Monday, January 8, 2018

Best Destiny

Star Trek
Best Destiny by Diane Carey
Published November 1991
Read November 21st 2016

Previous book (TOS - Hardcover): Probe

Next book (TOS - Hardcover): Shadows on the Sun

Spoilers ahead for Best Destiny!

From the back cover:
As James T. Kirk prepares to retire from a long and illustrious Starfleet career, events in a distant part of the Federation draw him back to a part of the galaxy he had last visited as a young man, a mysterious world called Faramond whose name takes Kirk on a journey back to his youth. At sixteen, Kirk is troubled, estranged from his father, and has a bleak future. However, a trip into space with Kirk's father George and Starfleet legend Captain Robert April changes James Kirk's life forever, when a simple voyage becomes a deadly trap. Soon Kirk and his father find themselves fighting for their lives against a vicious and powerful enemy. Before the voyage ends, father and son will face life and death together, and James T. Kirk will get a glimpse of the future and his own best destiny.

My thoughts:

"Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material."
- Captain Spock to Admiral Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Insights into the life of young James T. Kirk are rare throughout Star Trek history, at least until the 2009 Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams. Sure, we got hints here and there about his time at the academy; we know he was tormented by an upperclassman named Finnegan, and that he was considered to be a "stack of books with legs," deadly serious, focused on his studies and excelling at the Academy. But what about Jim Kirk, the boy? How did he get from his youth in Iowa to become one of the most famous captains in Starfleet history?

Best Destiny explores the life of young James T. Kirk, something that canon Trek stayed away from until Star Trek 2009.

Best Destiny by Diane Carey sets out to provide that answer. It's no surprise that the writers of Star Trek 2009 have said that this novel served as inspiration for their version of young James T. Kirk, given what we learn of the future captain's troubled youth. Rebellious and unfocused, the young Jimmy Kirk is on a path that his parents fear will lead to an unfulfilled life at best and an early grave at worst. His father, George Kirk, takes Jimmy on an adventure in space in a last-ditch attempt to put his life on a different course. The experiences he lives through during this mission will serve to shape the man he will become in the future.

I first read Best Destiny years ago as a young man myself, and the book made a significant impact on me. I was certainly not headed down a dark path like Kirk in this novel, but it still influenced me as a young reader to take stock of what is important in life and the effects that early experiences can have on one's future. As an adult, re-reading this book now has allowed me to appreciate it even more; Diane Carey's ability to tell a vivid and compelling story is showcased quite expertly here.

George Kirk takes his son Jimmy aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise during its early voyages under Captain Robert April

Jim's struggle for survival aboard a Starfleet shuttlecraft with his father George, Captain Robert April, and a number of other memorable crew members from the U.S.S. Enterprise feature moments that have stuck with me all these years, and upon re-reading, I was brought immediately back to the feelings they evoked as a young reader. The events that Jim experiences are horrific and serve to mould him into a more thoughtful and caring person, and Carey does an excellent job of conveying this to the reader.

The primary antagonist of the story is a foil to James Kirk named Roy Moss. He appears as a young man in the "past" section of the story, and as an older man in the "present" story as well. In many ways, he is a mirror of Kirk, growing up but leading a very different life. While Kirk became an honorable and principled Starfleet officer, Moss used his genius in the service of criminal enterprise, becoming twisted and corrupted. This was an interesting character, and it is somewhat unfortunate that his name inadvertently made me think of The I.T. Crowd every time it came up.

I can't be the only person who thinks of these two when I hear the name "Roy Moss."

Best Destiny was a favorite book of mine as a young man, and I'm happy to say that it holds up upon re-reading. There is a lot to relate to in the pages of this book, and Diane Carey writes her characters with a realism that is very much appreciated. Readers will be able to put themselves in Kirk's place in much of this story, which makes the conflicts that he faces feel very real and compelling.

Final thoughts:

Best Destiny tells the story of young James T. Kirk and what made him the heroic captain we know him to be. This is an excellent story that has held up in the couple of decades since I first read it, and I recommend it for any fan of Star Trek novels. Diane Carey has constructed a compelling story, both in the flashbacks to Jim's early years and in the crisis that Captain Kirk and his crew face shortly after the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It is still one of my favorite Star Trek novels.

More about Best Destiny:

Also by Diane Carey:

My next read:

Next up is my review of Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods in my attempt to get caught up on the new releases from last year!

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