Star Trek
Burning Dreams

Author: Margaret Wander Bonanno
Pocket Books
RRP: 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $10.99
ISBN-13: 978 0 7434 9693 3
ISBN-10: 0 7434 9693 0
Available 04 September 2006

From the embers of his early childhood among Earth's blossoming interstellar colonies, to the terrifying conflagration that led him back to the world of his birth; from the mentor who would ignite a young man's desire to explore the stars, to the career he blazed in Starfleet that would end in supreme sacrifice, the path of Christopher Pike's life leads through fire again and again. But even amid the ashes of Talos IV, the forbidden world on which he would live out the remainder of his days, the dreams still smouldering within his radiation-ravaged breast fan the flames of his spirit to accomplish one final task...

As author Margaret Wander Bonanno puts it in her afterword, the lack of information we have about Christopher Pike (the captain who preceded Kirk in command of the Starship Enterprise) invites our curiosity. On television he appeared only in the two-part Original Series story The Menagerie and the pilot episode from which half of that two-parter's material originated, The Cage. Like the authors of the early Eighth Doctor Doctor Who novels, who similarly had only a single TV movie from which to draw inspiration, Bonanno has only scraps of information to work with - but from these scraps she has crafted a rich tapestry.

She weaves together throwaway incidents and elements, such as Pike's mother's recipe for chicken-tuna sandwiches; his horse, Tango; and - more importantly - his torture by the Talosians with the illusion of fire, to construct a convincing life story of this tragic character. Bonanno has captured his capacity to over-analyse his mistakes and the burden of command, and imagines the events that led to the haunted expression that his frowning face bears during all too many scenes of The Cage.

Pike's life story begins with his early years on Earth and the colony world Elysium. These sections of the book are fascinating enough, but if you are hungry for starship action, you only have to wait until page 146 to get some of that, in a segment that pays homage to the movie Crimson Tide. Even the description of the maverick captain of the USS Aldrin, whose authority is undermined by First Officer Pike, resembles the likeness of actor Gene Hackman. Later sections detail some of Chris's time on board the Enterprise and some heart-rending return visits to Earth.

In addition to Pike, Bonanno also fleshes out other characters and events from The Cage and The Menagerie. She manages to explain, for example, why the bipedal Talosians were unable to rebuild Vina correctly; the reasons behind the aliens' curious change of attitude from jailers to carers; and Kirk, Spock and McCoy's debriefing following their return from Talos IV. She grasps the proto-Guinan aspects of Dr Boyce, who is as much a bartender and a listener as he is a physician. The enigmatic Number One is callous but far from unemotional (as some writers have seen her), as is demonstrated by her jealousy of any other women who lust after her beloved captain. There are plenty of Spock moments, too, as the Vulcan appears in several different eras, including a framing narrative set more than fifty years after the events of The Menagerie, at which time the now ambassador makes a return visit to the Talos star group.

Certain aspects of the book's chronology don't quite add up, to my mind. For instance, page 6 states that Commodore Mendez (portmaster of Starbase 11 in The Menagerie) was assigned to relieve Commodore Stone (portmaster of the same base in the episode Court Martial) shortly before the events of The Menagerie. However, later chapters indicate that Mendez ran the starbase for at least a year before the time of both stories. Perhaps Mendez relieves Stone in the sense that he takes on responsibility only for certain aspects of the starbase's operation, or the two of them command it on a rotational basis. I also feel that the stardate given for Pike's exposure to Delta radiation (1709.2) is too early, given that Court Martial occurs during stardates 2947.3-2950.1 and The Menagerie takes place during stardates 3012.4-3013.2.

In all important respects, though, this is a brilliant and engaging novel. The only problem now is that I wish I could read a whole series of books about Pike's adventures, preferably all written by Bonanno.

Richard McGinlay

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