If you’re a Star Trek fan you may have felt a little short changed when it comes to tie-in book material over the last few years.
Pocket Books built an entire micro-industry on the ‘post-Nemesis’ novels, continuing the story of the ‘Prime’ universe after the last Next Generation movie and the end of the 24th Century set series on television, with books coming out almost monthly for many years. With the arrival of the ‘Kelvin timeline’ of the JJ Abrams films, and latterly CBS’ re-ignition of the franchise on TV with Discovery, those Prime books have slowed to a near crawl, giving way to prequel explorations of the Discovery characters for the most part. Even most of the tie-in comics have avoided continuing the original Star Trek story in favour of gimmicks such as Waypoint or Terra Incognita.
The three-book Star Trek Prometheus trilogy, therefore, is a welcome blast of Star Trek from the Prime timeline. Originally published in Germany by writers Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg, the English revisions worked to more seamlessly tie the story of the USS Prometheus into the broader timeline and the ongoing events across all of the many series, which a legion of writers and editors work hard to sync up. Prometheus manages to chart its own little corner of the Alpha Quadrant while servicing the bigger galactic map. Let’s not kid ourselves – if you’re up to date with the novels, you’ll get more out of this, but there is a strong enough tale being told that you can approach the trilogy without needing an encyclopaedia next to you.
In the Heart of Chaos, the most recently released novel from Titan Books, is the concluding part of a series (following Fire with Fire and The Root of All Rage) that arguably has improved novel by novel. The trio very much form the beginning, middle and end of one, roughly 1000 page tale, in which the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire suffer a horrific set of terrorist attacks by a radical organisation known as the Purifying Flame, an extremist group of a race known as the Renao, who seek to stop Federation expansion across the galaxy. The powerful battleship, the USS Prometheus, must pair up with faded former Klingon flagship, the IKS Bortas, to find the terrorists inside the remote, largely unexplored Lembatta Cluster.
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All of the requisite Star Trek elements are packed into the trilogy. A region of space new to Starfleet (in this case a formation of planets inside a red gas area of the cosmos, which resembles a Dante-esque journey), a new race the books dig into (the aforementioned Renao, isolationists with a mythical creation story who resemble literal demons from Earth mythology), a ship and a crew made up of different species (resolute human Captain, horny female Andorian security chief, tactless Benzite science officer etc…) and a crisis situation large enough to compare with most of the Star Trek motion picture plots. You wonder really why the USS Enterprise-E isn’t here sorting this mess out.
Regardless, while there is a relative predictability about where the trilogy goes, and like any tie-in material it cannot really mess with the Star Trek status quo, Perplies and Humberg do a good enough job characterising both the crews of the Prometheus and the Bortas that you would happily spend more time with them beyond this crisis. Admittedly they rely a touch too heavily on good old Ambassador Spock, who by now is a bit of a Trek ‘Mary Sue’, and the central political and sociological message reflecting our own current situation is laid on so thick it’s a wonder the ship’s bulkheads don’t collapse, but the story sweeps you along enough to sustain three books (just about).
You can’t really take on ‘In the Heart of Chaos’ without picking up the previous two books because it is absolutely the final act of a three-part story, and not a standalone adventure. So really it’s either all three Prometheus books or none, so bear that in mind before purchasing. If you take the plunge, however, for die-hard Star Trek fans, this will be thoroughly enjoyable. Will it convince a newbie to fall in love with Trek? I’ll leave a Vulcan, Spock-like raised eyebrow here for that one.
Star Trek Prometheus: ‘In the Heart of Chaos’ is now available from Titan Books.