Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it.
She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea.
As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship.
But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.
Did you enjoy the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on Sunday night and can’t wait a week for more stories about Michael Burnham, Phillipa Georgiou, Saru, and the crew of the USS Shenzhou?
Well you’re in luck this week, because Tuesday sees the release of Desperate Hours, the first Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel authored by David Mack.
The book, which was written by Mack in close coordination with the Star Trek: Discovery writers’ room and Star Trek-novel-scribe-turned-Discovery-writer Kirsten Beyer, is everything you would want from the first tie-in novel of the series. Desperate Hours provides more depth to the characters we’ve just started to love in a thrilling adventure that bounds Discovery to the rest of the Star Trek canon.
The events of Desperate Hours are set one year before the events of “The Vulcan Hello,” following the elevation of Burnham to acting first officer. We get more of an exploration of the relationships between Burnham, Georgiou, and Saru that provides greater depth to the interactions we saw in Sunday’s premiere and adds additional emotional weight to Burnham’s decisions in those episodes.
If you were upset by what happens to Captain Georgiou at the end of “Battle at the Binary Stars,” Desperate Hours gives you more to love about this character, and a chance to see more of why she was such a respected character by the crew of the USS Shenzhou. In some ways, it makes the events of “Battle at the Binary Stars” even more emotional.
The book also features the USS Enterprise in a supporting role, commanded by Captain Christopher Pike. The two crews work together — though not always amicably — to solve a crisis that could wipe out an entire planet, and the scenes depicting a stand-off between Captain Georgiou and Captain Pike are excellent. You really get the sense that these are two famous captains with different styles squaring off, and Georgiou and the Shenzhou provide more than a match for Pike and the Enterprise.
But it’s the relationship between Michael Burnham and Spock that provides the novel both its most delightful storyline and its emotional arc. These are two characters with a shared father and both very similar and very different life experiences.
They go on a journey in the novel that allows them significant interaction and the opportunity to learn from each other that is worth the price of admission alone. We’ll never get the chance to see Leonard Nimoy and Sonequa Martin-Green share a scene, but Mack gives you everything you need to see it in your mind.
Saru is another featured character in the novel, and partners for one subplot of the book with Number One from “The Cage,” who book fans know as Commander Una.
We get a really nice peak into Saru’s head and learn more about his motivations and philosophy. The relationship between Burnham and Saru in Desperate Hours appears more confrontational than we saw in the premiere, but I look forward to their relationship being explored in greater detail as the series progresses.
If you were a fan of the Star Trek: Discovery premiere — and if you’re a fan of the long line of Star Trek novels — there’s also a lot to like about Desperate Hours.
The book does not hide from the rich tapestry of characters and ideas that the books have created, most notably in this case the character of Number One/Commander Una. But there are a number of Easter eggs scattered throughout the book that novel fans will enjoy finding. For canon-obsessives, the book also provides some subtle perspectives on aligning the visual continuity of “The Cage” with Star Trek: Discovery. I was surprised, but pleased, to see them.
Like all great Star Trek books, this novel also provides much greater depth to characters we only briefly glimpse on screen, in this case the bridge crew of the USS Shenzhou.
Curious about the bridge officer with the Daft Punk-esque helmet? Mack explains exactly what’s up with that. The blue alien with the metallic flourishes on his cheeks? Mack tells you more about him too. Admiral Anderson (played by Terry Serpico) also plays a small role in the narrative.
Overall, Desperate Hours is an ambitious story that adds greater depth to the main characters from Sunday’s premiere, while integrating the USS Shenzhou pretty seamlessly into Star Trek lore.
If you just want to spend more time with these characters, or if you were looking for a jumping on point to the world of Star Trek novels, look no further than Desperate Hours. David Mack has established himself as one of the best authors in the Star Trek pantheon, and Desperate Hours is a worthy addition to your collection.
If you liked Desperate Hours, you should check out:
- Section 31: Control by David Mack – I know this is the third review in a row I’m recommending it, but seriously, you should read it! The riveting and challenging conclusion to David Mack’s Section 31 and Julian Bashir arc.
- Harbinger by David Mack – The first novel in the Star Trek: Vanguard series, there are a number of thematic similarities between Discovery and Vanguard, which is set on a space station at the edge of Federation space during the Original Series. If you enjoyed the serialized story and adult themes of Discovery, you’ll love Vanguard.
- Legacies Book 1: Captain to Captain by Greg Cox – The first novel in a trilogy of 50th anniversary books, Captain to Captain features Number One/Commander Una in a prominent role. The second novel in the series, Best Defense, is authored by David Mack.