Since the late 70s. Pocket books have been publishing Star Trek stories that have filled in the gaps of Star Trek’s History and the unseen events sometimes only mentioned but never shown onscreen. With Star Trek currently off TV for a potentially long time and with Abram’s Star Trek movie playground these books are all we have of the current continuity established in the 40 plus years of Star Trek.
The beauty of written Star Trek is that it can be bigger and more imaginative than what can be afforded to be shown on a TV or Movie budget. Here we have Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War Beneath the Raptors Wing’ which depicts the Romulan Earth War first mentioned in the classic Star Trek episode Balance of Terror. The novel was written by Michael A martin who this time is writing an Enterprise Novel solo. When Martin was writing this Margret Clark, then editor told him to think of the Romulans seclusion and unknown society in the way of North Korea.
I have a great interest in seeing this story being told in some manner. Similar to fans interest of the mentioning of the “Clone Wars” in “Star Wars”. I Had previously reviewed the unproduced script for a Romulan War movie “Star Trek The Beginning“. The idea has always excited me to see an epic Star Trek story with large scales battles in the infancy of the Star Trek universe. In the current novel continuity the story is set after the events of Star Trek Enterprise. The build up to this book started in “The Good that Men Do” a book which gave it’s own slant on the final episode of Enterprise which took place on the Holodeck of the Enterprise D in the actual episode and goes on to show a different version of events in actual reality. The story continues in “Kobayashi Maru” which showed what instigated the War.
Having gone into this directly from Kobayashi Maru I noticed some slight continuity errors. Particularly at the beginning when Trip was almost hit by a comet fragment in his escape pod, in the cliffhanger that he ended on in Kobayahi maru it was a gravimetric mine. Anyway.
Sometimes this reads almost like fanfiction, the descriptive language of the battles, the double crossing machinations of the Romulan’s government and military. It’s expected, not enough pulling the rug from under our asserted ideas. It moves together all too fast with assassinations and at times it drags out with characters like Valdore playing up the caricature villain while swilling a glass of Romulan Ale in his hand. The character has regrets and guilt about his actions on cordion but these are merely passing lines rather than anything that actually sticks with him.
The Romulan’s devious scheme though is one that matches what we have seen before in Enterprise, In the episode “United” they used a holographic drone ship to attack other vessels. In Kobayashi Maru they used a telepresence system to take over starships. This Telepresence system which basically hacks computers of starships and gains full control over them is the reason for starfleet reversing it’s technology showing why The NX Enterprise looked more advanced then the Enterprise 1701 and why ships have codes to protect them a hundred years later in The Wrath of Khan. Although other books had explained that it was bulky equipment worked best in space as it was more sturdy. The NX herself is seen as an advanced ship that can’t be manufactured fast enough for war efforts and her design is left behind in favor of ships faster to build, the Daedalus class ships which are said to predate the NX.
It’s a long book. 85 Chapters with many of them being just 2 or 3 pages so the action jumps around a lot in some instances and you can’t really get settled or into one story. I found myself putting the book down too easily after reading a chapter since I knew there’s another few chapters of different characters and events ahead of me before I could get back to the nitty gritty. Which brings me to my other problem.
The book has war in the title but actual War scenes are few and far between and are short, preparation time for the coming battle deals with characters own personal issues and a good portion of the book focuses on the politics within the Romulan Star Empire and Earth’s Government and Starfleet. I certainly like the scenes of these two political systems having their own independent story separate from the interactions of characters on the other side but it’s goes on a bit too long. Romulan politics consists of a lot of personal plotting and overthrowing each other. Earth’s current politics and Coalition dealings are set around a table with characters usually arguing for their own planets well being. This gets a bit tired after a while. Martin’s also fond of his Latin quotes when he writes a chapter dedicated to the characters of Earths government and military snapping back at each other with Latin sayings.
I would have liked to have seen more space orientated movements between the actual combatants of this war, the commanders of the ships, their tactical skills. We do see that here but a lot of them buy it within a chapter or two.
The use of Nukes is made by the Romulans to some effect here when smaller Romulan ships come under attack by larger Coalition ships. I had thought Earth might have had a few of those lying around still from WWIII.A large part of the plot of this book is dedicated to Starfleet’s defensive grid on it’s planets being compromised by the Romulans who launch smaller ships that can sneak through this grid.
Lt. Stiles from TOS “Balance of Terror” had relatives that fought in the war. Oh really? (sarcasm mode) Cos I don’t know how Stiles was even born since so many of his relatives were killed in this book. Why not focus on one stiles character? Here we had multiple stiles, “again” I thought when a new one would come up, could this one be possible be related to the styles we saw in balance of terror? Can they all be related to each other? I buy the bubble gum chewing female Dalai Lama more.
Charles Trip Tucker the III. This poor guy. How long is he going to be an undercover operative. I’m getting as sick of it as he is. I was excited at the prospect of him returning to Enterprise but just when it seemed to happen the character does a u turn and places the faith of the Quadrant on his shoulders. You’re not the only spy out there Trip buddy. I just wonder how many times he can get out of the spy business only to find himself working for another Alien Race. It just seems endless and annoying.
Ultimately this isn’t the story I want. While I am delighted to see light being finally shed on the Romulan - Earth Wars this is using Enterprise as the basis for that which cramps the creativity of making something a bit grittier and less the norm. But this is the best we get since plans for introducing the War during the proposed 5th season of Enterprise never happened when the show was cancelled.
Humans are in trouble by the end of the Novel, do they have no choice but to fight their way out of this one? If so, maybe the human race isn’t as half as smart as it thinks it is.
Favorite Quote: “The only inevitable thing is fear, especially when the thing you are scared of is something you haven’t even seen yet.” - Lian Hua An Gyatso 18th incarnation of the Dalai Lama