I actually like Star Trek: Enterprise. It had its problems, and plenty of problem episodes, and I’m not a fan of the Expanse story. But whenever the series dealt with the Vulcans and Andorians (especially), the series was at its best, and showing Earth’s initial influence on its neighbors was a good direction.

The apparent plans were that the fifth season would tackle the Earth-Romulan War mentioned in “Balance of Terror”. So, in a series of novels dealing with carrying the Enterprise storyline forward, that is an obvious, and attractive, subject.

The first problem is that it is more tied into the previous novels than you’d think. This starts off right after Kobayashi Maru, and everyone is still dealing with the aftermath of that book… which I haven’t read. Second, I am quite tired of in medias res openings that try to excite you with things that happen long after the start of the story. If the story’s good, it can be good from the start, trust me. And this one is so bad that you don’t even catch up to it until the next book! After that… the novel is a bit too ambitious. It covers a bit over a year with Star Fleet having to deal with a real shooting war that they’re not really ready for, and the Coalition of Planets’ mutual defense treaties buckle under. (Actually, the main problem is Vulcan staying steadfastly out of the war, and that’s not handled as well as it could have been.)

The novel is long, and goes for the ‘cast of thousands’ side of things, which works here. Far better than it would in a shorter format, such as weekly episodes, so Martin making good use of his opportunities here. It does mean this is a much slower read than most any other Star Trek novel you’re likely to run into. On the other hand, I think he needed to tighten up on tone and theme, and look more at how this war is shaping Star Fleet, and taking it ever further from it’s pure exploration roots.

One sub-plot I have definite troubles with is with Tucker. The plot itself isn’t a bad one, and certainly becomes important in the next book, but he just feels like a really unlikely choice for spy. Of course, this also flows out of a previous book (presumably Kobayashi Maru, but I don’t know). There’s a good attempt to explain why TOS’s bridge controls are so… “retro” compared to everything else, but I think we just have leave that to the side, since Strange New Worlds has overwritten that part. Unfortunately, one bit in that part would be… frankly, impossible, and I’m glad it’s just a one line mention. (There might be ways to make it work, but not as stated.)

Overall, it’s a good book, and a good delve into a period that we won’t see in any other way. There’s a bit too much sand in the concrete of the foundation, but it still stands well on it’s own, other than ending on a ‘to be continued…’ note as To Brave the Storm is directly tied into it.