Wednesday 4 July 2012

Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru - Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

Title: Kobayashi Maru
Author: Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2008
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

"Kobayashi Maru" is the latest novel in my Star Trek Reading Challenge which is dedicated to trying to read the Star Trek novels in chronological order. This novel picks up after the events that occurred in the previous novel, "The Good That Men Do" which I have previously reviewed here. For anyone who doesn't know, the title is based upon the name of the infamous no-win scenario taken by potential Starfleet command applicants and it has been a part of Star Trek lore since 1982 when it was first mentioned in the movie, "The Wrath of Khan". Therefore, when I picked up this book I was really looking forward to seeing the authors' vision of how this scenario had actually originated.

However, the story is rather more ambitious in its scope than just covering this element and the main plotline follows the reaction of the newly formed Coalition of Planets when it begins to become under attack by what appears to be Klingon ships. However, the Enterprise and its crew soon uncover that the Romulans are the true enemy and must try and prove it before the Coalition is drawn into a war against the wrong species. Meanwhile, Trip continues his espionage role from within the Romulan Empire in the hope that he can help to ensure that any war will not consume Earth and its allies.

I found that this novel mixed action, suspense, drama and political intrigue to create a rather entertaining and enjoyable novel that should appeal to many Star Trek fans. I really enjoyed the way that the story looked at the bigger picture of the overall looming conflict. It just felt a bit more realistic to see other ships and crew being involved in important events rather that it all being focussed on the Enterprise.

However, some elements of this bigger picture focus does lead to rather slow pacing in stages. Therefore I was happy to see that the slower elements of the story were broken up by quicker paced sections devoted to Trip and his spying. As well as being interesting as they explored a little bit more about the secretive Romulan Empire they were also quite simply exciting and full of suspense. Although to be honest, I still sometimes find it hard to believe that someone who wears their heart on their sleeve to the extent Trip does could really be as good at spying as is portrayed in this novel and its predecessor.

In regards to my initial interest in reading about the origins of the Kobayashi Maru scenario, I have to admit I was a little bit underwhelmed. The novel's finale is actually based around the loss of the Kobayashi Maru transport ship but it felt like it was lacking in suspense and I found it all rather bland compared to what I had seen previously in the novel. It was still nice to see someone try and create an origins story but it just didn't work as well as I hoped it would.

There were a couple of others issues I did have with the book although I can't say they either of them had any large affect on my overall enjoyment. The first is in regards to the use of alien words throughout the novel. This type of thing can sometimes enrich a novel but in this case it just seemed a little bit excessive and annoying. It basically spoilt some of my understanding of the events that were occurring as most of the alien words were measurements of distance and time and I didn't know how these referenced to our own units of measurements

The second issue I had with the novel though was in regards to the manner in which several characters reacted to events. Some of them just seemed very slow in coming to an understanding about what was happening even when it was blindingly obvious to me and I am just a random project manager and not the captain of one of Earth's prized star ships. In particular I noticed this when Captain Hernandez of the Columbia seemed unable to conceive that the Romulan ability to capture alien ships could maybe explain the strange occurrence of Vulcan ships attacking them. I just found it hard to believe that some of our best and brightest could be that dense.

In summary, I found this to be an enjoyable Star Trek novel that I think will appeal to many fans although it really does feel like a middle book in a series and makes no real attempt at being readable in a stand alone manner. Whilst, there a few minor issues that I did find irritating, it didn't really affect my interest in the story as the mix of political manoeuvring, action and drama was good enough to keep me hooked. Personally, I can't wait to pick up the next novel and see where this looming conflict between the Coalition and the Romulans will head next.

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Ebook Reading Challenge (The Eclectic Bookshelf)
Ebook Reading Challenge (Workaday Reads)
Speculative Fiction Challenge


  1. Good review..The use of all those strange romulan terms for time and distance in particular, bothered me a lot too. Was an unnecessary overkill and didn├Ęt really add much to the story. The least the writer could have done (to not force avid fans to have to drop the novel and google foreign terms) was to include a glossary of these terms as an appendix to the novel and mention what the hell they meant in terms we understand...

    Anyways, apart from that I really really enjoyed this novel.

    Btw, Your reference to Hernandez's behaviour makes me wonder if flashbacks in the Destiny series contradicts parts of the Romulan war series. Will go back and check. Thanks.

  2. @Sri

    I haven't read the Destiny novels yet so I can't comment on the Hernandez flashbacks.

    However, she does finally understand what is happening in the battle with the vulcan ships. It is just that she seems so slow to realise it.