Fear Itself: Star Trek Discovery by James Swallow

Like it or loathe it Star Trek Discovery is here to stay with a second series starting in early 2019. To fill the gap Simon and Schuster books have added to their range with a series dedicated to some of the main characters. The first was ‘Desperate Hours’ by David Mack about Micheal Burnham as Georgiou’s First Officer having to work alongside Pike and the Enterprise and more importantly alongside Spock in a first contact mission.

In the second book, Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward the focus was on Gabriel Lorca when he was a Lieutenant Commander in a brilliant novel that tied in with the TOS episode – ‘The Conscience of the King’ and the actions of Kodos the Executioner.

This third instalment focused on, perhaps the Discovery’s more interesting character, Saru. The novel delves deeply into the psyche of the Kelpien science officer. From a herd/prey species, fear is something vital to the Kelpien’s it keeps them alive and helps drive their evolution and motivation.

When I was an active simmer on an RPG website I regularly used a character that was a Grazerite who embodied many of the pacifist and prey related features of Saru. As a sufferer of General Anxiety Disorder I can relate to Saru’s constant awareness of danger and anxiety and how he realised he needed to not defeat the fear but challenge and use it to better himself.

The book added much to our understanding of Philippa Georgiou as a captain and it was refreshing to see an Andorian first officer on the Shenzhou, given the TV series seeming aversion to showing well known Star Trek species.

James Swallow is a good writer across several genre IP’s and he handles this story in a competent manner and manages to capture the voices of the characters we already know. The plot of the story on the face of it seems simple enough but complexity is slowly woven in and problems regarding the ability to communicate in a time when the Universal Translator isn’t like it is in TOS or TNG. It shows Saru’s first meeting with a command situation and contextualises the relationship we see between him and Burnham in the first few episodes. I guess the modern term would be that they are ‘frenemies’ – both friends and enemies, both are vying for the future XO slot and yet both approach matters from different stand points.

So far this is the best book of the sequence and more are coming with a novel about Cadet Tilly planned for later this year.

Fear itself is available from all good booksellers


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