ST Picard: Last Best Hope
© 2020 Una McCormack
I bought this on the strength of Una McCormack, nothing else. She’s contributed ably to the Treklit universe, delivering several superb novels. Even with her talents, however, there is only so much polishing one can do with such a turd of a premise.
ST-P ‘builds’ off the plot of Star Trek 2009: the Romulan star is about to go supernova. While in that film Nero’s rage against Starfleet was fueled by their “doing nothing” to help the Romulan people, here Captain Picard leads a charge to turn Starfleet into one massive service fleet for Romulan refugees. That comes at a cost: Starfleet’s mission is abandoned, its research and development is re-oriented for building and equipping fleets of transport ships, and its minor worlds are told to keep a stiff upper lip and help the Federation see this mission through. The Romulans, for their part, are not receptive of Federation help, and even once they’ve accepted the need for it, they continue to impede Federation efforts for the sake of saving face. Eventually something goes catastrophically wrong. Last Best Hope is thus a prologue of sorts for Star Trek: Picard.
As stupid as I find the entire storyline of Star Trek 2009, I figured in the hands of a Treklit author, it might be redeemed. And it was, to a degree — there’s a lot to appreciate about the story as it develops here, in pitting Picard’s moral certitude against Starfleet pragmatism, in seeing Federation relief workers try to find a way to reach the suspicious Romulans. And there are fun moments, nice bits of dialogue. But LBH is …disconnected from onscreen Star Trek. Why is the Star Empire not making its own efforts in conjunction with Starfleet? It has considerable resources, enough to compete with both Starfleet and the Klingons, and enough to make it a significant factor in the Dominion War. Was the Empire weakened by the effects of Nemesis? We have no idea: despite the entire senate being wiped out, the only references to Nemesis all concern non-Romulan factors. There are no familiar faces among the Romulans, and the only meager connection to the Trek universe as a whole is the inclusion of Bruce Maddox.
Making matter worse is the fact that most of the characters here don’t seem like they belong in the Star Trek universe. They’re cynical, vulgar people, dropping expletives as though they were on The Sopranoes. Call me a snob, but Star Trek to me has always reminded me of the best in humanity; it was utterly urbane. Even during crises, characters acted with dignity, uttering phrases like “My god, Bones, what have I done?” These characters just swear like longshoremen, and it grows worse and worse as the novel progresses. At one point I’m fairly sure the F-s per minute outpaced Goodfellas. It’s in keeping with the Picard show, unfortunately, and that combination of despair and vulgarity is the reason I stopped watching Picard to begin with.
It pains me to one-star a Trek book, especially by an author whose work I’ve enjoyed mightily in the past, but there’s only so much an author can do with a franchise whose storytelling now resembles The Avengers more than it does classic Trek.