Era: Enterprise, Season 1
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera/Military SF
Publication Date: 2003
A member of the Enterprise crew is dead, having seemingly turned traitor. But is there more to the story of Alana Hart? And how does it relate to the ongoing first contact with the Sarkassians . . ?
Just look at him. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, staring our of the cover with typical British reserve. Magnificent. Though Hoshi Sato is my favourite Enterprise character, Malcolm is a very close second, and this is a book all about him. Almost the entire novel is told from close to his perspective, with a few diversions here and there. Now, in the show Malcolm was a pretty closed-off individual, especially in the first season. His stiff upper lip approach to life and general love of regulations were no small part of his appeal, and that’s something that comes across strongly in What price Honor? Like By the Book, this was written before most of the show came out, but Stern has clearly had more material to base his characterisation on than previous authors, and here he absolutely nails the reserve and dedication to duty of Reed. This is an early chance to get in the mind of the British spacefarer, but he loses none of his gruff charm and dry wit for the exposure.
The overall story focuses on the death of a woman under Malcom’s command. A woman that he had been developing feelings for. Despite a lot of theories going around at the time that Malcolm was gay, he certainly had a habit of diving into relationships with women when the opportunity presented itself. As regular readers will know, I’m not really a fan of romance, but the affection between Reed and Hart here is almost secondary to Malcolm’s internal struggle between following his heart and obeying the letter of regulations. For what it’s worth, I’m firmly on the side of the regulations, and Malcolm’s actions are perfectly in keeping with his portrayal in the show. You can easily imagine Dominic Keating delivering any of the lines in this book.
This is a far more intimate story than a lot of Enterprise‘s more action-heavy episodes, with the alien encounters and strange new worlds taking a backseat to Reed’s struggles. Even so, the war between the Sarkassians and the Ta’alaat is a fun little side-piece. Their use of ancient technology is a classic Star Trek puzzle, and if this book was written later on I think it might have been tied into the Ware technology from ‘Dead Stop’ and the Rise of the Federation series. This could easily have been a full novel on its own, but as it stands it’s a good break between scenes of Reed’s investigations.
This isn’t a perfect book, and my main issue is a structural one. The book takes place over the course of about two weeks, but is not told in a linear fashion. Chapters alternate between the present, and the earlier days of Reed and Hart’s relationship, leading up to her death. The switches between times can get a little confusing. It mirrors Reed’s own confusion, but for me it goes slightly to far, and makes for odd reading. The dates in the book also set the action about a year before Enterprise should have left Earth, but that’s only a minor niggle.
In spite of a few flaws, this is a strong book for so early in the series, and provides some of the finest Malcolm Reed content you’re likely to find.