Book #3 of Star Trek: Discovery
Written by James Swallow
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
Release date: 06-05-18
Simon and Schuster Audio
Also available in ebook formats and as a trade paperback
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
An original novel based upon the explosive new Star Trek TV series on CBS All Access.
Lieutenant Saru is a Kelpien, a member of a prey species born on a world overrun by monstrous predators…and a being who very intimately understands the nature of fear. Challenged on all sides, he is determined to surpass his origins and succeed as a Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou. But when Saru breaks protocol in order to prove himself to his crewmates, what begins as a vital rescue mission to save a vessel in distress soon escalates out of control. Forced into a command role he may not be ready for, Saru is caught between his duty and the conflicting agendas of two antagonistic alien races. To survive, he will need to seek a path of peace against all odds, and risk compromising the very ideals he has sworn to uphold…. http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Star-Trek-Discovery-Fear-Itself/James-Swallow/Star-Trek-Discovery/9781508253631
I’ve been watching STAR TREK series almost my entire life. The original series began when my age was still in the single digits. There was something about the positivity projected by the series in the cold war, nuclear age that made the series appeal to me as a youth. Instead of destroying the species, humans learned to make peace, and accept that we were not the first species with inter-stellar abilities. In discovering there were other species in the universe we got over ourselves.
I wonder if we’ll ever get there and the franchise still gives me hope.
DISCOVERY is a darker Star Trek: even scientifically advanced species can act out of power, control and denial of the same facts that bring them onto space. Species act all too much like humans.
I think it is hard to not anthropomorphize species if you are human, and let’s assume all of reading this today are indeed humans. One of the first rules of scientific methodology is that the experimenter influences the experiment. It would be hard for other fields of expression or study to escape that rule even if they are not using science. Star Trek always makes me feel more science-minded.
With Lt. Saru, a Kelpian, Swallow does a great job building on the character presented in the first two seasons of (or was it a split first season?) of the TV show. On the TV Show we first see Saru as a somewhat comical, whimpy, scared creature. When death or threat is around he has an organ called “threat ganglia” that alerts him to it danger. It is visible to others so everyone knows about his fear. But, it isn’t fear in a cowardly sense, it is a self-preservation instinct of a species considered prey in its home world. Children are trained to cultivate it as they mature as Saru relates some of the aphorisms he learned as a child.
This subconscious instinct is useful on a starship; however, the cultural conditioning that has been drummed into Kelpians forever is not as useful since it can work to override Starfleet training.
Saru works hard to override the instinct and his conditioning leading to a need to prove he is not a coward or scared child. His ego gets involved and his decision-making suffers. In this I wondered at how well he had been evaluated for his position. The lower ranking officers seem to have better control and training. This particular event in Saru’s career has a lot of similarity with Burnham’s mistakes in the first episode of DISCOVERY. The difference is that the results of Saru’s actions are less catastrophic than Burnham’s were.
In the series it is Lt. Burnham, arguably Georgiou’s protege, who gets the crew, the captain and even Starfleet, into mortal danger. Here, it is Saru’s need to prove himself and, perhaps, one of Georgiou’s poorer decisions that throws the Starship Discovery, her crew, and a bunch of aliens into more danger than they were previously experiencing. his particular event in Saru’s career has a lot of similarity with Burnham’s mistakes in the first episode of DISCOVERY. The difference is that the results of Saru’s actions are less catastrophic than Burnham’s were in the first TV episode.
The three species other than those on Discovery, are all too much like humans here on earth right now are behaving. The story deals with politics, bigotry and racism, insidious manipulation of situations to garner power and instill fear. There’s are even two captains who are just ridiculously obstinate. It sounds like the front page of the New York Times today — or a hundred years ago. There are tinges of Anti-Gypsy sentiment, anti-immigration, bias even within the same species and planet system, and then there are the Tholians (last seen by me in the original series when they tried to weave space and Captain Kirk got caught up in it.).
Swallow points it all out beautifully, not pedantically or with a condescending attitude. It is a subtle lesson. The gypsy-type group reminds me of the poor people on the desert planet Abydos in the Star Gate movie.
The way the plot unfolds with the three species is really intricate, twisty, and suspenseful
I liked the suspenseful plot and how one obstacle and action would lead to another plot twist. I feel I understand Saru a lot better. His character is not two dimensional; he is not a whimp.
Petoff does a great job with the voices. I especially like his Georgiou. He is one of the few male narrators I have heard who doesn’t make female characters sound bitchy or breathy (unless they are).
I think this is a high-quality piece of science fiction. It has great characters, keeps to the encyclopedic, constructed world, and points out humanity’s foibles naturally.