Paul Robinson reads the Prometheus books by Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg thanks to Titan Books...
Last year I reviewed the first book in the Star Trek Prometheus trilogy [read Paul's review of that here], an original book-only series focusing on a new ship and a new crew, first written in German and now translated into English and published by Titan Books.
To say that I didn't like it would be a simplification, so I was surprised when I was offered the second and third books to review. I determined that I would give it another go and give it an honest review.
My big problem with the first book still runs strong - it's a translation and you can tell. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the calibre of translation in the Auntie Poldi series by Mario Giordano, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne. But perhaps this workmanlike translation had also coloured my enjoyment of the novel? If I put that aside, how would I feel?
Workmanlike is the watchword. The novels were written to tie into the anniversary of Trek a few years ago, and therefore there are numerous references to events and characters from the shows, movies and novels - from the Prometheus itself, to several of the characters. New Frontier was guilty of this in the nineties - with Titan and Vanguard falling into the trap in the noughties and Seekers in the last few years.
This is not the best Star Trek spinoff undertaken in literature. It might be the worst - but the bar has been set very high by it's predecessors, and in an era where there is good Trek on television (or, the internet rather) this is not going to do it any favours.
So, having enjoyed other translated work, and enjoyed other book-only Trek series, what do I think of Prometheus now I've had the chance to read the full trilogy? Well, I certainly have to admit that my first review was a little unfair - there are obvious problems but it's really not as bad as I remembered it being.
The characters by and large aren't very memorable, with the standout being Jassat ak Namur. Lenissa zh'Thiin had some interesting points - and arguably the Klingon crew on the Prometheus' companion ship, the Bortas, were allowed to be more colourful. Kromm and L'emka were far more interesting than their counterparts Adams and Roass.
Let's use New Frontier as a comparison in this instance. By the end of the first four novelette mini-series, we were familiar with all of our regular characters and their personalities - whether it was Calhoun, Shelby, Burgoyne, Soleta, Selar, Lefler, McHenry, Si Cwan or Kebron, everyone had their favourite and could name the rest. With the exception of Ak Namur and zh'Thiin, the crew of the Prometheus come across as bland placeholders rather than characters, a sin that might be forgivable if our Captain wasn't one of the least memorable.
At least the one thing that Prometheus has going for it is the plot - a fringe element of a galactic power commit a terrorist act, some blame the galactic power itself but they deny involvement, the Federation advocates a diplomatic solution and the Klingons a military one. It's a story that has some clear subtext - especially in the world that exists today - and perhaps despite it's weak characters and once I had determined to overlook the workmanlike translation, perhaps this is why I found the trilogy readable. More readable than my first time out of the gates at the very least.
Briefly relating to one of my previous comments about the references to other books and novels - perhaps there were a few too many of these, and perhaps my lack of interest in many of the past few years of Trek novels (I made a rough attempt to keep up to date with the DS9 continuation, but that ultimately failed) other than the last years three Discovery tie-ins meant that this frustrated my reading experience. With my lack of 100% familiarity the references seemed put there for references sake. But obviously, as is true in most situations, your own mileage may vary.
In short - the Prometheus novels are neither bad nor great; though published as three novels they are best read as a single story. Don't go in expecting the story to blow your socks off - it's like fast food: it does what it says on the tin, and is enjoyable even if it ultimately leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied.
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Image - Titan Books
Star Trek Prometheus: In the Heart of Chaos is available now.