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Book Review: Star Trek: The Higher Frontier (TOS) by Christopher L. Bennett
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Star Trek: The Higher Frontier
Star Trek: The Original Series
Paperback | Kindle | Audiobook
By Christopher L. Bennett
Publisher: Star Trek/Pocket Books
Release date: March 10, 2020

After the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James T. Kirk retained command of the U.S.S. Enterprise and he and his trusty crew were assigned a second 5-year mission to explore new worlds. In Star Trek: The Higher Frontier, a new story in The Original Series timeline, Christopher L. Bennett weaves of tale of hatred, destruction, and betrayal, as a group of peaceful telepaths are hunted to near extinction by phantom killers and it’s up to the Enterprise crew to figure out who’s behind these attacks and how to stop them.

The novel picks up near the end of the Enterprise‘s sophomore mission. After the Aenars, a telepathic subspecies of the Andorians, are brutally attacked and slaughtered, Kirk and company are tasked with escorting the Medusan Ambassador Kollos and his human psionic counterpart Dr. Miranda Jones to Andoria to help investigate the atrocity. Once there, the helmeted phantoms known as Naazh strike again, leaving behind more casualties, including some New Humans, a group of telepathic humans whose abilities had increased after the ascension of V’Ger, the computer entity from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Are the Naazh out to destroy all telepaths? And how can Kirk and crew stop a faceless foe with extradimensional weaponry who can infiltrate their defense systems?

Star Trek: The Higher Frontier is packed with familiar characters, brought together from various Trek iterations. Miranda Jones, the human psychologist and telepath who was psychically merged with Kollos in TOS episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”, is at the center of the action here. As Kirk once again finds himself gravitating towards her, she serves to connect many of the dots, albeit very slowly. After 200 action-packed pages, the story appeared to come to a dead end, until a whole new situation is slowly revealed through the next 300 pages. It was truly incredible!

Along with the usual starship crew — the aforementioned Kirk, along with Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and Chapel — the book also brings back Marcella DiFalco, the replacement navigator in TMP, who now identifies as one of the New Humans, who we discover have their own antagonists. It even returns to see what happened to Commander Thelin, the Andorian who served as first officer in place of Spock in the alternate timeline seen in Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear.” Then there’s the start of Chekov’s tenure under Captain Terrell on the U.S.S. Reliant before its fateful encounter with Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Bennett does a fantastic job of filling in the missing pieces between the various Star Trek television series and movies. Some might not appreciate what can be considered retconning, but what the author provides here brings a lot of closure to some mysterious circumstances, such as what really happened to Kirk’s good friend Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell after he gained superhuman abilities in TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

A 500-page Star Trek novel is bound to have lots of action, and this one certainly does, especially during the Naazh attacks. But what puts The Higher Frontier above other installments is the rich dialogue amongst the characters. It’s something we don’t usually get on the big and small screens. Characters like Uhura, whose empathy and leadership qualities have been displayed repeatedly in the novels, gets her moments to shine here. While Dr. Jones and Spock and even Kirk provide lengthy passages of philosophical conversations, especially since there’s several ethical quandaries that arise.

In the Acknowledgements section, the author provides a list of all the Trek media and other influences that helped him craft this story. Though Bennett offers up plenty of backstory throughout the novel so you won’t get lost, I found it beneficial to rewatch The Motion Picture; the aforementioned TOS episodes “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear”, as well as the Star Trek: Enterprise 3-episode arc of “Babel One,” “United,” and “The Aenar,” which gave the subspecies its first on-screen appearance.

Star Trek: The Higher Frontier is a smart, intense, and nostalgic action-thriller that’s satisfying from start to finish. I absolutely loved it and give it 5 Vulcan salutes.

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!

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