I genuinely meant to go from reading the disappointing Zero Sum Game into… you know, an actual book. I do in fact try to read those occasionally. But the book left kind of a bad taste in my mouth and I really needed to justify the fact that I own over forty Star Trek novels. Many of which I really like. So I picked up Prime Directive, a book that’d been on my to-read pile for a few months and which was written by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. These two have quickly ascended to the ranks of Trek writers I will always read, an extremely small category that really only includes Peter David and Diane Duane (She wrote Spock’s World.). Prime Directive has everything I want out of a Trek novel and it may be the finest one I’ve read since Federation.
The book takes place sometime towards the end of the Enterprise’s original five year mission. The Enterprise has been destroyed, its remains in orbit around a once bustling, now dead planet. The bridge crew have been forced to resign from Starfleet, Uhura may be facing prison and Captain Kirk has disappeared. What was supposed to be a standard investigation into a planet that was fifty years away from a scheduled first contact with the Federation has resulted in the deaths of billions.
When I first started reading Prime Directive and discovered the stakes of the book, I was certain it would end with time travel or some other damn cop-out. The friggin’ Enterprise was destroyed for Christ’s sake! But Prime Directive plays it absolutely straight with you. Not a trick, not a dream, not an imaginary tale. (Well, actually it IS that. Like all Trek novels.)
Prime Directive does what all great Trek novels do. Firstly, it nails the characterization. The characters’ voices are perfectly replicated in the book. Certain chapters from Spock’s point of view are absolutely spot-on, as he analyzes his surroundings while multitasking on things around him that grab his interest. I also notice that the best Trek books often make the characters a little better, more ideal than the show did. While the character still feels like Kirk, he feels like a smarter, less impulsive Kirk. Not a character that abandons a planet to the development he thinks it deserves, but one who (at the very least at the start of the book) feels that he has committed a terrible wrong he must right.
Secondly, everyone in Prime Directive has something interesting to do. Even though the crew spends most of the book separated (or possibly because of it.), everyone contributes. Including Chekov who along with Sulu attempt to steal a starship from an Organian pirate. It’s pretty damn awesome. In fact the book is full of awesome moments like this, including a suspenseful moment in which Scotty attempts to defuse a nuclear missile using tractor beams. The sporadic space battles are also quite well done. One of the things I hate most in science fiction novels are extended space battles. It’s one of the reasons I stopped reading Star Wars books. Prime Directive really only has a few but they are short and exciting.
Prime Directive is by far one of the best Star Trek novels I have ever read, easily within my top five. It’s apparently the second in a two part arc, (Memory Prime, also by the Reeves-Stevens.) but at no point in the book did I feel like I was missing anything. I have no idea whether it is still in print or not, but you’re interested, you can find it here. I cannot recommend it enough.