Sunday, 10 May 2020

Character Focused: Dead Endless by Dave Galanter

Reading Dead Endless you realise quite quickly how difficult it's going to be to create novels for Discovery.

The scope for new adventures is pretty restricted since the storyline runs through each episode and season one links directly into season two. There are no suitable gaps within the events we have seen on TV to shoehorn in a new adventure which gives you some limited options to expand on the show.

One is to set everything before we stepped aboard the ship as we've already seen, so set before the events of Context is for Kings. The other, utilised here is to run the novel in a parallel universe while also linking in a prime universe character who was off screen for a period of time.

Dead Endless, for the first few chapters, is a little confusing to say the least and while it does sort itself out, your brain spends a fair amount of time trying to work out just what's gong on. 

What transpires is that Dave Galanter has set this latest Discovery story for the most part in a parallel universe where the Battle at the Binary Stars didn't happen, the Shenzhou wasn't destroyed, Georgiou didn't die and Burnham became captain of the USS Discovery. The last of those you don't really comprehend until about chapter three because we're also reunited with the Prime Universe version of Hugh Culber after his apparent death at the hands of Ash Tyler but as we would later find out, had crossed over into the mycelial network.

It's not a book for anyone unfamiliar with the series since there is a lot going on that relies on your understanding of at least the first season of the show. The basics are that the parallel Discovery has become trapped in the mycelial network which puts them into contact with the trapped Culber.

At its core this is about Culber, pure and simple. Alongside him and rather bizarrely we have Ephriam the tardigrade (even writing that feels odd) acting as a sort of quasi-gude but being about as transparent as mud.

Dead Endless does tie in nicely to the events of season two and (spoiler), the doctor's return to his ship and Galanter works to expand both Hugh and Paul Stamets' background and their relationship across (excuse the cliche) time and space. There's a lot of freedom to play around with parallel Stamets and the crew of the Discovery within the frame of the novel since it won't affect anything that we've experienced in the series to date. 

While it might put you off the novel in that it's not a Prime Discovery story per se, it's a solid exploration of the relationship between Culber and Stamets. It allows Dave Gallanter the flex to use Prime Culber as his observer, the one to whom the reader can relate and see the world through and is then able to compare and contrast his own life and experiences with the universe in which he finds himself in Dead Endless.

Hugh's emotions are key to the whole experience here both for his own progression and also for understanding the differences we find in parallel Stamets. This is a ship that has never been captained by Gabriel Lorca, entered the Mirror Universe or fought the Klingons but is crewed by a set of familiar characters we know from the TV series.

Galanter has the crew perfectly, avoiding the need for expletives (really not bothered either way) and continuing the more relaxed dialogue that has become a signature of the show, especially where Tilly is concerned. Hugh may be the main focus of the novel but Sylvia is lovingly recreated here with all her quirky nuances alive and well on the page. I'm not a big fan of hers in the series but I have to applaud the work put in to building her for Dead Endless, she's screen-accurate.

The actual storyline of the parallel Discovery being trapped due to a spore drive error seems almost insignificant for the majority of the book, only coming alive towards the latter fifth of the book with the late introduction of an apparent threat to the ship more serious than the damage the network is doing to the hull. If you're looking for an action-packed story in line with the televised series then this perhaps isn't going to quite tick as many boxes as you might want.

Dead Endless is pure character-driven and with real heart and certainly deals with the Culber/Stamets (Culmets? Stamber???) relationship as well as if not better than the scripts have handled it. Discovery is up against the continuous arc and limited number of episodes which wasn't a restraint when we were seeing 26 instalments a year with The Next Generation. This leaves the novels to fill out background which is even harder because of that limited time frame due to those very arcs. 

Dave Galanter has produced a great work here to flesh out the unexplored years of Discovery's first two seasons under very difficult circumstances. The clever entwining of the Mirror Universe and even some more of Airiam's back story shows a good, solid knowledge of the base material and for once it's refreshing not to have a ton of nods to other episodes allowing this story to remain fresh and intriguing from page one to the end. 

Dead Endless is available now from Simon and Schuster HERE priced £10.99

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