I’ve written before about William Shatner’s series of original Star Trek novels, co-written by the husband and wife writing team of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, nicknamed “The Shatnerverse Books.” I had said at the time that the only book in the series that I hadn’t read was the very first one, The Ashes of Eden. Well, it took awhile, but I eventually got it, and finally read it.
It’s book-ended in the 24th century, taking place soon after the events of the Star Trek film Generations, with Spock traveling to the planet where Picard had buried Kirk’s body (I hate being reminded of how stupid that film was). While there he flashes back to Kirk’s last adventure, taking place in between the time after the end of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, when Kirk and crew retired, and the opening scene in Star Trek: Generations when Kirk attended the launch of the Enterprise-B.
During this time Kirk is technically retired but still holding the rank of Captain in Starfleet. He spends time back at his family farm in Iowa with Carole Marcus, but it doesn’t work out between them. An Admiral named Drake, who happens to be an old rival of Kirk’s, is appointed the new head of Starfleet. He smugly informs Kirk that the Enterprise-A has been mothballed and is expected to be used for training wargames, until it’s destroyed. We’re given the sense the Kirk feels that life is passing him by and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. There’s a bit where observes that some of his previous adventures are being used by cadets in the academy for training sessions, being reenacted in what I presume are early versions of the holodecks. This just makes him feel even more like a relic of a past time.
Meanwhile Uhura and Chekov are working as Starfleet Intelligence agents on an undercover mission to buy weapons from smugglers. When they’re betrayed by a fellow office and almost killed, they’re rescued by Captain Sulu, who was monitoring their mission unbeknownst to them, and taken aboard the Excelsior, where they plan to report back to Drake about a mysterious new doomsday weapon. Kirk meets a beautiful young half-Klingon/Half-Romulan woman named Teilani, who enlists his help and takes her back to her homeworld, a secret planet created and then abandoned by the Klingons and Romulans decades earlier, and which seems to grant eternal youth to those who live on it.
Without spoiling the whole novel, let’s just say that the planet is connected to the doomsday weapon that Uhura and Chekov heard of, and Starfleet wants to take over this planet. So this puts Kirk on the opposite side of Starfleet, as he has fallen in love with Teilani and is feeling rejuvenated by the effects of her planet’s atmosphere, so he’s vowed to protect it.
Drake orders Kirk’s former crew members to go after him, testing their loyalty. But neither Drake nor Teilani are quite what they seem, so the question of who is on the “right side” remains in the air until the big showdown at the end. Kirk also manages to get the Enterprise-A back and use it in his conflict, commanding her one last time.
I enjoyed this book a bit more than I expected. I mean, I didn’t really have any high expectations for it because, as I said before, the appeal of all the other Shatnerverse books for me was reading about Captain Kirk in the 24th century. But despite some retreaded plots (another political conspiracy inside Starfleet to incite a war?!?) this was a solid story. I always thought that Undiscovered Country was the perfect ending to the TOS era of Star Trek. But I remember after the film turned out to be a bigger hit than expected there was some talk of possibly doing another film with the TOS crew before moving on to the TNG crew in films, and I never imagined how that would have worked, but this novel could have made a decent movie (supposedly it was originally a movie pitch that Shatner made to Paramount, but it was rejected so he turned it into a novel, instead) that also would have ended the TOS era well. It’s a solid effort all around. If you’re a Star Trek fan, particularly one whose read some of the original novels, I recommend picking this up.