That’s right, I, the woman who reads Harry Turtledove books where he has so many characters on the canvas and continually jumps around between them, found this novel by William Shatner and his co-authors Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, to be very confusing to follow.
Star Trek: Preserver is the last novel in a trilogy by the trio of authors in which Captain Kirk, resurrected in the 24th century, fights an unknown foe in the Federation and a known foe in his mirror universe counterpart, Tiberius. Along the way, Kirk gets married to a half-Kling, half-Romulan super-woman.
This wife, Teilani, is dying at the beginning of Star Trek: Preserver. The belief is that only Tiberius can save her, since Kirk believes that she was poisoned by a genetically engineered child of Tiberius’ design. However, Tiberius has plans of his own in acquiring an alien technology known to Kirk and the Federation in his universe, but which does not exist in Tiberius’.
As if this isn’t a complicated enough story, Tiberius’ efforts at gaining the technology are thwarted by another unseen species known as the Preservers. The Star Trek: The Next Generation cast is in the story too. Captain Picard has been kidnapped by two psych-historians who believe he is the key to the end of the universe which is imminent.
The problem comes in being able to follow all the different storylines. There is too much material here, with too many different stories which need to be resolved by the end of the book. I expected this to continue the battle with the foes of the mirror universe from the previous novels. However, it seemed as if the authors ran out of material in that respect, so they added this entire new storyline with the Preservers.
In addition to following Kirk, Spock and McCoy from the original series, the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, their counterparts from the mirror universe, Teilani, the Ferengi and Vulcan psycho-historians, the corrupt and/or undercover Starfleet officers, and the Preservers, Shatner draws in quite a few storylines from the original Star Trek series. While fans normally like to see seemingly unrelated events get tied together, these events seem to be a bit over the top, and make it more confusing to people who do not have the entire events of that series committed to memory.
Are you not turned off of this novel yet? Well, one more problem with the novel is something that occurred in a few of Shatner’s last few novels about Kirk, particularly the last one. All of the story seems to be that the universe revolves around Kirk. The Preservers put signs in various places of the universe specifically for Kirk. Kirk (not Picard) is the one who can either cause or prevent the destruction of the entire known universe. And no matter what happens to him, Kirk doesn’t die. He seems to be Superman himself as he exchanges blows with others yet doesn’t succumb to injuries which would fall a man half his age. He is smarter than just about anyone else in the universe (except for his mirror-universe counterpart, natch). Starfleet is actually a corrupt bureaucracy in which the Preservers are actually manipulating people to get the desired outcome. No one has gotten their positions or appointments by actually earning it.
On the plus side, it does seem that Shatner has finally gotten a bit better writing the characters of The Next Generation. I didn’t find the characters to be as poorly portrayed as in the past. Riker was no longer constantly confrontational, and Captain Picard didn’t seem to be living his life in Kirk’s shadow, never quite measuring up.
I also liked the last chapter, where Shatner pens his theory on how the mirror universe we’ve seen several times in Star Trek storylines. It’s actually a pretty good story in itself, and a nice coda to Star Trek: First Contact.
Shatner also seemed to bring in his own personal crisis at the time of his authoring this novel. It’s interesting to see how he writes Teilani and has her take a path that’s somewhat different than what I would have thought of her before this novel. Is it his way of working through his own wife’s death? I think so.
However, these few pluses don’t compensate for the general confusion and abrupt change of direction for the last novel in Shatner’s mirror universe “saga”. I think this is one trilogy that most Star Trek fans can skip.
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