Star Trek: Discovery – Fear Itself (2018) – James Swallow

Simon & Schuster send me back to the final frontier, where I boldly go to explore the third novel in the Discovery series, Fear Itself. This one made me feel like the series was back on track. As interesting an idea as the previous novel, Drastic Measures, was, it didn’t pull me in like Desperate Hours, and now, Fear Itself.

I was able to see the story play out as an episode in my mind’s eye, and it was a lot of fun, and fell right into the established continuity and character performances of the series, though it’s set before the events of season one of Discovery.

In fact, it is 2252, three years before the first novel, Desperate Hours, and four years before the Battle of the Binary Stars. Both Michal Burnham and Saru are lieutenants aboard the Shenzhou, under Georgiou, and as we glimpsed in the first novel, they don’t exactly mesh in working styles and philosophies.

This time, however, we join Saru on an adventure that puts his Kelpien fight or flight biology, and threat ganglia to the test.

On the edge of Tholian space, the Shenzhou responds to an emergency, though the help they deliver is met with a bit of stand-offish behavior, and Saru suspects there is more going on aboard the ship than they first perceive.

While this is going on Burnham is working on a recovered satellite that seems to have had its core components destroyed, her conclusions speak to trouble in the area, and the Tholian Assembly is responsible!

As Saru investigates, he seems to cross the line between following orders (though none are explicitly given) and doing what’s right. He discovers what sounds like a forced relocation of refugees (a very familiar theme in recent Trek stories, reflecting our own world), and he’s forced to make decisions that could put everyone at risk.

Now, thrown into a command situation that he may not be ready for, Saru is going to have to fight with his prey instincts, lead, inspire, and find a resolution for the growing Tholian threat.

The refugee theme allows for the always welcome reprise in Trek stories, the IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) philosophy. If the refugees, their would be enemies, and Starfleet can all work together, maybe they’ll be ready for the Tholians.

Course, even if Saru and his away team survive the encounter, what awaits him when he returns to the Shenzhou?

I really enjoyed this one. As mentioned, I could see it all play out in my head, and I love when a story does that, when you no longer see the words, just the story playing out in the theatre of the imagination – awesome! Swallow’s depiction of the characters is right in line with what we would expect them to be had we encountered them before the start of season one.

It’s fun, smart, and fits perfectly into the established timeline, and the universe (which is important, because unless they get contradicted by later reveals, the novels are considered canon). I’m really loving this series of books. Next time, I set out on a journey with Tilly in The Way to the Stars, by Una McCormack, who wrote the fantastic Last Best Hope novel for the Picard series. So I’m very excited to dig into that one.

Check out this Discovery title (the series to date has been fantastically written and researched), and other Trek novels (the Picard line is brilliant!) from Simon & Schuster under their Gallery Books imprint and continue to boldly go, because the human adventure is just beginning…

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