Enterprise was the first Star Trek series I followed from start to finish, so it makes sense that the Enterprise novels are the first section of the sprawling litverse that I’ve completed. In such a sprawling setting, the Enterprise novels are maybe the most accessible way in. There are only nineteen of them, and they cover all the things that the litverse is good at. But like any tie-in fiction series, they can be a bit of a mixed bag. So should you read them? Let’s discuss.
We’ll start with the three novelisations. These are the easiest to talk about, largely because there’s not all that much to say about them. Broken Bow and Shockwave both adapt the two-parters after which they are named, while The Expanse also covers ‘The Xindi.’ Each of these books does a decent job of carrying the plot and character work from the episodes in question, but they don’t do much more. It’s not much of a surprise that these are among the thinner books released by Pocket Books. They work best as refreshers for when you want to recall the important beats of an episode. If you’re looking for deeper stories, these probably won’t be for you. Perhaps the most interesting part is the bonus material in Broken Bow, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the early production of the series.
Now we get into the original stories, specifically those set during the series’ four-season run. By the Book, What Price Honor?, Surak’s Soul, and Rosetta all function as extra episodes of the show, while Daedalus and Daedalus’s Children form a two-part epic. Since they all stand largely independent of the show’s continuity, these feel pretty inconsequential at times, but they are fun and light reads. There are some classic Trek ideas in here too, from symbiotic species and aliens made of pure energy, to problems with first contact procedures. But where these books really shine is in showing a spotlight on the show’s characters, especially those who didn’t get much of a look-in on the show itself. Rosetta is a tour-de-force for Hoshi Sato, showing us just how the character should have been used. What Price Honor? shines a light on the mind of Malcolm Reed. Surak’s Soul is a brief but insightful look at T’Pol that gives the character real agency, and By the Book shows us what Travis Mayweather does on his day off. Of course, Archer and Trip get a lot of action too, but that’s only to be expected. Perhaps the only letdown here is that Phlox doesn’t get to star in a novel of his own. He’s always in the background, but we don’t get the same look at him the way we do the others.
On the whole, these inter-episode books do a wonderful job of providing a few extra adventures for familiar faces. There’s a good balance of A and B plots, and generally manage to make both of these interesting. fitting them into an Enterprise timeline might be a bit tricky, but if you just wish there more episodes (and why wouldn’t you) these are the place to start. Rosetta would by my suggestion of where to start, but they all have something to offer. With a variety of authors at the helm, it feels just like deleted scenes from the show.
Then we come to the relaunch novels, first written by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin. Last Full Measure and The Good That Men Do both take place during the show, re-contextualising key moments. The latter is essentially a rewrite of the frustrating series finale, but they serve to adjust from standalone storytelling into a more serialised narrative, much as Enterprise itself did. This is where the spoilers begin, so if you’re afraid, you better look away now.
Trip Tucker survives in this version of the story, and his resurrection as a Section 31 agent drives much of the relaunch. I have to say, while I’m glad to see him get a second chance, his transfer from engineering to espionage isn’t wholly plausible. To the author’s credit, Trip is often a terrible spy, but it’s a character arc that doesn’t always make sense. He’s far from the only one to undergo changes, but his are the most extreme.
Mangels and Martin then chronicle the Romulan War that would have made such a phenomenal fifth season of TV. With Kobayashi Maru, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing, and To Brave the Storm (the latter two being solo works by Martin), we get the epic confrontation between Earth and Romulus that was built up with so many hints during the show’s run. It can get a little dense at times, and swings pretty far into the realms of military SF, so it might not be for everyone, but these are the culmination of so many storylines that the show never got to explore. A lot of the character work falls by the wayside, but Travis gets some truly tragic scenes, and the action expands beyond the central crew to include politics, media, and numerous other faces.
The final era of Enterprise (at least for now) is Christopher L. Bennett’s epic five-part series, Rise of the Federation. A Choice of Futures, Tower of Babel, Uncertain Logic, Live by the Code, and Patterns of Interference chronicle the early years of the Federation, and are best read as a single story. These show what could have been in a sixth and seventh season of Enterprise, and tie the narrative into the larger franchise. There are numerous references to The Original Series, and a few going beyond. As is often the case, Travis and Hoshi are often put to one side as the stores take a larger scope, but Phlox does get a larger story-line in Live by the Code, which goes some way to make up for it. Not that any of the characters are ever wasted, but there is a sense that more could have been made of the opportunity. T’Pol and Reed both benefit the most, each becoming captain of their own ship, and overall the series does a fine job of showing how Archer’s Federation grew into Kirk’s.
These nineteen stories show that there is life in Enterprise even a decade and a half after the show got the axe. With the litverse coming to an end this year, it seems unlikely that there will be any further continuation, but if some new book is to appear, it has a fine pedigree to live up to. As Enterprise celebrates its twentieth anniversary, there has never been a better time to explore the literary side of humanity’s first voyages.