Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Last Full Measure

Star Trek: Enterprise: Last Full Measure by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels
Published April 2006
Read November 7th 2012

Previous book (Enterprise): Rosetta
Next book (Enterprise): The Good That Men Do



Click to purchase Last Full Measure from Amazon.com

Spoilers ahead for Last Full Measure and Star Trek: Enterprise!

From the back cover:
Without warning or provocation, a Xindi weapon appears above Earth and unleashes a blast that kills millions across two continents. It is only the first such weapon; a second is being built, and this time it might very well destroy the entire planet. Desperately trying to save the Earth and her people, Starfleet must, in a heartbeat, change its mission from one of peaceful scientific exploration to one of military service. 
There is only one ship fast enough to stop construction of this new weapon: the Starship Enterprise. But its crew can't do it alone. Captain Jonathan Archer accepts aboard his ship a contingent of Military Assault Command Operations personnel: battle-hardened soldiers known as MACOs. 
Starfleet and the MACOs are two different services now sharing a common goal, but they are divided as to how to reach it. It is a culture clash that echoes across the centuries of military service. The men and women now aboard Enterprise know they must succeed in working together or the price will be paid in the blood of innocents. Failure is not an option.


My thoughts:
Last Full Measure is generally considered to be the first novel in the Enterprise "relaunch" series, although the story takes place during the course of the television series. According to the historian's note at the beginning of the novel, Last Full Measure takes place between "The Xindi" and "Anomaly," the first and second episodes of the third season.

The B-plot of Last Full Measure brings
Corporal Chang and Ensign Mayweather
into conflict.
The story itself is certainly interesting. The Xindi, well aware that Earth has sent a ship into the Delphic Expanse to search for their superweapon, attempt to throw our heroes off the trail by luring them into a trap with the promise of discovering the construction site of the Xindi weapon. What follows is a fairly routine story in which Archer, Reed, and a squad of MACOs led by Major Hayes interrogate an alien businessman and use him to get close to the Xindi operation. They soon realize it's a fake, and must rely on each other's strengths to find a way out. Similarly, a B-plot involves Ensign Mayweather escourting another squad of MACOs led by Corporal Chang on a mission to gather intelligence on a Xindi fueling station. Chang decides to mount an operation to destroy the base, and Ensign Mayweather's appeals to him to err on the side of caution and report back to the Enterprise before taking any agressive actions fall on deaf ears. In the end, both missions end with a fatality each. A Starfleet ensign named Chandra is killed on Archer's mission, and a MACO, Private Eby, sacrifices himself for the good of the mission to destroy the fuel depot.

No "Sub-Commander," no
"Commander," just "T'Pol."
The action sequences are well-written by Martin and Mangels, and I was fascinated to see the outcome of both missions. However, there were a few inconsistencies that cropped up while reading this novel. First, if I recall correctly, the Enterprise episode "Anomaly" made a fairly big deal about Crewman Fuller being the first fatality that the Enterprise crew had experienced. However, this novel takes place shortly before that episode and features the deaths of two members of the crew. Another small error that annoyed my pedantic, nerd brain was the fact that T'Pol was repeatedly referred to as "Sub-Commander" in this novel. However, since it takes place during the third season, she should not have been referred to as such. Astute viewers will recall that T'Pol had resigned her commission with the Vulcan High Command by this point, and in fact held no rank whatsoever since she had yet to join Starfleet. Again, a small issue, but annoying nonetheless.

Structurally, the story is sound and the narrative is interesting. I enjoyed the tension between the Starfleet and MACO crews aboard the Enterprise, a theme that was only lightly touched on in the televised series, primarily through the characters of Lieutenant Reed and Major Hayes. There were a few times that I felt that the MACOs were written a little over-the-top, but for the most part the characters' voices came across well.

More than anything, Last Full Measure is a story about differing perspectives. The Starfleet crew and the MACO troops each bring their own experiences and stories to the mission at hand, and the primary conflict in the novel comes from the characters' attempts (and failures) to bridge the gaps between the Starfleet and MACO worlds. After having recently lived in South Korea for two years, I can understand the problems that come with people having differing perspectives and life experiences. Most of the ex-pat friends I made in Seoul were fellow English teachers, but I did form relationships with a few American GIs and their families. Sometimes our differing experiences and reasons for being in Seoul caused misunderstandings or failures to communicate, and more than anything it was interesting moving past those differences to build bridges of understanding. Me and the other ex-pat English teachers had traveled to Korea by choice, whereas that wasn't necessarily the case for members of the US military. Understanding the fundamental differences between why we were there helped to foster good relations. Similarly, the characters in Last Full Measure and season three of Enterprise struggle to come to the same understanding.

At the center of Last Full Measure is the conflict between differing ideologies and perspectives: the idealized, exploration-driven Starfleet, and the soldier's "shoot first" mentality of the MACO troopers.

Final thoughts:

An interesting and action-driven story, Last Full Measure was a fun read. However, the failure on the authors' parts to adhere to established Trek canon (character deaths, T'Pol's rank or lack thereof) were annoying and did take me out of the story somewhat. I understand that this is obsessive attention to detail, but I'm a Star Trek fan and this is a Star Trek novel; what do you expect? All of that said, Last Full Measure was worth reading, and the examination of the relationship between the Starfleet crew and the MACO soldiers was interesting. Also, this novel offers us the first hints that the events in the abomination of a final episode, "These Are the Voyages...," may not have been all that they seemed...

My next read:

Next on my slowly dwindling catch-up list is Dayton Ward's first Star Trek novel, In the Name of Honor. Look for a review of that one, as well as of the new release Devil's Bargain by Tony Daniel, coming soon!