Monday, 20 August 2018

Desperate Times...? Desperate Hours

What with family and work, my reading time has been severely limited but I've finally managed to finish David Mack’s first Discovery novel.   

Desperate Hours is a prequel to the latest series, taking us back before The Vulcan Hello to an encounter between the USS Shenzhou and the USS Enterprise. Now, the funny thing is that I’ve finished reading this after the first season has concluded and just as the season two casting announcements have reached fever pitch it feels like the right time to get this review up. 

Opening, the novel finds us at a point where Burnham has just been placed as acting first officer of the Shenzhou under Captain Georgiou and the starship is sent to the Federation colony of Sirsa III to deal with an unknown attacker threatening the planet. This craft turns out to be a lot more dangerous than anticipated but then it comes to pass that the colonists are not telling everything they should. This cascades into Admiral Anderson dispatching the USS Enterprise to deal with the unrest planetside - which ultimately puts the two starships in direct opposition to each other through their mission objectives.

Within the story to solve the mystery of the alien craft and precisely what has come to pass on the surface, there are three key relationships that are the crux of Mack’s work - Georgiou/Pike, Saru/Number One and of course Burnham/Spock. The first two seem merely to exist for a bit of fan immersion into the mixing of the two crews but in the third there is something much deeper.

David Mack clearly gets a grip on the new Discovery series characters within Desperate Hours and it’s easy to visualise Michelle Yeoh or Doug Jones speaking their lines yet there is so much to glean from the relationship between Michael Burnham and a young Lieutenant Spock.

We get a real sense of the uneasiness between them even though logic signposts that they need to work together for the good of the planet and their respective ships but there's something more underlying which is partially revealed when the pair are forced to mind meld to complete a series of challenges which require both their particular skill sets.

In this section of the book Mack's work is exceptional as he manages to make each challenge different and indeed challenging which in turn drives the tension forward. Oddly it's not a speedy process here but it highlights just how intelligent and almost an equal to Spock mentally that Burnham is thanks to her adoptive upbringing.

The concept of Desperate Hours providing a prequel to onscreen events is a clever choice although novelists have been doing it with all the incarnations of the show for decades although this is the first time such a work has been on the shelves so near to the airdate of the first episode. There's a lot of tie in and I wouldn't be surprised if, looking ahead, the series and the novels do have some crossovers and cross-references to link the Discovery timeframe into a much larger "universe build".

Opening the account with this Shenzhou-set adventure lays out the CBS stall quite nicely providing more background to the events of A Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars both through events we saw on screen and relationships that were hinted at off screen. With season two's news that Spock (Ethan Peck) is going to be appearing I can guarantee that the showrunners will be drawing on some of the material here to demonstrate how all-encompassing the Discovery story is and how it will (I believe) link in with all the other materials produced around it for a true multimedia experience which you will only get the most out of if you dip into all the parts.

Desperate Hours marks what could well be a new type of start for Star Trek and by using the reknowned and brilliant David Mack to kick it all off, CBS and Simon and Schuster sure know they have a pair of reliable hands here. The action is tight, the politics well related and overall your attention retained. With its significance as the first Discovery novel, this is a must-buy in every Trekkie/Trekker's library.

Desperate Hours has been out for a while(!) now and is available direct from Simon and Schuster at their website HERE ISBN 9781501164576 priced £10.99

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