Okay, so, yeah, it’s been a few weeks.
I have to read other books some time, you know. That’s how I get perspective. I read more than just licensed nerd fiction! There was a new Gibson, plus a funny mystery/thriller set in Dublin. The first was pretty good1I really like Gibson but this felt like a retread of The Peripheral. but the second was a pleasant surprise.
Plus, I got a new job. That’s pretty keen.
Hooray for you. Don’t you know that consistent content creation is important for maintaining your online presence?
Could we not do this now? Can we just talk about the book?
I’m just saying.
Okay. So, let’s go to the back cover copy!
An Enterprise shuttle is forced to crash-land in a violent storm on the barren planet Sigma 1212. Spock, McCoy and Kailyn, the beautiful heir to the Shaddan throne, survive in the near disaster.
Now, pursued by primitive hunters and a band of Klingon scouts, they must reach the mountain where the fabulous dynastic crown is hidden. With the help of Spock and McCoy, and her own fantastic mental powers, Kailyn must prove that she alone is the true heir to the throne.
If they fail, they will open the door for Klingon takeover of the whole quadrant — and the galaxy’s hope to live long and prosper will fall in the shadow of a cruel tyranny!
Okay, so Klingons again, plus what sounds kind of like a retread of “All Our Yesterdays” mashed up with “The Galileo Seven” and maybe a little “Metamorphosis”?
Yeah, that’s pretty obvious, huh? But despite it being a little derivative, I like this book a lot. (And not just because it’s the first “grown up” book I read2It was part of a slipcased set of four Trek novels I got for Christmas in 1982, setting me down a dark path.)
As the title of this very blog post states, I picked up a copy of this on a whim and read it over the course of a couple of enjoyable afternoons. 30-odd years had passed since I’d last given it much thought, but it was an enjoyable enough to get me to start this blog.
So sell it to me, nerd.
God, we have to do something about this attitude of yours.
First of all, this book has two prefaces: one by the author (who wrote the fan-favorite TAS episode “The Pirates of Orion” when he was 193Yeah, I know age is just a number and everyone hits their stride at different times, but that’s an annoying thing to have done, right?) and another by David Gerrold, the previous holder of the “Youngest Person To Write A Star Trek” trophy. The vast majority of Trek novels feature nothing in the way of prefaces, so that’s bang for your buck right there. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re both witty and indicative of the overall tone of the novel.)
The back copy offers a very streamlined version of the book’s plot, which starts with McCoy’s birthday party being interrupted by upheaval on the distant, resource-rich world of Shad. In short order, the readers learns that a young Lt. Commander James T. Kirk helped the royal family of Shad flee a coup and there’s now an opportunity for the aged regent, Stevvin, to return and reclaim his throne4You may eliminate capitalism as the primary economy for your star-spanning collective of worlds, but you still need things like dilithium and tridenite and retsyn to keep things running .
It’s not quite that easy, of course. First they have to fetch the titular crown, which was hidden away years ago in a mountain cave on the miserable Sigma 1212 and deal with a betrayal in the king’s court that has given the Klingons a distinct advantage in their pursuit of Shad’s goodies.
Now, before I go on, I have to talk about the elephant in the room. Or, really, the fish.
Shad is a terrible name for a planet.
This is a shad. It’s painted by Sherman Foote Denton5From the first edition of The Fish And Game of the State of New York . Does that look like a planet to you? No, it should look like a species of anadromous clupeid that’s indigenous to North America’s Atlantic Coast, commonly found from Newfoundland down to Florida, because that’s what it is.
This is literally the one rule about writing I think is sacred: you don’t name planets after fish.
It sounds silly to have Kirk visit the border world of Salmon to negotiate a treaty, and I don’t even want to imagine how ridiculous it’d be if Uhura informed them that the ambassador from Billy Big Mouth Bass was ready to beam aboard.
Not really selling me on this one, Church.
It’s not my job to sell you a book, okay? If it was, my last name would be Waldenbooks or B. Dalton.
Anyway, Shad is one of just two real complaints I have with The Covenant of the Crown. The other is the pacing of the first act, which takes just a bit long to get to where the action is. There’s some really good foundational character work (mostly around Stevvin’s daughter, Kailyn, and her budding affection for Bones) and all, but not enough plot is layered in to make me feel like ten or so pages couldn’t have been cut to move readers along6Of course, if this were an episode, the first 80 pages of the book would have been covered in a log entry..
Things I liked about the book include:
- Weinstein’s prose. It has wit and emotion without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to be funny or leaning into the melodramatic.
- Princess Kailyn’s arc. While a lesser writer could have made her crush on McCoy awkward or salacious, Weinstein handles her character very well. She’s never stereotypical, even if she’s an exiled princess going on a quest7More on the quest in the next section.
- Weinstein’s grasp on these characters. It’s something beyond being able to imagine one of the cast their character’s lines; every individual’s motivations and actions ring true, especially McCoy.
- Bones and Spock being stuck with each other. This is a Trek trope I’m a sucker for and it’s done extremely well here.
Thing I was ambivalent about:
- The whole “dangerous quest for the crown” thing. Yes, I get that “going to X to get Y to achieve Z” is one of the most basic plots there is, but there was never any real doubt that it was going to be achieved here.
The first licensed book explicitly set after Star Trek: The Motion Picture doesn’t go anywhere especially new (unlike The Entropy Effect) but The Covenant of the Crown is a great example of how to do a Trek novel that’s just familiar enough. It respects the established canon without becoming enslaved by it, and I’d say it’s a pretty foundational read for McCoy fans interested in the earlier novels.
Buy The Covenant of the Crown:
Hey, I thought you were done!
I just wanted to show you something wild: a German edition of The Covenant Of The Crown that features art for Disney’s The Black Hole, courtesy of Memory Beta. I can’t get over this thing.