So I am still in the midst of settling down after the Nashville trip. Between prepping the presentation, packing our bags, getting things ready at work, and writing that last article for StarTrek.com, I have been one busy little Trek fan. Things are back to being fairly normal now though, so I should be back on a regular spotlight schedule by week's end. I did pick up a few goodies at the show that I want to post up soon (including a couple of new autographs I need to scan for TrekAutographs.com), but with a limited amount of time today, I'm going to have to spotlight something I have pictures readily available of... which limits me to this book spotlight. So, without further ado-
"The Children Of Kings", as you might expect from the cover, is a Trek-tale set during Christopher Pike's tenure as the Enterprise captain. The story revolves around the mysterious destruction of Starbase 18. All signs point to a Klingon plot, but the presence of Orions in the sector throws all previous theories out the window... and leads Captain Pike and his crew into a battle between the two warring races.
Where to begin... Let's start with what the story gets right. I highly enjoyed the Spock/ Number One dynamic. It was interesting to see these two characters working together to solve one of the main mysteries of the plot. Dr. Boyce is also handled very well, with an inordinately large amount of the book devoted to his personal back story. And as a sucker for Orions, I was happy to see their race featured prominently in the novel.
Unfortunately, I have quite a few gripes with this one. I know it's wrong to judge a book by its cover, but when I bought this one I expected to read a story that highlighted the virtually unexplored Pike/ Spock relationship. As the story unfolds though, Pike becomes more of a guest character, disappearing for almost the entire book. With Pike gone for such an extended time and Dr. Boyce really filling the majority of the novel, I left the book feeling almost cheated by that cover. The problems don't end with the missing Pike though. Both the Klingons and the Orions feel like they are being written to fit later shows (like "Enterprise") as opposed to playing them as TOS versions. In fact, as I read the book, I found myself thinking that this story was meant for a different continuity... which is proven correct in the author's note at the end. David Stern states in the afterword that the 2009 film freed him of the need to write specifically to one vision of humanity's future and that "The Children Of Kings" was written as a prequel to the 2009 film. Well... that would have been nice to know going into this one. That would have helped explain why the author did things like choosing names and locales (like "Petri" and "Argelius") that have seemingly no relation to the established TOS versions. But with a cover featuring Jeffrey Hunter and Leonard Nimoy as their respective characters, it is hard to think of this as a 2009 prequel. Even more maddening though is to try and look back at this through that new perspective... since the Enterprise was a brand new ship in the 2009 film. My head hurts...
It is really tough for me to put aside my disappointment and confusion about this novel enough to recommend it. While the character of Boyce is handled well, and it is nice to learn more about him, I just don't find his story compelling enough to warrant devoting basically the entire novel to. Add in the confusing canon game and you've got one novel that you are probably better off leaving on the shelf... unless of course you prefer Enterprise as your chosen back story. If that's the case, you might like this take on Pike and company. For everyone else though, "The Children Of Kings" is sadly skippable.