Thursday, August 9, 2018

Preserver

Star Trek
Preserver by William Shatner
Published April 2001
Read July 25th 2017


Previous book (Shatnerverse): Dark Victory

Next book (Shatnerverse): Captain's Peril


Purchase:
Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
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E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for Preserver!

From the back cover:
In the Mirror Universe the tyrannical Emperor Tiberius, once captain of the ISS Enterprise, had great success turning captured alien weaponry to his advantage. Until, that is, his failure to seize the tantalising advances of the ancient First Federation. Now, in the more peaceful universe of the United Federation of Planets, Tiberius sees his second chance. And a new ally will help him take it - his alter ego for whom he has nothing but contempt - Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk. Honorable, idealistic and decent, James T. Kirk is many things Tiberius is not. But he is also a man deeply in love with his wife - and Teilani is dying. To save her life, Kirk is prepared to compromise his ideals and enter into his most dangerous alliance yet. Battling Captain Jean-Luc Picard and a new generation of Starfleet heroes, Kirk must guide Tiberius to a long-abandoned First Federation base which conceals a power so great it will enable Tiberius to conquer the mirror universe - and his own. But on that journey Kirk uncovers long-hidden secrets that raise the stakes far beyond the mere survival of family and friends. At the heart of their quest, something else is waiting: an object from a civilisation whose technology is far more advanced than any Kirk or Tiberius could hope to acquire, placed there for Kirk's eyes only by mysterious aliens who appear to have influenced life within the galaxy over eons of time - a message from the Preservers...

My thoughts:

As the title of this novel suggests, the enigmatic "Preservers" are at the heart of the story. The implication in Preserver is that this species is responsible for galaxy-changing events and interference spanning billions of years. They may even be the same race of ancient humanoids seen in the TNG episode "The Chase," responsible for "seeding" worlds throughout our galaxy and giving rise to the humanoid form that is so common in the Star Trek universe. However, the only canon reference to the Preservers comes to us from the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome," in which it is revealed that they were responsible for transplanting a community of Native Americans from Earth to another planet. Seeing as this would have to have occurred within the last 10,000 years, I always find it strange that the Preservers are linked to events that span billions of years. Preserver isn't the only story to do this; other sources such as Star Trek Online have also postulated an ancient origin for the Preservers.

The Preservers, mentioned in the TOS episode "The Paradise Syndrome," feature heavily in this novel. However, they are implied to be quite different from the beings that are explored in that episode.

This issue aside, Preserver is actually a fascinating conclusion to Shatner's Mirror Universe trilogy. We learn a lot about why things are the way they are in the Trek universe, and much of it comes down to the actions of the Preservers. Many Trek fans were put out by the revelations of the influence a computer AI had on the early Federation as revealed in David Mack's Section 31: Control, but I would contend that the Preservers' impact as outlined in this novel is much greater and more far-reaching. For example, we learn that they were likely responsible for placing people in key positions in order to shape the outcome of the universe, such as ensuring that James T. Kirk became captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Come to think of it, this may explain why everything worked out the way it did in the 2009 Star Trek film...

The story itself wraps up the trilogy in a satisfying manner. One complaint I do have, however, is the death of Kirk's wife, Teilani. I felt she was too important a character to essentially "fridge" in this manner, and her death felt empty, as it seems to just be motivation for Kirk rather than important to Teilani's story. However, I do understand that William Shatner was working through some things during the creation of this novel, including the tragic death of his wife, and it has been suggested to me that this plot point may have stemmed from that terrible incident.

An interesting aspect of the story is the idea that all of the parallel earths we see in Star Trek: The Original Series (see: "Miri," "Bread and Circuses," "The Omega Glory," et al.) were created by the Preservers as "experiments," trying different theories and outcomes by changing variables. In fact, the mirror universe itself was created via the Preservers as well.

In a Star Trek: Discovery easter egg, we see a Preserver obelisk. Might that series one day explore the origins of this enigmatic race?

After finishing two of the three "Shatnerverse" trilogies, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stories. Sure, there is far too much Kirk-worship for my tastes, but if you go in with that expectation, there are some good stories to be found here. I'm certain that much of that is due to the writing expertise of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Their stories have been consistently excellent, and it's good to see that their abilities are put to good use by the Shatnerverse, even if the basic premise and heroic acts of James T. Kirk strain credibility.

Final thoughts:

A fine conclusion to the Mirror Universe Shatner trilogy, but nothing extremely groundbreaking. The usual tropes are here, and the plot itself didn't completely wow me. I was fascinated by the revelations about the Preservers and role they play in creating the multiverse, but the fact that the conclusions the story comes to don't jive well with what is established about them in canon doesn't sit extremely well with me. 3/5.

More about Preserver:


Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Up next is a novel from the late days of the TOS numbered novels era: Mudd in Your Eye by Jerry Oltion.