Friday, September 7, 2018

Captain's Peril

Star Trek:
Captain's Peril by William Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Published October 2002
Read January 9th 2018

Previous book (Shatnerverse): Preserver

Next book (Shatnerverse): Captain's Blood

Hardcover: | |

Mass-market paperback: | |
E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for Captain's Peril!

From the back cover:
The Dominion War is over. The Federation is at peace. What better time for two legendary starship captains to set aside the demands of duty and simply take some well-deserved time off?  
But when James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard arrive on Bajor to dive among the ruins of an ancient sunken city, conditions are far from what they had planned. The small group of scientists the captains have joined suddenly find their equipment sabotaged -- isolating them from Deep Space Nine and any hope of rescue -- as one by one, a murderer stalks them. 
Cut off from the people and technology on which they have always depended, Kirk and Picard must rely more than ever on their own skills and abilities, and their growing friendship, to solve the mysterious deaths and protect one of Bajor's greatest living treasures. 
At the same time, Kirk finds the events he and Picard struggle with are similar to one of the first challenges he faced as the new captain of the Starship Enterprise, less than six months into his first five-year mission. 
Now, with time running out for a dying child trapped in the scientists' camp, and Picard missing after a diving disaster, Kirk must search his memories of the past to relive one of his earliest adventures, propelling him into a harrowing personal journey that reveals the beginning of his path from young Starfleet officer to renowned legend, and the existence of a new and completely unsuspected threat to the existence of all life in the universe. 
From the breathtaking shores of Bajor's Inland Sea to the welcoming arms of a seductive and deadly alien commander intent on making Kirk her own, Star Trek: Captain's Peril is the exciting new novel that spans space and time to present Captain Kirk's most personal, and most extreme, adventure yet.

My thoughts:

Captain James T. Kirk has had an eventful few years in the 24th century after having been resurrected by the Borg in the novel The Return. Along with Picard and the crew of the Enterprise, he has saved the galaxy from the likes of Vulcan extremists, interlopers from the Mirror Universe (including his own mirror counterpart), and The Preservers, a "super race" that manipulates events throughout the universe to conform to their own design.

Now, he faces his greatest challenge yet: a vacation on Bajor with Picard.

I'm serious. The A plot of this novel has Kirk and Picard enjoying a holiday together, a vacation which includes an orbital sky-diving accident that nearly claims their lives. This is an interesting enough development, but the sky-diving incident takes up three chapters of this novel alone.

I found much of the A plot of Captain's Peril to be a plodding, slow-moving, confused mess. After the near-death experience of a sky-dive with faulty equipment (which is totally down to negligence on the part of Kirk in my opinion), Kirk and Picard get swept up in a murder investigation among a community of rural Bajorans. The pair play investigators until an incident at sea leads to Picard being presumed dead. This is a part of the novel that truly annoyed me. We (the readers) know for a fact that Picard cannot be dead. The book takes place in between Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis, and Picard would never be killed off in a novel. Nevertheless, I got the impression that Captain's Peril tried very hard to convince me that he was really, actually dead. While the reactions that Kirk has to this are interesting, the jeopardy is completely manufactured as, over the course of a number of chapters, the book continues to attempt to convince the reader that Picard has died.

We also get the latest in a series of situations in which Kirk has to show that he is the absolute best. In this case, it has to do with his newfound knowledge and understanding of the Bajoran religion. He and he alone is the one to determine the true nature of a sea creature and the link it has to the Bajoran Prophets (yes, I am aware of how strange that sentence is). Not only does he routinely outsmart Picard and his crew in these books, but now he's even better at the Bajoran religion than Sisko, who is the Prophets' Emissary! Thanks to Kirk's deep understanding of the relationship between the Bajorans and the Prophets (acquired over the course of a few chapters in this novel, it seems), he is able to save the life of a Bajoran girl and solve a mystery that has stumped everyone else.

Another issue I had with Captain's Peril is its treatment of the Bajorans. Granted, the Bajorans we see in this novel are particularly rural and provincial, but they are depicted as "backwater" and prejudiced to a degree that I found to be patronizing. Kirk and Picard swoop in and "save" them, but of course are initially misunderstood and feared. The way the book treats the Bajorans is, frankly, insulting.

The B plot of the book, which is a flashback to Kirk's earliest days as captain of the Enterprise, is much better than the rest of the story. We see Kirk coming face to face with an enigmatic alien woman, and he must compete with the Klingons for access to her advanced technology. This story was fascinating, and obviously sets up events to come in the next two novels. I especially liked Kirk and Spock's early interactions, as they lent an interesting perspective to the close relationship that would eventually form between the two life-long friends.

Another positive is the epilogue, in which the U.S.S. Monitor (previously seen in the novel The Return) comes face-to-face with The Totality in interstellar space. The hook at the end was just enough to get me interested in the novels that follow.

Final thoughts:

The "Shatnerverse" books have had their ups and downs; there are some genuinely great reads among them. Sadly, Captain's Peril is not one of those. The story wasn't one that captivated me at any point, and instead served to further inflate the already-over-the-top image of Captain Kirk's greatness. The book's depiction of the Bajorans also disappointed me. The story is somewhat elevated by the flashback scenes to the early days of Kirk's first five-year mission, as well as an exciting epilogue, but overall the story can't escape its pedestrian A-plot. 1/5.

Also by Williams Shatner with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens:

More about Captain's Peril:

My next read:

Next up: a video review of Kirsten Beyer's latest Voyager novel: The Architects of Infinity!

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