Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru by Michael A Martin and Andy Mangels

Beware – significant spoilers ahead

That’s the last time I’ll write a spoiler warning on these Enterprise reviews, as at some point you will have already caught up. However these books – set moments before the Romulan War novels – still rest in that space where a reviewer needs to be careful about what he gives away.

As the name suggests, the novel ‘Kobayashi Maru’ is the origin of the famous Kobayashi Maru training scenario that has been such a landmark reference to Starfleet Academy down through the ages. But beyond that, its placement in such a critical juncture – immediately preceding the Earth Romulan War – is a clever way to utilise such an iconic piece of Trek history.

The story was not as coherent as those that have come before it (‘Last Full Measure’ and ‘The Good That Men Do’) but is nevertheless a fine addition to the Enterprise relaunch. It acts as the necessary build-up for the Earth Romulan War, as well as continuing the work that Trip Tucker has been doing behind enemy lines. While littered with a few too many convenient occurrences along the way, you can still enjoy the story being told for the return of favourite characters.

I have mentioned it in both previous reviews that the authors don’t seem to have a very good grasp on how to write a Vulcan. T’Pol seems far too driven by her emotions with no real time spent exploring why. A fundamental premise of the Star Trek universe has always been that Vulcan’s do feel, and sometimes as strongly – if not more so – than humans, but that they repress those emotions. There is a lot an author can work with here, but Martin and Mangels don’t seem to bother, rather, sending T’Pol off on hare-brained intergalactic chases with very little logical thought. It is disappointingly lazy writing, especially given the wealth of resources they have access to, and the deep characters they are playing with.

That being said, the interplay between the crewmembers is a welcome return to some of the old Trek stories of yore. While not as nuanced as other authors, Martin and Mangels do write a convincing Captain Archer, and the political interplay and pressures Archer – as well as fellow NX-class captain Erika Hernandez – are placed under make for highlights in this book. Sadly, characters like Travis Mayweather and Malcom Reed are two-dimensional and underused, while Hoshi Sato is relegated to barely more than a reoccurring character.

The reality is that I’m craving these stories and I’ll take them no matter the form they’re given to me. I want to read more about how the Federation formed and what happened to end the Earth-Romulan conflict. The fact that I’m being forced to read sloppy characterisation and plot is just unfortunate. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend Kobayashi Maru to you, but if you are – like me – set on reading through the Enterprise relaunch, then you won’t be overly taxed in reading this.

6/10 For those who want to read more about how the Federation formed.

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