reviewed by Diane Doyle
Any fan who has seen Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan can probably recall the Kobayashi Maru test that Starfleet cadets are forced to take, i.e. the "no-win" scenario. Within that movie, it was revealed that James Kirk had reprogrammed the computers so that a cadet would have the possibility of success, being as he did not believe in the "no-win" scenario.
This novel, by Julia Ecklar, deals with the experiences Kirk, Chekov, Sulu, and Scott had with that infamous test. At the beginning of the novel, the four of them, along with Doctor McCoy, board a shuttlecraft to make contact with the Venkatsen Research Group. However, a freak shuttlecraft accident causes them to find themselves adrift in space, out of communications range and very little hope of rescue. Complicating matters, Kirk and Sulu are both injured. Their dire situation reminded them of the Kobayashi Maru test they faced as cadets. Hence, Kirk, Chekov, Sulu, and Scott each recount their experiences with it. Their current predicament due to the shuttle accident is basically a frame story for the four stories told by each senior officer. Interspersed between each story are the reactions of the other officers and their attempts to escape their current situation.
The first story told is that of James T. Kirk, fleshing out the details of what was mentioned in The Wrath of Khan. It describes his two early failures at the test and his obsessive reviewing of the results to see if there was any way he could improve. In spite of learning that the test was a no-win scenario, Kirk refused to accept defeat and eventually reprogrammed the conditions of the test, took it a third time, and successfully rescued the distressed ship in the scenario.
The second story, which is the most extensive story, is about Chekovs experiences. In his case, he evacuated his crew from the ship and then blew up his ship and the Klingon vessels. To his humiliation, his instructor pointed out that evacuating his crew in lifepods did not ensure their survival due to the resulting explosions and radiation. There were further tests for Chekov as his Command School class was sent to the Aslan Industrial Station for a survival scenario. More humiliation is involved for Chekov as he learned more about how he fell short of the standards of James T. Kirk.
The next story involved Sulus experiences in command school, including a galactic political exercise and his Kobayashi Maru test. Interspersed with those experiences is the story of his relationship with his great-grandfather who is dying of a form of cancer. He learned of his great-grandfathers death soon before taking the infamous test. During the test, he refuses to cross into the Neutral Zone, knowing the Klingons would consider it an act of war and destroy his ship.
The final story involved Scotty using a series of engineering solutions to destroy Klingon ships. As Klingon ships were destroyed, more Klingon ships would emerge and Scotty would continue with another engineering solution and finally used one of his own. By the time the scenario was over, Scotty admitted he had not wished to go to Command School. Scotty was, thus, removed from there and became an engineer, as we all know.
Overall, the framing story and the individual stories are very interesting. There is suspense in the framing story concerning how they could possibly be rescued when the situation seemed so dire. The individual stories give much insight to each of the characters, Kirk, Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty. Fans of Sulu and Chekov will be delighted to see that the book devotes a great deal of attention to them and fills in some of their back story. Scottys story, while comparatively short, is very humorous. His reaction to being removed from Command School is very reminiscent of his reaction when being confined to quarters in The Trouble with Tribbles.
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