Monday, May 9, 2011

William Shatner's Musings On The Star Trek Franchise: The Ashes Of Eden

The Good: Entertaining, Good pace, Good understanding of the Star Trek universe
The Bad: Out of character, Awkwardly introspective, Too much "Shatner's voice."
The Basics: William Shatner explores the legacy of Captain Kirk while attempting to express his feelings about being made a cultural icon by Star Trek under the guise of an action story in The Ashes Of Eden.

It might seem strange to review the Star Trek novel The Ashes Of Eden as a memoir from William Shatner to the fans of Star Trek, but it is impossible not to view the novel in its context. Shatner's first Star Trek hardcover, published in 1995, reads in some ways as an awkward relating of Shatner's experiences with aging and the Star Trek phenomenon for the bulk of the book. Because the narrator is William Shatner and the book chronicles one of James T. Kirk's last adventures before the events in Star Trek Generations, the perspective of Kirk throughout the novel reads as a weird window into the psyche of William Shatner.

It is no accident. Shatner couches his rise to celebrity in one of Kirk's musings on his own reception. In fact, the novel opens with Kirk undergoing a simulation of a previous mission which degenerates into a technician citing a list of Kirk's accomplishments. Shatner thinly veils his interpretations of Star Trek fans and dismisses them - as Shatner has in person many times - with Kirk's declaration of "'They were just my job. . . . A job I did a long time ago'" (14). So, from the beginning, the novel is a wink and a nod to the fans with a seemingly exasperated Shatner trying to explain his perspective on the franchise, aging and fandom under the appearance of aging James T. Kirk.

The Ashes Of Eden follows on the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here!), with Kirk leaving StarFleet while the rest of his crew finds purpose in other endeavors. Kirk meets with a gorgeous young woman who convinces him that there is adventure still to be had. Teilani, a Klingon-Romulan hybrid, approaches Kirk with a proposition he cannot refuse; her world is in disputed space deep in territory controlled by Romulans and Klingons and a civil uprising on Chal leads her to seek external aid in protecting the planet and keeping any major power from destroying it. Unfortunately, as Kirk rushes to her aid, the rest of his former crew comes to believe he is being used, a pawn in a plan to destroy the Klingon Empire and change the nature of the Federation, a continuation of the conspiracy exposed in Star Trek VI.

This is, in some ways, a typical William Shatner novel. Everything is fast paced, there is always something happening, chapters are short and there are several quick battles and a conspiracy that needs to be exposed. If you've read any of Shatner's Tek books, The Ashes Of Eden follows stylistically in the same vein. Quick paced, more weapons and sex than your average Star Trek book, light on characterization, big on the dramatic reveal.

What separates The Ashes Of Eden from other Shatner works is that it is co-written by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, two masters of the Star Trek universe. They have an encyclopedic understanding of the events in the Star Trek universe and some wonderful ideas on how the whole thing fits together. They bring credibility to the novel by providing the details for episodes and concepts that Shatner is unlikely to have (based on his distancing himself frequently from the Trek universe and his stance that his Trek work was just a job). The Reeves-Stevens wrote an amazing Trek novel called Federation (reviewed here!) which is more than worth its price for the philosophies it explores.

So, we have a fast-paced sex and action book with an understanding of the Star Trek universe and how it all fits together. Does the novel work? Yes. Is it great literature? No. Is it one of the more memorable Star Trek novels? No. Is it the first part in a larger work? Clearly, given its beginning and its end.

The truth is, this is a setup book. William Shatner got involved in writing Star Trek novels and here he is faced with a daunting task; how do you write novels about a character that, while quite loved and respected, is seen killed in Star Trek Generations? The answer is, you need to resurrect them. In order to do that, Shatner - wisely - puts a context to that resurrection effort and The Ashes Of Eden is it. This is the bridge between Captain Kirk as we see him at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Kirk as he is portrayed in Star Trek Generations. To that end, it works.

But, in the final analysis, this is a first act of a play that - instantly - one must wonder about the net worth of. The purpose of The Ashes Of Eden is to give Captain Kirk a lesson in making a difference that will prepare him for a resurrection following the events of Star Trek Generations and allow him to write a series of books involving Captain Kirk and the Next Generation era of Star Trek.

If it weren't for the obvious interjections of Shatner's issues with the franchise, this might have actually succeeded in captivating readers for more than just the initial read. Nothing challenging in terms of diction, nothing remotely poetic; The Ashes Of Eden is a very straightforward adventure.

For other Star Trek book reviews, please be sure to check out:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Gene Roddenberry
Triangle: Imzadi II - Peter David
Star Trek: Countdown - Michael Johnson and Tim Jones


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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