13 February 2023

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Prometheus: Fire with Fire

Star Trek: Prometheus: Fire with Fire
by Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg
translated by Helga Parmiter

29 October–16 November 2385
Translation published: 2017
Originally published: 2016
Acquired: November 2020
Read: January 2023

I am in the somewhat unusual position here of having experienced this book before. Back in 2018, Big Finish Productions released an audiobook read by Alec Newman, which I reviewed for Unreality SF. I did not like it very much, either the novel qua novel or as an audiobook. But I wanted to actually read the book in its chronological context, so here I am giving it a second go.

It is a bit odd reading it here; it picks up right from The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms. That novel ended on 27 October with zh'Tarash being elected president of the Federation; this opens on 29 October with her inaugural speech. But that book also ended as a sort of send-off to the political thriller aspects of Star Trek novels and continuous galactic crises... and this book plunges us straight into another political thriller and galactic crisis. Alien terrorists are suicide bombing Federation (and, later, Klingon) facilities in what surely must be an even less subtle 9/11 allegory than Enterprise's Xindi arc.

So if you have space politics fatigue when it comes to Star Trek novels, this is not the one for you... On top of that, the space politics are not very interesting. There are occasional chapters devoted to what the Klingon High Council or Federation Council is deliberating; this is pretty much never interesting, as characters we don't care about have conversations about things we already know. The scenes seem primarily used to make it clear that the authors did indeed read Articles of the Federation, but serve no real purpose in the actual story.

That is a criticism you could aim, in fact, at a significant portion of this book. The authors love to write chapters about irrelevant characters learning or doing things (e.g., a retired Romulan spy, a sneaky Ferengi, Martok, twice Miradorn mercenaries, a Federation communications office on a starbase); these characters are pretty much never interesting. Meanwhile, the actual main characters don't seem to do very much at all. Captain Adams of the Prometheus talks to Ro on DS9 about the inauguration... but why? A group of Prometheus characters watch Quark dither with a broken viewscreen... but why? I think you could lop the first seventy-seven pages off this book and begin with the current chapter seven, and no one would have even noticed. Even after that point, it drags. Basically one thing of importance happens in this book: the Prometheus does some investigating, and some members of its crew are captured, and they get away and learn one interesting thing in the process. That's a few chapters, not an almost 400-page novel.

Part of the issue seems to be that the writers of the book aren't quite sure what it wants to be. Is the Prometheus trilogy a single story about a galactic crisis? Or the pilot for an ongoing set of adventures about the USS Prometheus? (Similar to how the first four New Frontier novels worked.) If it's the former, the scenes of characters around the galaxy kind of make sense... but the scenes of the Prometheus crew do not, as they don't really add anything to the story. We learn about the tactical officer's love life, and the engineer's heritage, and how one guy really likes juice, and so on. But if this is meant to set up the cast of the Prometheus as a ship, it fails there because these people are utterly uninteresting as characters, and because nothing they do really seems to matter.

I was vaguely hopeful that divorced from Alec Newman's plodding, mispronunciation-filled reading I might like this more... but to be honest, I didn't think I would, and I didn't. The main benefit of reading it myself is that it didn't take me eleven hours to get through it.

scan courtesy The m0vie blog
from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Celebrity Series: Blood & Honor #1
(script by Mark Lenard, art by Leonard Kirk, Ken Penders, et al.)
Continuity Notes:
  • The book often reads like it was written by Roy Thomas, with the characters taking pains to think about or mention totally irrelevant continuity points, like the Ferengi on Alpha Eridani II who has to think about the fact that before the planet became a Romulan subject world, it was an Earth colony terrorized by the Redjac entity because that was mentioned in "Wolf in the Fold."
  • There are a lot of deep cuts here. When O'Brien meets the Prometheus's Kirk-descended chief engineer, he mentions that another Kirk descendant once served on DS9, referring to a one-off Malibu comic from twenty years prior.
Other Notes:
  • Titan changed the cover from its original German publication, replacing the image of the Prometheus with a less dynamic one, but thankfully getting rid the original's silly flaming logo. (Though the new logo is a very boring one.) Weirdly, the Big Finish audiobook reverts to the German cover and logo.
  • Alexander Rozkenko is in this book. I couldn't tell you why; he doesn't do anything. Also the authors seem to think that the Federation ambassador to the Klingons is someone who works for the Klingons.
  • On top of that, Spock is here too. But, again, who knows why.

I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: Titan: Absent Enemies by John Jackson Miller

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