Star Trek: The Return by William Shatner | Book Review

Sunday 3 November 2019

I debated writing this review for a while. When I started this book blog I really had no rules to go by. It made sense that I would read and review “newer” books. Lets say anything post 2010. It also made sense that I would review classics because they’re “timeless.” But what about books that fall in the middle? What about books that no one would consider a classic but are also not considered even remotely new? I was planning on skipping this book, and any that fell into the grey area until my wife pointed out that just because it was it older and wasn’t a classic, it didn’t mean that it didn’t deserve to be written about. So I took her advice to heart and here we go. The sixth Billiam’s book blog. In this one I review The Return a Star Trek novel by William Shatner.

Embracing my inner Trekkie
Your remember Locutus of Borg, of course.

Back in 1994 the seventh Star Trek movie came out. This was a big deal at the time because it had been 4 years since The Undiscovered Country and it was also the first Trek movie to feature the TNG (The Next Generation) cast. This film bridged the gap between the original series and TNG and told us what happened to Kirk later in his life. There will be spoilers for Star Trek Generations because it’s been twenty-seven years since the film came out. Way beyond Critter’s very generous ten year moratorium on spoilers. So be warned.
As you all should know, Captain James T Kirk died while helping Captain Picard save the day on Veridian III. He gave up a near perfect life in the Nexus to save a planet full of people that he didn’t know and who would never know what he did. But he did it, because it’s what the captain of the Enterprise does. So that was the end of Kirk for the next two years until 1996 when The Return was published, and we saw the legendary captain once again.
The Return picks up a month or so after the events of Generations. The Borg and a group of Romulan rebels foster an alliance to take down the Federation and the Romulan Empire. The key to that is to take out Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the man who was once Locutus, due to his vast knowledge of the Borg. Their plan to take out Picard? James T Kirk who was revived using Borg technology and has no memory of his past life. As Picard and Beverly Crusher search for a way to take down the Borg, Kirk hunts him by hunting down his old crew. While that is happening, Ambassador Spock is on a personal quest to find out how Kirk was brought back it will put him in more danger than ever before.
This almost sounds like fan fiction, doesn’t it? And not good fan fiction either. It sounds like the type of fan fiction that gives the genre the negative view it already has. That’s why it took me so long to read the book. What also took me so long was the fact that the book wasn’t cannon. That’s right, I just read a whole book that has no bearing at all to the Star Trek story line. What eventually got me to pick this book up? Curiosity. That and the fact that the Borg are my favorite villain in all of Sci-Fi.
Lets actually talk about the book, shall we? William Shatner had help writing this. Not ghost writer level of help, but enough help that he ended up writing a good book.  The Return is for Star Trek fans only. While anyone could read it, only fans should because it’s the fans who would get the most enjoyment out of it.
The characters were well written but that wasn’t very hard to do as Shatner had a pantheon of already developed characters at his disposal. While he did invent new ones, they weren’t too complex. They were basically just carbon copies of characters from the show. The main villain was your typical insane Romulan. The Borg were the Borg. The new Star Fleet personnel were just like any random character you’d come across in the show. None of this is bad, per say. It’s just hard to judge the talent of a writer when a sizable chunk of work has been done for them.
The main aspect of the book I have to critique is the story itself. Lucky for us, that’s the main part. This whole book felt like someone took a fan fiction idea and turned it into a legitimate Star Trek story. What impressed me was that Shatner didn’t turn Kirk into a Mary Sue. In fact, he was even more flawed in this book than he was the original TV show as well as the movies. Picard, Riker, Troi, Crusher, Data, La Forge, and Worf are all the same, though Data is still getting used to his emotion chip.
There were parts where the story dragged but it would quickly pick up again. Certain scenes, especially when Kirk was with Salatrel (The leader of the Romulan rebels), were hard to follow at times and felt out of place so those scenes really messed with the pacing of the whole novel. My trade paperback edition of the book clocks in at 371 pages, an average size as far as trades go, but it felt a lot longer than that. Normally when a book feels longer, its because it’s not very good, but in this case it’s pure density and pacing issues. So if you want to sit down to read The Return, be prepared to sit for a while.
This was an enjoyable book but like I said before, only pick it up if you’re a Trekkie. If you’re a Trekkie AND you want to know what could have happened after Generations AND you want to read a book by William Shatner, then pick this up. It was good, but not for everyone.
The Return by William Shatner gets a 7.5 out of 11

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