In Retro Review: Star Trek: The Children of Kings
Published by Pocket Books, May 2010. Paperback of 401 pages at $7.99.
The cover: A terrific photo mash-up of an anxious Captain Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter, and concerned science officer Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, above the Enterprise as it’s in warp. This image convinced me to pick this book up. I’m always interested in Captain Pike adventures since they’re such an undermined source of material, plus the book was fairly hefty for a Trek novel. Overall grade: A+
The premise: From the back cover: “A distress call goes out from a Federation outpost near the Klingon border. The U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, responds. Starbase 18 lies in ruin. There are no survivors. And there is no clue as to who is responsible for the attack, until Captain Pike’s brilliant science officer discovers a means of retrieving parts of the station’s log. Lieutenant Spock has detected signs of a unique energy signature, one that he believes is Klingon. There are unsubstantiated reports that the Klingon Empire has made a technological leap forward and created a cloaking device–code-named Black Snow Seven–that can shield their ships from even the most advanced sensors. The destruction of the base and the unique energy signature that remains prove that he Empire has succeeded. For generations the Orions have been know as pirates, operating at the margins, outside of legal conventions. A proud and powerful race, the Orions were once a major force in the sector, and they have been using the tension between the Klingon Empire and the Federation to rebuild their power. Captain Pike is charged with trying to foster cooperation between the Orions and the Federation. A distress call from an Orion vessel offers him the perfect opportunity. But the Orion ship lies in disputed space long claimed by the Klingon Empire, and crossing it could be the spark that sets off an interstellar war.” ‘Nuff said! Klingons and Orions in a pre-Kirk Star Trek story? Oh, I’m definitely in. Overall grade: A
The characters: Captain Christopher Pike is a no-nonsense, get to the point leader. He wants all the facts before rushing into a situation and he’ll always listen to his officers’ opinions, even if he keeps him from doing something in his leisure time. There is a major character arc for him beginning in Chapter 7. Spock is not the most important secondary character in this book. He has all his typical Spock traits, but he’s confounded by a puzzle that he can’t let go. The way he solves it is highly unconventional for him, but since this is pre-series I took this to be the “emotional” Spock under Pike. Much more interesting is the mysterious Number One, played by Majel Barrett. We are treated to some backstory I’ve never heard/read before, plus her interactions with Spock were great! The character who really gets a good chunk of the book is Dr. Phillip Boyce, played by Ronn Smith. He’s the codger of a doctor that classic Trek is know for, but he’s a got a major backstory that ties beautifully into this book. Of all the officers aboard the Enterprise, Dr. Boyce is the one readers get the most information on and his character grows the most. The antagonist could be the female leader of the Orions, Liyan of the Codruta, Tallith of the Orion Peoples, but can any male trust an alien whose pheromones make them highly suggestive? She is not what she seems. There are also Klingons in this book, who may or may not be causing trouble, and heaven knows that there are plenty of crew members on the Enterprise who are eager to go to war with the Empire. This was a great cast of characters, old and new, and they all had moments/lines/actions that increased my understanding and enjoyment of them. Overall grade: A+
The settings: Three years into Pike’s original five year mission is this book’s settings, and the locations are on the Enterprise, the Karkon’s Wing–the Orion ship, the ruins of Starbase 18, and the Klingon-Starfleet-Orion neutral zone, the Borderland. All settings were described with ease allowing the veterans and first time readers easy access into this universe. Overall grade: A
The action: I can’t be too specific, but there are phaser shots, space battles, and plenty of fisticuffs to satisfy any action fan. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: A great surprise on Page 260 starts increasing the tension until the big finale, which is great! You know the leads will survive, we have to get to the events of the classic Trek two parter “The Menagerie,” but there is some terrific character growth for the characters, including the villains. You’ll have to read this to see for yourself. Overall grade: A+
The final line: I’ve read the majority of Star Trek novels published, so it takes a lot to entertain me. A Captain Pike novel is the perfect way to give me something new and this book did. I couldn’t put it down once I started. Overall grade: A
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.