Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Starfleet Academy 03: Survival

Starfleet Academy: Survival is the last book of the series written by Peter David. The Starfleet Academy series will continue for several other books leading to a total of 14 written by various Star Trek writers. The books will focus of various other characters, most notably characters of TNG during their cadet years.

Survival is a direct continuation of Line of Fire. David recaps the story of the previous book in the first few pages of Survival and continues to tell the story of how Worf and the others stayed on Dantar for two weeks. The titular survival isn’t very difficult. Several buildings of the colony where destroyed in the attack but many of them remain in a state that allowed the survivors to live in relative comfort while waiting to be rescued. 

While waiting for rescuers, the survivors spend their time fighting amongst each other. Zak and the Klingons engage in fisticuffs and tension runs high overall. Soleta finds a ship that crash landed on the planet and investigates it only to find out it’s the ship that attacked the colony. The story shifts focus and becomes about uncovering the mysteries that began in the second book. Who attacked the colony and why? The colonist who left knew they were leaving people behind, why is it that nobody has come to rescue the remaining survivors? They’re not very good mysteries because the length of the book (just above 100 pages) requires a quick resolution and David keeps the pace brisk. It’s ok though because he’s taken the time to provide more character moments than he did in the earlier stories.

I liked that even though the novel clearly focuses on Worf, David gave the rest of the Dream Team their time to shine.  Tania and Soleta are starting to feel like real characters. There is a particularly nice exchange between Tania and Worf where she expresses her discomfort and disappointment at Worf for treating her unkindly in order to impress K’Ehleyr a scene that took place earlier. Zak is given quite a lot of time in the limelight because of his dislike of Klingons but he remains a flat character. He simply repeats the events of his first encounter with Worf with other Klingon characters on Dantar. He eventually comes around and makes peace with them but he’s simply copy the same character arc from the first book. Mark also gets more scenes than in the first book but David often uses them as a way to show off his status as a genius while also using him as a source of comic relief. It’s not used excessively and has yet to be tiresome but it contributes to the third and second books feeling of being repetitive when it comes to how some of the characters act.

Part of me is glad that I’m done these books by David. Starfleet Academy sounds like a good idea but the execution doesn’t live up to the potential. Even so, I have a difficult time thinking about how these books could have been written better. There aren’t very many great stories that can be told in just over 100 pages. The style and tone of the young adult series doesn’t seem to allow for stories with much depth. I appreciate that David took the time to create a few new characters but he doesn’t have the opportunity to really develop them. As much as I really like Worf, there is too much focus on him. I completely understand why. From a publishing standpoint it’s difficult to envision that fans want to read about new characters. You expect readers to want to read something familiar, especially when considering tie-in media. I also think it’s extremely important for new characters, new series and new stories. I appreciated what David’s tried to do with his Starfleet Academy book. Now that I’m done, I’m looking forward to reading his Star Trek: New Frontier series which has many of the new characters in Starfleet Academy as regular characters in the series. It will be some time though since I’m still trying to find the first and second book of the series. In the meantime I’ll read other Star Trek books by Peter David. 

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