Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Fitting Legacy? The 50th Anniversary Trilogy

I'm still pretty shocked I burnt through these three novels in the course of just three weeks.

The Legacies trilogy consists of Captain to Captain (Greg Cox), Best Defense (David Mack) and Purgatory's Key (Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward) and spins a tale surrounding a mysterious object known as the Transfer Key that has been hidden aboard the USS Enterprise since the days of Captain Robert April with its secret transferred from captain and first officer to their successors which brings us neatly to Kirk and Spock.

The three novels follow on seamlessly but each has a very different story to tell using the Transfer Key as the cornerstone from which everything is built. Cox's first third of the story is the origins piece, cleanly establishing the nature of the device and relating it very closely to another item which made an appearance in The Original Series. An origins story might not sound that exciting but the gem here is that the story flips back in time to the era of April and it's discovery and concealment. 

Central to the whole thing is one character - Captain Una aka. Number One from The Cage who served under both of Kirks predecessors on the Enterprise. It is her arrival at the beginning of Captain to Captain which sparks events into motion and by the end you kind of wish she'd just stayed away and saved everyone a heck of a lot of haste. 

As a character never really explored beyond the hour of the unaired pilot, Number One is a huge blank canvas waiting to be sketched out. Or maybe not. As for background we do get some details as to her academy record and the reasons behind her numerical nickname and short chosen moniker as well as a cool nod to the Enterprise's computer voice and just how come it sounds the same as Una. 

Along with the Transfer Key at the core of the first book we also have the introduction of two alien races whom will also be featured across the anniversary trilogy and cross paths with the crew and the returning Number One. Captain to Captain however does not work solely as a standalone novel because Cox is tasked with a lot of set up and explanation which is handled well and does give the subsequent books a lot more room to breathe. I actually found this first book the most captivating for that very reason and that Cox seemed more aware of his environment than Mack who slipped in a couple of very out of place colloquialisms that did jar me a little when I was reading through. 

In relation to characterisation Cox also nails this very well avoiding turning the cast into all out action heroes and retaining a sense of The Original Series. In relation to Best Defenses especially I did sense that Mack went off on a big action adventure piece with apparent influences from the more recent reboots perhaps affecting the way in which the story evolved. While it was an enjoyable read I did feel that Captain to Captain created an epic path and prospects that weren't captured fully in the second part. While it's a good read there are a few final points that just seem to come out of nowhere to bolster the trilogy but fortunately they are managed very effectively by the subsequent writers.

Now Best Defenses is, fortunately, different to its predecessor taking that more action orientated slant but also drawing on Star Trek's rich character base to add a slab of continuity to the proceedings. Klingons, Romulans and Vulcans all have their place at David Mack's table including such franchise returnees as Gorkon (The Undiscovered Country) and Spock's father Sarek although whether all their presences are necessary is a bit borderline.

Again the action content is pretty heavy and there are now several different threads to manage so skipping book one is not an option. There's the conference, Number One's activities in the alternative dimension plus the goings on aboard a Romulan Bird of Prey to balance and remember. It's not as linear as Captain to Captain but the amount of information and development that happens in Best Defenses cannot be ignored in any sense. 

As for characters Kirk and the Enterprise crew are faithfully recreated and I find with authors such as Mack and Cox they tend to avoid the use of colloquialisms that jar you out of the 23rd Century environment. It's faithful to the show and with this being the Legacy trilogy it would be silly to expect anything less than an indulgent - and period accurate - read. While Mack has Sarek pinned well there are times he almost slips into an action hero role but one representation i just couldn't grip properly was Gorkon. The soft spoken statesman from The Undiscovered Country might be a fair few years away but there's very little hint of that personality within Best Defenses and more so in Purgatory's Key. For some reason he is most certainly cast in a more active and warrior-like Klingon role than you appreciate in the sixth classic movie. Sadly it's a blip that does give me a grumble in an otherwise highly enjoyable trilogy of books.

The supreme issue with this book and by association the trilogy is that the wrapping up of the various strands is done in a smattering of pages and seems to be over before it's even started. Ok there's a little bit of cleanup work after that but the drawing together of (most of) the story elements does feel a little rushed given the 900 page build up. As a trilogy it really does offer lots through the first two books with the second not just a place holder and instead building and adding to Captain to Captain. Problem is that there's a lot left for Purgatory's Key to do and even with a 340 page offering to round everything out it still felt a little incomplete and hurried.

The writing itself is solid and there's no schoolboy errors here but the quality of the end result is just tarnished by that breakneck pace to clean everything up nicely. I could have more than abided a few loose strands left floating for future stories but alas that doesn't happen although I would welcome some more novels to feature Number One now that she's stepped into the limelight here - so much potential. 

The Legacies trilogy is a grand milestone in the literary series however its memory might fade pretty quickly especially since there's the rather impressive Prey trilogy right after it...

Was Legacies the trilogy we deserved for the 50th anniversary? Were you wanting more or something totally different?

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