Star Trek: Excelsior: Forged In Fire by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (book review).

If one was to use the latest ‘Star Trek’ film as a barometer, the character of Sulu isn’t up to much. In fact, there may be an argument that the ‘Original Series’ actor George Takei is much more interesting than his on-screen counterpart. Despite this, there is much love for Hikaru Sulu, he seemed to have a career path and was one of the few who actually dared to leave the beloved Enterprise to set up shop on the Excelsior. The nerve of the guy.

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This promotion did create an opportunity for a new wave of ‘Star Trek’ stories, possibly even on TV but alas it did not come to fruition. Until authors Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels decided to do something about it in 2008. ‘Forged In Fire’ uncovers Sulu’s early years on the Excelsior and his attempts to stave off a vengeance plot against the villainous Klingon pirate ‘The Albino’, with whom he has some history with. Hikaru has to help protect early Klingon/Federation peace talks while adjusting to life aboard a new ship, one where not everyone is extending a warm welcome to him.

The book fills in some nice gaps between thee fifth and sixth ‘Star Trek’ films, and attempts to give Sulu more of a backstory. Unfortunately, he’s just not engaging enough to be a lead character. He seems to have a reputation as a maverick, who is loyal and inspires loyalty but it really isn’t earned and trying to make him into a mini-Kirk falls flat. There is some nice-interplay between him and the Excelsior’s second officer, who he leapfrogged for the first officer position but she eventually comes round to his way of thinking, as is often the case with ‘Star Trek’ novels.

There also seems to be the need for the ‘Star Trek’ universe to be an interconnecting web across time and space, with a young Curzon Dax putting in an appearance. Again, Curzon is one of those characters that is admired but for no good reason. The story does give us the opportunity to learn about Dax’s blood oath with several key Klingon characters, although it possibly could have made a book in itself.

It’s fine as a quick read with plenty of action scenes and cameos by ‘Star Trek’ characters. The plot does jump around a tad but it’s not impossible to follow. Worth it if you want to know how Sulu finally made it to the Captain’s chair.

Aidan Fortune

July 2013

(pub: Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster. 488 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK); $ 7.99 (US); $ 9.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4165-4716-7)

check out website: www.simonandschuster.com and www.startrek.com

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