BOOK REVIEW: Dead Endless, by Dave Galanter

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  • A standalone novel
  • Features the characters of Discovery
  • Published by Pocket Books in 2019
  • Space Opera
  • 339 pages
  • ⭐⭐

Paul Stamets steers the USS Discovery through the mycelial network, but is this network a simple series of passageways, or something more complex? And just who is the man calling himself Hugh, who seems to know Paul so well . . ?

One of the ways Discovery set itself apart from the Star trek shows that went before was how serialised the first two seasons were. Previous Trek series had two-parters or long-running arcs, but in Discovery one episode led directly into the next. Now, we could discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this approach all the live long day, but one element of serialisation that often goes forgotten is the impact it has on tie-in fiction. Tie-in fiction (especially much of Trek literature) tends to fill in the gaps between on-screen adventures. When you serialise a series, those gaps don’t really exist. So it’s a lot harder to fit tie-in novels into the mix. Dead Endless takes place during the first two seasons of Discovery (the timeline is a little fuzzy), but neatly sidesteps the continuity tussle by taking place wholly within another universe.

That’s where the problems start. You see, for the first half of the book, the setting isn’t clear. Approaching this book expecting it to be like the show left me confused. Character dynamics are very different. Burnham is the captain, Culber doesn’t exist, Landry is still alive. Some things don’t change though. Tilly is the chatty, annoying oddball she was in those first two seasons. The bridge crew (Detmer, Owo, Rhys, et al.) have some of the best moments as they just sit around chatting, but fade into the background when the plot kicks in. If you’re into the character-side of things, then there is a lot to like about Dead Endless, but it does feel like a what-if story rather than an exploration of the characters we’ve seen on the page.

Then we get to the story itself. Star-crossed lovers would be one way of putting it. The lovers in question being Culber and Stamets. I’m fairly certain it’s the Culber we’re familiar with, lost in the mushroom universe. But Paul’s life has taken a different route, and knows Hugh only from a brief, not to mention antagonistic, encounter. It’s all rather sugary, and not to my taste. Star Trek romances are a tough sell, and I just didn’t buy this one.

And where would Trek be without some wacky science? The mycelial network is certainly up there with the wackiest, and I like the exploration of it we get here. Meeting native species of bizarre universes is always fun, and even if resident tardigrade Ephraim is more annoying than anything else, he is at least not alone. If this had been a more typical story of a ship stuck somewhere inhospitable, I think I might have liked it more. But we ourselves soon get stuck, not in mushrooms, but in a hazy and hard-to-follow explanation of multiverse theory, in which everything is true but also not, and things are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Galanter’s smooth prose stops it all getting too heavy, but I still floundered in it.

This is the first Discovery tie-in I’ve read, and comes with a lot of the problems that tie-in fiction often hits while their parent show is still running. And I feel like this books efforts to tell a story without stepping on the toes of the series has led to a story that’s of little consequence. It has some good moments for the characters, but the don’t inform the development we see on screen. Ultimately, it feels like a false start.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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