Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Ashes of Eden

Star Trek
The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner
First published June 1995
Read February 9th 2016


Next book (Shatnerverse): The Return

Hardcover: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Mass-Market Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Spoilers ahead for The Ashes of Eden!

From the back cover:
For almost three decades, millions of television viewers and moviegoers around the world have thrilled to the exciting adventures of the most successful science fiction creation of all time—Star Trek. And during all that time, William Shatner has portrayed Star Trek's most dynamic hero—Captain James Tiberius Kirk, a gallant commander of the legendary starship Enterprise and her crew. 
Now William Shatner brings his unique blend of talents as an actor, writer, director, and producer, as well as bestselling author and creator of the acclaimed TekWar novels and television series, to tell the story only he can, of Captain Kirk's greatest adventure. 
The time—six months prior to the launch of the USS Enterprise-B and the tragic loss of Captain James T. Kirk in deep space. 
The place—Earth, where the galaxy's most renowned hero must now face the spectre of retirement and a life devoid of challenge and excitement. 
But in the apparent twilight of his career, Kirk's path takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious young woman offers him an irresistible adventure—a perilous voyage to an uncharted planet where he will confront the ultimate threat to the fragile peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and the ultimate temptation—a chance to actually recapture his youth. 
Turning his back on his friends, Spock and McCoy, and hunted by Captain Sulu's USS Excelsior, Kirk soon stands alone as defender of a world of incredible vitality and sensual beauty where he must choose between conquering the gravest challenge of his career, or surrendering to the greatest passion of his life. 
What arises from The Ashes of Eden is no less that a new understanding of one of science fiction's greatest heroes, and one of the most gripping—and personal—Star Trek stories ever told.

My thoughts:

1995 saw the beginning of what has become known as the "Shatnerverse" - Star Trek novels written by William Shatner (with writing collaborators Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens) primarily featuring Captain James T. Kirk and his exploits post-Star Trek VI and Generations. The first book in that series, The Ashes of Eden, is the subject of this review.

For the most part, I was very pleased with The Ashes of Eden. In it, we get a fairly epic story that didn't strain credibility too much. Captain Kirk, at the twilight of his career, is coping with getting older and feeling somewhat useless, many of the same issues that were at the heart of Nicholas Meyer's story in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses do a great job exploring this issue here, and it makes a lot of sense considering where Kirk finds himself in his life.

At the end of his career, Kirk faces issues such as growing older and finding his new place in the galaxy.

One thing about The Ashes of Eden that surprised me was the realistic take on Kirk's character. Written by Shatner, one might expect a "fan-wanky" self-aggrandizing story in which Kirk can do no wrong, but this novel actually exposes a few of the flaws of the Kirk character. The main antagonist of the story, Admiral Androvar Drake, uses Kirk's psychological profile against him, exploiting his flaws to manipulate him into the actions he takes. While throughout the novel, Kirk seems to be having his dreams realized and generally kicking ass, it becomes apparent by the end of the story just how much he has actually been manipulated. This was a surprising turn, and a refreshingly candid take on the character of Kirk.

Another aspect of The Ashes of Eden that I appreciated was the wide focus on the entire group of TOS characters, something that is missing from many of the filmed adventures around this period. This is understandable, as motion pictures need to have a tighter focus to tell their stories in the allotted time, and a novel has greater latitude in featuring the rest of the cast. While there were a few character touches that I felt were a little out of place, for the most part the focus on the group dynamic was very welcome.

There is a role for each of the original cast to play in The Ashes of Eden.

As far as the characters themselves go, there were a few notes that I felt rang a little false. First, the animosity that Chekov held for Sulu seemed a little out of place. While this is resolved by the end of the story, I felt that the antagonism existed for its own sake in the story. It seemed out of character to me for Chekov to be so completely at odds with Sulu and his perspective. The other aspect that irked me somewhat was just how over-the-top villainous Drake's character turned out to be. By the end of the story, he is practically cackling and foaming at the mouth over the idea of defeating Kirk. I would have appreciated a more nuanced look at the conflict with Drake being more relatable, but alas it is not to be.

Final thoughts:

A strong start to the "Shatnerverse"! I appreciated the candor with which the Kirk character was handled, without resorting to the story being purely a "wish fulfilment" fantasy on the part of William Shatner. Sadly, I feel like the remainder of the Shatnerverse may not hold to this standard, but for The Ashes of Eden, it seems that the story was sufficiently realistic. My rating is somewhere around a 3.75/5, rounded up to a 4.

More about The Ashes of Eden:


Also by William Shatner (with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens):

My next read:

Next time, look for my review of the new e-book exclusive by Greg Cox, The Original Series: Miasma.