Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fire with Fire

Star Trek: Prometheus
Fire with Fire by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg
Translated into English from the original German Feuer gegen Feuer
Release date: November 28th 2017
Read December 13th 2017

Next book (Prometheus): The Root of All Rage

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

Spoilers ahead for Fire with Fire!

Publisher's description:
A mysterious terrorist organization has carried out several attacks against the Federation and Klingon Empire. Tensions are running high in a region already crippled by conflict. The perpetrators are tracked to the Lembatta Cluster, a mysterious region of space whose inhabitants, the Renao, regard the the Alpha Quadrant’s powers as little more than conquering tyrants. The Federation are desperate to prevent more bloodshed, and have sent their most powerful warship, the U.S.S. Prometheus, into the Cluster to investigate the threat before all-consuming war breaks out.

My thoughts:

"You have not experienced Star Trek until you have read it in the original German." - Chancellor Angela Merkel, probably.

I, unfortunately, do not read German. So when it was announced that an original Star Trek trilogy would be published in German by Cross Cult Publishing, I was thrilled, but also a bit sad that I wouldn't be able to read it myself. However, it was soon announced that English translations would follow, and I found myself looking forward to reading this take on the Star Trek literary universe. I promptly cancelled the German language courses I had signed up for and patiently waited for release day.

When I first heard the premise of Prometheus, I was a little bit wary. The idea of taking the most powerful, uber-strong, cool, slick, and deadly starship in Star Trek and centering a book series around it felt a little bit "fan-fictiony." It was the sort of idea that young fans playing Star Trek on the playground might come up with. We see the Prometheus kicking ass in the Voyager episode "Message in a Bottle," dispatching a Romulan Warbird with nary a second thought, splitting into three parts and generally being really bad-ass. Sounds kind of fan-wanky to me.

Thankfully, I was wrong about this. This first book in the Prometheus trilogy turned out to be a thoughtful and fascinating story, a welcome addition to the Star Trek literary universe. For a number of reasons, I had judged this project unfairly, and I came away pleasantly surprised.

The "hero ship" of this series is the U.S.S. Prometheus, seen in the fourth season Voyager episode "Message in a Bottle."

The inciting incident for this story is a series of attacks by a terrorist group calling itself "The Purifying Flame," seemingly-disaffected young people from a species called the Renao, a typically isolationist species who call the Lembatta Cluster home. The Purifying Flame calls aliens "sphere defilers." Their belief is based on the idea that everyone should remain in their "sphere" - their home - and that by entering other environments, they inherently destroy them.

In order to bring the parties responsible for the terrorist attacks to justice, the U.S.S. Prometheus is dispatched to the Lembatta Cluster, along with the Klingon ship I.K.S. Bortas, formerly the flagship of Chancellor Gowron, now considered a "ship without honor." The Bortas is commanded by a young and inexperienced captain who is considered a "hero of the Ning'tao," but in actuality is impulsive and somewhat reckless.

Accompanying the Prometheus into the Lembatta Cluster is the I.K.S. Bortas, first seen in the fourth season TNG episode "Reunion."

This all sets us up for what looks to be a fascinating adventure in the Lembatta Cluster, investigating the Renao and The Purifying Flame. The presence of the Klingons, who are more eager to deal out their particular brand of justice than the Federation officers, adds a volatile element to the story. The two crews working together showcases an interesting dynamic, as Starfleet idealism sometimes gives way to the "efficiency" of Klingon methods.

Fire with Fire surprised me with how well it fit into the established Star Trek literary continuity. It makes sense, given that Cross Cult is responsible for the publishing of the Pocket Books' Trek line in Germany, that the Prometheus series would follow the post-Nemesis continuity, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see characters such as Admiral Akaar along with references to events in other recent Trek novels.

I have to admit that the addition of Ambassador Spock to this story was almost a bridge too far for me.

For the most part, this novel avoids the "fan-wanky" elements I was concerned with initially. However, it does come close a few times. The inclusion of a number of familiar characters was welcome, but when Ambassador Spock shows up, it almost crosses the line into too much. Another instance that I thought would be an issue, but actually turns out to be not too bad, is the addition of a descendant of the Kirk family to the cast. Jenna Kirk, an engineer on the Prometheus, is a descendant of James T. Kirk's nephew, Peter. Her character is more three-dimensional than just "another Kirk," however, and she was a welcome addition to the story.

Finally, another character whose presence makes sense in the story is the Federation ambassador to the Klingon Empire, Alexander Rozhenko. The son of Worf plays an interesting role in the story, and serves to sort of "ride herd" on the Klingons taking part in the mission. I have to admit, it's nice to see more development of this character.

One character addition that makes sense to the story is Ambassador Alexander Rozhenko.

The situation in this novel serves as a fairly blatant allegory to terrorism and governmental responses to it in today's world. This is definitely a point in the pro column. Star Trek is always at its best when it is used as a mirror for our own world. Terrorism and radicalization is a huge issue in the 21st century, and there are many lessons to be learned. Cheers to Perplies and Humberg for tackling this thorny issue in the Star Trek universe.

Finally, I have to give a hearty thumbs up to the authors for the "deep-cut" Trek references in this novel. These guys clearly know their Star Trek! My favorite would have to be the reference to the Ning'tao, which is the Klingon bird-of-prey that Kor took over in the Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Unto the Breach," taking on ten Jem'Hadar ships to buy time for the Klingon strike force in that episode to escape. It's clear that the captain of the Bortas is the "young and inexperienced" captain of the Ning'tao referred to in that episode!

Final thoughts:

A welcome addition to the world of Trek lit! I'm glad this series was made available to English speakers, as the story is off to a great start in this novel. An interesting allegory to the troubles facing the world today, Fire with Fire sets up the rest of the Prometheus trilogy nicely, putting pieces in place for what I hope turns out to be an epic adventure.

More about Fire with Fire:

Also by Bernd Perplies & Christian Humberg

Next time on Trek Lit Reviews:

My next review is for the Shatnerverse novel Preserver, the last book in his mirror universe trilogy.

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