Simon Spotlight, out now
A murder game at the Academy coincides with the rise of a secret society and a potential alien invasion…
For some reason I missed this final Starfleet Academy novel when it came out in 2012, the fourth to feature the new crew introduced in the 2009 movie. Unlike the four books which were meant to come out from Pocket continuing the movie timeline, which were cancelled prior to publication, these were aimed firmly at the Young Adult market, and focused on the crew’s adventures during the jump-cut in the film.
Each of them has been an enjoyable addition to the canon, with Gratz’s tale cheekily incorporating a number of elements from the original series – notably the bar fight and subsequent dressing down from The Trouble with Tribbles, Kirk’s nemesis from Shore Leave, and his bluffing of Balok – into a tale that manages to make the growth of the Spock/Uhura relationship believable.
This is quite definitely the Pine, Quinto, Urban version of the crew: Jim’s birth on the Kelvin is a key plot point; the speech patterns are Quinto’s not Nimoy’s; and we have the whizz-kid incarnation of Chekov building a friendship with Sulu long before they serve on the Enterprise. Gratz does build some continuity bridges between the two universes, with references to Jim’s brother and Bones’ wife.
The mystery isn’t that difficult to solve – you’re bound to work out who’s manipulating whom much earlier than Kirk or McCoy – but there are some interesting throwforwards to the plot of Into Darkness, alongside a good use of continuity from Enterprise.
It’s lightweight compared with the dark political machinations of the Typhon Pact, or The Fall, but sometimes it’s good to remember that Star Trek can be fun too!
Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable outing for nu-Kirk and co. 7/10