Lest you think that my complete and utter disdain for The Wrath of Khan means that I loathe Star Trek; please enjoy my review of what I consider one of the Best of the Trek books ever written.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As with so many things Star Trek, you have to overlook some things to find the gems of each story. In this case, you actually overlook the actual threat that causes the events of the story to unfold; once you are presented with it, it seems very old-hat and almost expected. And, of course, the usual Trek trappings such as FTL drives, transporters, and all those pseudo-SF elements that make Star Trek such a fun universe.
Yes, you overlook all that… in order to appreciate the real drama of the story. Kirk and his officers have apparently intentionally violated the Prime Directive, and caused an entire world to die. They are disgraced, they are ostracized, they are forced to go into hiding… none more than James T. Kirk himself, considered the pariah of the Federation.
But that’s not acceptable for the officers of the Enterprise. The report of what happened is wrong. And they’re going to prove it.
And so we watch as our familiar characters, separated and cast to the four corners of the galaxy, struggle to reunite and right the wrong that was done. It is their individual efforts to beat the incredibly-stacked odds, fight past the no-win scenario, and finish the job they started, that is the meat of this story.
One of the best things about Prime Directive is that it gives us that rare glimpse into non-military Federation life about which Trek has always given us sparse detail. (Yeah, yeah, we get it, Earth’s a paradise… but what else is going on out there?) This is the stuff I love about Trek novels: They take the time to really flesh out the galaxy beyond the ships of Star Fleet, and the reader gets to learn what really makes Star Trek special.
Throughout, we are presented with tidbits of Trek lore, from television, movies and other Star Trek novels, that have become part of the rich canon of the series. The inevitable technology is present as well; but it’s such a minor part of the story. This one is about the characters. And the characters are so familiar to us, so intimately captured, that they are like sisters and brothers to us. In short, this is Star Trek by nerds and lovers, for nerds and lovers. It would have made a great movie.
I loved this book when I first read it, years ago, and couldn’t resist re-reading it when it was brought back to my attention recently. This is part of Star Trek’s Must Read list.