Friday, October 13, 2017

Beneath the Raptor's Wing

Star Trek: Enterprise
The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing by Michael A. Martin
Published October 2009
Read June 29th 2016

Previous book (Enterprise): Kobayashi Maru

Next book (Enterprise): The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

Spoilers ahead for The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing!

From the back cover:
At the start of the twenty-first century, unconditional war swept across the Earth. A war that engulfed the great and the small, the rich and the poor, giving no quarter. Each side strove for unconditional victory, and as battle built upon battle, the living began to envy the dead. Chastised by the cataclysm that they had unleashed, the governments of Earth came together. Humanity vowed to put an end to war and to strive for the betterment of every living creature. A united Earth created Starfleet, an interstellar agency whose mission was to explore the cosmos, to come in peace for all mankind. It was a naïve wish that was battered by interstellar realities, yet man persists in the belief that peace is the way. Banding together with other powers to form a Coalition of Planets, humanity hopes that the strength each can offer the other will allow for peaceful exploration. However, the rise of the Coalition strikes dread within the Romulan Star Empire. They feel its growing reach will cut them off from what is rightfully theirs. The Romulans know that the alliance is fragile, that the correct strategy could turn allies into foes. Perfecting a way of remotely controlling Coalition ships and using them as weapons against one another, the Romulans hope to drive a wedge of suspicion and mistrust between these new allies. One Starfleet captain uncovers this insidious plot: Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise. Determined not to lose what they have gained, outmanned and outgunned, the captains of Starfleet stand tall, vowing to defend every inch of Coalition space until the tide begins to turn. The Romulans now plan to strike at what they see as the heart of their problem. With nothing left to lose, the Romulan Star Empire engages in all-out war against humanity, determined once and for all to stop the human menace from spreading across the galaxy.

My thoughts:

Much like the Deep Space Nine and Voyager relaunches, Enterprise novels were given a fresh start when the authors were allowed to move beyond the series finale and showcase events from a time period that never made it on screen. Beginning with The Good That Men Do, authors Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels told the story of the Starship Enterprise under Archer after we stopped watching their adventures in 2255. The Coaltion of Planets, Trip's fake death, and the run-up to the Romulan War were all explored. Now, we finally reach that fateful conflict. This time, however, Michael Martin is without his longtime writing partner, and is instead penning the novels solo. How does this entry stack up against the ones before it?

Unfortunately, I have to render a verdict of "not well." While the underlying story is certainly interesting, and the exploration of such a crucial period in Star Trek history is very welcome, the execution here is lacking in my opinion. The story at seems seems very ponderous, taking forever to get where it is going, and much of the momentum of the events is lost by the unfocused way the story moves through the early years of the Romulan War. It felt as though just as things are getting interesting, the book would jump ahead in time or to another setting at just the wrong time.

I appreciated that Beneath the Raptor's Wing featured perspectives different from the ones we're used to, including that of the Romulans conducting the war against Earth and her allies.

There are certainly a number of things I appreciated. I liked that the novel featured a variety of perspectives on the conflict, including an investigative journalist as well as colonists who have a different view of the war than either the Earth-born natives or the Starfleet crews that form the backbone of the defense of Earth and her colonies. Additionally, the opportunity to see things from the perspective of the Romulans added an interesting element to the book, although this leads to another issue that many online (myself included) had with this novel.

I don't speak Romulan. Heck, unlike many Trek fans, I don't even speak Klingon! But this book is inundated with Romulan terms and phrases. This is, on the face of it, not a bad thing. However, it got to the point while reading it that it got difficult to understand. I'm all for peppering a story with alien words here and there, but when it gets in the way of following the story, it might just be a bit much.

Perhaps if I were Admiral Valdore, I could have followed the use of Romulan terms in this novel with a little less confusion.

The Romulan War is a critical period in the future history of Star Trek, and it deserves to be showcased. This is the conflict that immediately precedes the founding of the United Federation of Planets, and leads to the world that we know and love from The Original Series one hundred years hence. I certainly wouldn't say that you shouldn't read this book; as I mentioned above, there are a number of very good factors that were enjoyable to read. It is simply that the novel as a whole doesn't hold up as much as I would like it to. Much like some people's opinions of the Voyager relaunch novels that were written before Kirsten Beyer took the helm, I feel that one should read these Enterprise relaunch novels in order to get to the good stuff: Christopher L. Bennett's Enterprise: Rise of the Federation series.

Final thoughts:

Regular readers of this blog will know that I generally dislike giving unfavorable reviews. I'm someone who is usually fairly easily pleased, and I tend to really enjoy a good Star Trek story. This one, however, left me somewhat cold. The story seems too ponderous in places, and the pacing felt off. There are certainly some positive aspects, including the different perspectives presented by the author as well as the expansive feel of the political landscape during this period, but it's not enough to make this one a really compelling read. And it's too bad, really; The Romulan War should be an important story that greatly adds to the mythology of Star Trek history. Unfortunately, Beneath the Raptor's Wing somewhat misses the mark.

More about Beneath the Raptor's Wing:

Podcast: Literary Treks 154: I Don't Speak Romulan

Also by Michael A. Martin:

My next read:

Next up is my video review for Dayton Ward's TNG: Hearts and Minds. On the written review front, look for my review of Kirsten Beyer's first Voyager relaunch novel, Full Circle.

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