one of my all-time favorite Star Trek characters.
The new crew isn’t the only one who makes an appearance in Desperate Hours. We get to see the original crew of the Enterprise (“NCC-1701, no bloody A, B, C, or D”)– I’m talking about Captain Pike and Number One here, not Kirk and Bones. Lieutenant Spock makes an appearance, too, so we get to find out about his early relationship with Burnham.
This isn’t to say that Desperate Hours is merely a character study. It’s not. It’s full of action and suspense, with a few bits of humor sprinkled throughout, and just enough Trek-oriented philosophy embedded within it to make it feel like Star Trek without wandering into outright navel-gazing territory. For example, there is a point where Captain Georgiou has to give a horrific order for the good of the Federation. She doesn’t want to do it. The crew doesn’t want to do it, either. But when push comes to shove, Georgiou knows it must be done so she gives a speech worthy of Picard or Sisko and gets to work.
If Desperate Hours is an example of what books based on Discovery are going to be like, then I am on board. It is one of the best Star Trek books I’ve ever read, and though it was a quick read, it helped fill up that long, long gap from last Sunday ’til this Sunday, when I’ll be able to watch another episode of Discovery.