A clever if quirky anthology, Enterprise Logs features stories about ships named Enterprise and the people who commanded them - from the historical Revolutionary War fighting sloop under the command of Captain Dickinson to the starship under the command of Captain Picard. As conceived by Robert Greenberger and edited by Carol Greenburg, the collection contains some of the best Trek short stories around, but the tone is somewhat uneven.
This is partly due to the fact that, while we know all about Kirk, Spock, and Picard, and we've at least got a strong image of Pike and Garrett from "The Menagerie" and "Yesterday's Enterprise" respectively, most of us have no idea what Captain April was like, and brief glimpses of Captains Decker and Harriman in films haven't given us much reason to be interested in them. Decker in particular is redeemed by this collection - his story was my favorite in the volume - but for people who prefer familiar characters, it's going to be a hard sell.
The biographical fictions about Dickinson and Osborne B. Hardison of the 1942 carrier Enterprise, which begin the novel, just make matters more complicated. These two contributions by Diane Carey are both war stories - pretty good ones, sharp and non-formulaic, but it's hard to get a sense of the purpose of Enterprise Logs from these two atypical stories. The anthology might have worked better beginning with Picard and working its way backward, going from present Trek values to their antecedents.
Carey's World War II story, "World of Strangers," confused me for a few pages before the dialogue-only, recording-style paragraphs began to coalesce into drama. Maybe for people familiar with the rhythm of military dispatches, this wouldn't be a problem, but I'm not sure many Trek fans fit into that category. The strange story about a Japanese-American soldier embittered over his family's incarceration is a bit heavy-handed and uncomfortably dismissive of appalling U.S. wartime policy.
I preferred Carey's Revolutionary War fantasy, in which a Wiccan charm may play a role in turning an important conflict. "The Veil at Valcour" also makes a veiled argument for infinite diversity in infinite combinations, even among Fundamentalists who believe their Bible supersedes every other spiritual practice in the universe. Both the historical offerings are quick and interesting reads, but they don't quite fit into the rest of the volume.
The variations on suspense stories work better, even when they're more formulaic. Decker's is such a tale, as the nervous new captain and a strong, clever Christine Chapel work together to unravel a plot of sabotage against the rebuilt Enterprise. Michael Jan Friedman's Kirk mystery is also quite enjoyable, reminiscent of Deep Space Nine's "Necessary Evil," as Kirk and a former lover search for former enemy collaborators now being targeted by opponents of her planet's peace process.
Greg Cox's look at Captain April starts as a fairly typical Klingon encounter, with posturing aplenty from a young Kor. But the fact that their conflict centers on Tarsus IV, under Governor Kodos, gives it a tragic edge. Jerry Oltion's Pike story "Conflicting Natures" is an absolute delight, offering a witty view of the love triangle unfolding among Pike, Number One, and Yeoman Colt. When an highly emotional alien comes on board as an observer, the simmering jealousies and frustrations cause much tension and amusement for the senior officers.
Peter David has hapless Captain Harriman from Generations stand up to Romulan interrogation the way Picard did to Cardassian interrogation, giving us a much more powerful image of the Enterprise-B captain than his five minutes of onscreen infamy. It's gut-wrenching and has a fabulous twist at the end. John Vornholt's Picard story, set at the Captain's Table, starts slowly but develops into an excellent tale about a succession crisis among the Andorians, with Picard having to put aside his aversion to children in order to counsel the likely heir.
Greenberger's tale of Rachel Garrett experiencing a disastrous first contact situation seems oddly muted. The story is reminiscent of the crisis in "Yesterday's Enterprise," when she believed she would lose her entire crew. Garrett remains clear-headed and emotionally detached, certainly commendable qualities in a captain under fire, and I'd hate to see the one female captain in this volume crack up. But the effect is that the reader feels emotionally distanced from the events, even the casualties.
The only real clunker is A.C. Crispin's Spock chapter, which isn't even as good as most of the Strange New Worlds offerings. I admit I didn't much like Shwartz and Sherman's novel Vulcan's Heart because I'm not comfortable with the idea of Spock marrying his protegee Saavik, but at least in that novel, she had grown up and lived independently for many years before she fell in love with her father figure.
Yet Crispin has Spock attracted to Saavik even before the events of The Wrath of Khan, alternating between parental condescension and growing desire, while she still worships him as a savior of sorts and blushes hotly at the idea that she could be his mate. Excuse me if I gag. Moreover, Spock sounds nothing like any Vulcan I know from The Wrath of Khan or elsewhere. This story makes me remember that no Trek romance is preferable to bad Trek romance.
One wishes for a little more connection between the stories - of course, Kirk is mentioned in April's account of Kodos' butchery, and both Spock and Harriman think of him often. Given Picard's penchant for history, it would make sense if he knew about the two non-starship Enterprise captains. Overall, Enterprise Logs is well worth reading, just a little jarring between the chapters.
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