Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review: Star Trek Countdown

With a great deal of trepidation I opened up my copy of the Star Trek: Countdown trade paperback a few nights after receiving it in the mail. I've been staying away from as much plot details regarding the new movie as possible. I've been so excited about the new Trek that I promised myself I wouldn't let spoilers ruin the experience of seeing the film and being surprised by the storyline. Temptation kept rearing it's ugly head until I finally succumbed to it and decided on reading Countdown. Most of the book is devoted to introducing the character of Nero and presenting us with the event that leads to his actions on the film.
The book raises even more questions than it answers. One of the few questions it does seem to answer has to do with the big debate as to whether Nero truly is a Romulan. The answer to that question comes accompanied by a major event in trek lore, something I never thought they'd do, which makes me wonder if it will be mentioned in the new film and considered canon.

For those who do not want to be spoiled please stop reading now. Countdown tells the tale of the destruction of Romulus after the explosion of one of it's neighboring stars spreads across Romulan space. Nero -- a miner with a great deal of loyalty to his homeworld, a loving wife, and a baby on the way -- discovers evidence to this potential catastrophe at the same time as the Federation ambassador to Romulus. The Federation ambassador -- who happens to be Spock -- brings word of his discoveries to the Romulan council where Nero also voices his concerns. When the council ignores their warnings they both decide to work together in order to save Romulus. Unfortunately their efforts are not enough and Romulus, along with everything Nero loved dearly, is lost forever.

The character of Nero, is introduced in a very compelling way and is one that by the end of the story has changed a great deal, but with some very clear motivations. My only concern is that he doesn't look like other Romulans. There's still something about his ears and forehead that seems odd to me. Many fans have also said the same based on what we've seen thus far.

The storyline in Countdown takes some big risks. Some work quite well, while others just don't. The good news is that the big majority of them are quite exciting and compelling and I truly hope they get picked up and further explored in the film, especially all the elements that have to do with Spock's and Nero's relationship. The one thing I found rather weak is the use of the characters from The Next Generation.

Worf shows up for no good reason and Data is introduced as the new Captain of the Enterprise-E, which to me just doesn't work, especially after the events in Star Trek Nemesis. I also didn't enjoy seeing Picard as an ambassador to Vulcan instead of the man in the center seat of the Enterprise, where as Captain Kirk once told him, he would always be able to make a difference. You would think that he'd follow Kirk's advice and not take any promotion that would take him off the bridge of his ship.

Geordi also shows up as the man behind the development of a new type of ship that will allow Spock to complete his mission. Based on all the trailers for the film it seems like Nero's beef is with Kirk, but by the end of Countdown all Nero truly wants is revenge on Spock for not being able to help him stop the destruction of his homeworld. At one point in Countdown we do get to see Nero do a bit of research on Kirk during his stay aboard the Enterprise-E, but it's pretty clear his anger is directed at the character of Spock. Is countdown worth reading? I think so, especially since it does a nice job at making us see that the new movie is not a reboot or a reimagining by placing the seeds from which the film will grow in the Star Trek universe we've come to know. It would be tough for this movie to ignore canon if the countdown storyline is the true prequel tale to the film. Everything that leads to the events in the new film happens in the 24th century some years after Star Trek Nemesis.

By the end of Countdown both Spock and Nero are in a very interesting dilemma, one that leaves them at the threshold to the latest cinematic Star Trek adventure. I for one can't wait to get the answers to all the questions Countdown raises.


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