Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
This was a fun book that took a turn for the serious near the end and left off on a much more thoughtful note than I had expected. What you get with this books is a a few laughs and a bit of existential pondering.
Honestly, I can see why this one won the Hugo award. Writers LOVE books about storytelling and the creative process and this book has it in spades. What I had expected to get out of this book was a few laughs at the gentle ribbing of Star Trek and its sometimes silly plot devices, but what I didn’t expect was all the bits about writing and creating.
Let’s start off with the expected. Yes, this was gently making fun of some of the things we have all come to know and love about Star Trek and its writing–the biggest of all of course is that those anonymous crew members who wear red shirts and seem to be expendable every episode and are there basically to ramp up the stakes by dying and showing how dangerous space is! This books takes those anonymous characters and sets it from their point of view, making them the protagonists of the story instead of just extras. This is fun and also leaves room for a lot of jokes. I’ll admit that I did laugh quite a bit on all the inside jokes like ‘the box’ and the non-explanation on how it worked or even why it existed. When you encounter things like that in a show or even a book you don’t always question it because you know it’s something to help move the plot along or just there for dramatic purposes, but when faced with something like this in their reality the characters are very confused and it was pretty hilarious.
The characters are, for the most part, likable. Even those that were slightly more abrasive eventually grew on me after a while. I don’t think any of them stood out as outstanding for me, or favorites, but they were kind and caring and genuinely good people–I wanted to see things work out for them at the end of things. I also think there’s something to be said for having characters that are good people trying to do the right thing. Those are characters I can get behind, every time.
Now, for the unexpected. When the story ended it….didn’t end? There was still about two hours left on the audiobook. So after the main conflict is resolved there’s all these other sections of the book that go into the story of the people in the ‘real world’. There’s a wall that is broken between the creator and their creations. But then it hints that…it’s a story within a story within a story. So the end of the story isn’t the end of the story because there’s this whole other story about the creators of the first story. Confused? I promise it’s not confusing in the book but even though this book is older I’m not trying to spoil it because if you don’t know about some things going in then it might make for more interesting reading. The entire end section really deep dives into the creative process, in a fun way. It examines the relationship between the creator and their work. I also like the way it admits that this isn’t an original idea, either. Even at this level the book is gently having a laugh at itself. I appreciated that.
Overall, this book made me laugh while also making me think about some things. It’s a fun adventure story but it’s also more than that. Had fun with this one! 4/5 stars.