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Star Trek: Starfleet Academy:
The Best and the Brightest

Susan Wright
Pocket Books, 277 pages

The Best and the Brightest
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
A brand new Star Trek series set at Starfleet Academy. It follows the adventures of six of the most talented and ambitious young members of the Federation as they navigate their way through the Academy.

Pocket Books: Star Trek
Paramount Star Trek
Starfleet Academy Tour

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

The Best and the Brightest tells the story of a group of young cadets at Starfleet Academy from their first year to graduation. It steps out of the usual format of a contained plot and well-established characters and instead covers a sweep of years with new people, though many familiar faces appear along the way.

Of necessity, this book focuses more on character and setting and less on plot than usual. Point of view shifts from one to the next without focusing on any individual. The plot is mostly a series of vignettes, putting the cadets, alone or in groups, in a variety of situations and letting them work through things with varying degrees of success. The novel is bracketed by events significant to the Academy, beginning shortly after the Nova Squadron debacle and ending with the beginning of Red Squad.

Although Dr. Soran appears at one point, the characters' main antagonists are themselves, as they learn to define who they really are and what they can do, overcoming their own and others' illusions. One of the cleverest bits is the obstacle course in Chapter Six, hardly a dramatic turning point, but it reveals a lot about perception and cooperation; this scene alone is worth the price of the book. There is a welcome glimpse of 24th-century San Francisco Chinatown, changed yet unchanged by the centuries. And the scene with the stuffy Bajoran former Vedek dealing with a cargo of Orion slave women has subtle humour without being overplayed.

The story's loose format allows many characters to make brief appearances: Guinan, Dax, Data (or at least his head), B'Elanna, Barclay and the original Dr. Zimmerman, a stern lecture from Captain Picard, and of course a thoughtful observation from Boothby the gardener. Inevitably a couple of romances arise among the cadets; one of these relationships is lesbian, perhaps just because such are fashionable on television these days. One of the characters dies heroically; a framing device reveals this in the prologue without saying who it is, allowing the story to unfold. The mix of characters is clearly intended to appeal to a mixed audience, as different readers will tend to identify with different cadets. Any of these new ensigns would make a welcome addition to future stories.

The Best and the Brightest is more of a journal of life at Starfleet Academy than a structured novel. Since the Academy experience is central to so many characters in the Star Trek universe, it's interesting to see this in greater detail than would be possible in a television format. Where we have only had snapshots in the past, this book gives a more detailed look at this experience, and by extension gives us more information about every character who has passed through here. Fans of Star Trek will want to add this book to their collections.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.

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