Book Review: Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Series: Star Trek: Picard
Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (February 11, 2020)
Length: 336 pages
Confession: I haven’t started watching the new Star Trek: Picard TV series yet. I’m a big Star Trek fan, but I mustered up all the self-restraint I had and held off after being alerted that I would be receiving a review copy of The Last Best Hope, for the same finicky reasons I read Star Wars: Catalyst before watching Rogue One or Durotan by Christie Golden before the Warcraft movie. I’m something of a media tie-in addict, and prequel novels are particularly irresistible to me. While these books rarely add anything critical to the plotline for those who don’t read them, I nevertheless appreciate the way they flesh out the stories and provide background information.
From what I’ve seen though, having this novel under your belt before watching the show actually sounds quite helpful. Covering the period between the discovery of the Romulan supernova to the start of Star Trek: Picard, The Last Best Hope gives the backstory for the major players like Jean Luc Picard, Raffi Musiker, Bruce Maddox and others, chronicling the events surrounding the Romulan evacuation and the fallout which ultimately led to the resignation of the titular character from his beloved Starfleet.
As the story begins, Picard is promoted to Admiral and given the enormous, arguably impossible task of overseeing the transport and relocation of Romulan refugees before their planet is swallowed up by an exploding star. Not only is time running out, the demands of such a monumental mission is going to cost a lot in terms of funds and manpower—neither of which the Federation really has enough to give. Resources will have to be siphoned from already struggling worlds, leading to dissatisfaction from those community leaders as well as scientists who are upset that their own research will be put on hold, not to mention the general skepticism from certain corners expressing concern over helping a former enemy. To make matters worse, the Romulans are a proud people who don’t always seem to appreciate the Federation’s offer of goodwill. Already, there have been many cases of deliberate miscommunication and cultural clashes.
First off, let me say that I’m a big fan of Una McCormack’s work. She is no stranger to media tie-ins, having written novels for Star Trek in the past as well as Doctor Who, which I have enjoyed. She’s indubitably the right person to tap for The Last Best Hope, with her ability to convey the solemnity and emotional impact behind a lot of the events in this book. She also has a talent for exploring the human side of things with a focus on individual character motivations and their interpersonal relationships, all of which are important to the understanding the story’s subjects and themes. As a franchise, Star Trek has always drawn on real-world issues and topical matters in our society for inspiration, and this novel is no different. Just as you’d expect, it’s complicated. Nothing is ever black and white, and sometimes there simply aren’t clear solutions to the questions asked.
That, in essence, is what I think makes this book so fascinating. The author presents the situation from all sides, and whether or not you agree with the any of the characters involved, each point-of-view is a fully realized and sympathetic position. I’ve read a great many media tie-in novels in my years as a reviewer, and The Last Best Hope might be one of the deeper, more thought-provoking ones I’ve come across. It’s also a bit heartbreaking. If you have even the slightest inkling of the premise behind Star Trek: Picard, you already know the character and Starfleet had parted ways for reasons never made public by either party. The circumstances behind that split are revealed at the end of this book, not sparing any of the painful and unpleasant details, so in some ways, knowing that it’s coming made this one a heavy read from the start.
Still, I imagine that’s where the show will come in, an uplifting force to counteract the gloom, hence why I am doubly glad I decided to read this before watching the series. While The Last Best Hope reads perfectly fine as a standalone, I have no doubt it will also make the experience of watching Star Trek: Picard feel fuller and more rewarding. You will also get the backstories for a lot of the key characters, which is personally the biggest motivator for me to pick up any tie-in novel. Bottom line, if you’re a fan of the show, I would highly recommend picking this up to complement the experience.