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Book Review

Book Cover

Star Trek
The Last Best Hope (Hardback)


Author: Una McCormack
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
322 pages
RRP: £16.99, US $25.00, Cdn $34.00
ISBN: 978 1 982 139445
Publication Date: 11 February 2020

The unthinkable has happened. The mighty Romulan Empire stands on the edge of a catastrophic disaster as its sun is heading towards becoming a supernova. With scant time available, Admiral Picard is ordered to form Starfleet’s response to this unprecedented event, a mission to rescue billions….

Picard: The Last Best Hope (2020. 322 pages) is the prequel novel to the television series, Picard. The novel was written by long standing trek novelist, Una McMormack, who has previously published eight Trek novels as well as numerous other genre works.

Really, while it is probably nice to be asked to do the prequel, McMormack has been given an unenviable task. On the one hand, she has to shuffle the various character to their starting positions in the show and secondly much of what could be used to surprise a reader has already been explored in the series.

As an aside, I do have a real problem with both the book and the show. So the basic plot is that the Romulan star will explode in a number of years. As this is not the Kelvin timeline there is no Spock on his way to shoot jam at the star, in the hope of stopping the event. This timeline's Spock is still on the Romulan home world, after the events of 'Unification'. Picard must both build, man and deploy a fleet to rescue the increasingly reluctant Romulans, not only from the core system but from many surrounding systems. And this was the bit I didn’t understand, which niggled me about both the book and the series.

One of the big points made, and part of the reason to introduce the character of La Forge, is that Starfleet doesn’t have enough ships, but it is never truly explained why this was only Starfleet's problems. Although the Romulans were enemies with pretty much every other power in the galaxy, they had fought alongside the Klingons in the Dominion War to free Cardassia.

There are also numerous other space faring civilisations and yet the burden only seems to fall on the shoulders of Starfleet. There is not even much reference to the Romulans own considerable fleet of war ships, merchant ships and pleasure craft which could have been used. I say all of this because one of the central tenets of both the show and the book is that Picard feels that Starfleet betrayed its own higher principles when, in fact, the mission fell somewhere between impossible and a fool’s errand. Picard should have been smart enough to see this.

Gripes aside, McMormack has produced a very reasonable genre novel within the limitations set.

The novel, for the main, is split between two locations. The first, the shipyards on Mars, allows her to explore the creation of the androids by Maddox and his team as well as fleshing out the relationship between Maddox and Aggie. She also uses some of this portion to explore the initial resistance of people who are being asked to give up considerable part of their lives to help a long term enemy.

The second focus of the book is aboard the Verity, Picard’s new flagship. Here we meet Raffi for the first time and her portion of the story goes a long way to explain her feelings towards Picard in the show. Out of every character she lost the most to the mission only to see Picard walk away at the end. The Verity’s voyage touches base with various characters that Picard meets in the show as well as some situations of McCormack’s own making.

Lastly, winding through the two main threads is the situation within Starfleet and the wider Federation. In many ways, because this is purely McCormack’s own invention, it is the most interesting part. Here she can examine how the many responses to a refugee crisis can play out, from rabble rousing politicians who are only really interested in their own acquisition of power, to the mob mentality when citizens feel that they are being asked to give up too much for people they have never met.

Personally I would have preferred that there was more of the latter content in the novel, but her remit was to get everyone into their starting positions, which probably didn’t give her a lot of wiggle room.

Her rendition of the known characters is good and overall she is able to capture the tone of their personalities and the cadence of their voices. She uses both the Captain's Logs and his own inner dialogue to expose Picard’s own fears, frustration and growing anger. That his last act is borne out of hubris is nothing the author could have changed as it was the initial set up for the show.


Charles Packer

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