Review: Star Trek: Discovery – Somewhere to Belong
Long-time Star Trek scribe Dayton Ward — whose last entry into the franchise was the critically-acclaimed Star Trek: Coda: Moments Asunder — returns to the Star Trek universe with Somewhere to Belong, a story that bridges the gap between Star Trek: Discovery seasons three and four. This period is ripe for exploration, as the crew of the titular ship is still adjusting to their lives in the far-flung future. Ward wastes no time in laying out an intriguing story that marries Discovery’s ethos – one of found family, universal positivity, and sensitivity — with following up on an important species seen only twice before in Star Trek.
It’s often said that a novelist’s objective when writing in a well-known franchise like Star Trek is following up on plotlines or characters seen in “canon” material and expanding them on the page. In Somewhere to Belong, Ward serves this mission by showing readers what happened to the Xaheans, the species seen in Discovery’s season two finale and the Short Trek “Runaway.” Readers will remember in the latter episode how Queen Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip) forms a fast friendship with Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and then in the former episode Po and her people help Discovery as it launches itself into the future. Well, what happened to the Xaheans after that? Quite a bit, it appears, and the Xaheans Captain Michael Burnham and the Discovery crew encounter in the 32nd century have quite a story to tell.
It’s a tale that weaves familiar elements from Star Trek histories, such as the Dominion War, the Federation-Cardassian War, and the Burn, with universally relevant themes such as social strife, political angst, and environmental consciousness. These elements form a narrative that reflects not only the Xaheans quest for belonging but also the Discovery crew’s. Ward, as we would expect from a veteran author, handles these thematic parallels adroitly, as Somewhere to Belong never gets boring or predictable over its 320-or-so pages. Indeed, the consideration put into having the Xaheans’ plight reflect our heroes’ is impressive, and readers will likely appreciate just how Ward has woven such a delicate tale within the framework established by Discovery’s second and third seasons.
Also impressive is how Ward hones in on what makes Discovery unique among the ever-growing cadre of Star Trek shows. It’s fair to say the show offers more emotional, empathetic, and sympathetic sensibilities among its main cast than, say, Picard or Strange New Worlds. Ward makes sure to focus on our characters through this lens; for example, characters in this book often “check in” on each other to see how they are dealing with the jump to the future, and offer plenty of emotional support. Indeed, the focus on proper emotional and mental health is spotlighted by an addition to the Discovery crew during this adventure. If you like Discovery’s sensibilities toward introspective well-being, you’ll find a lot to like about this book, and in that way, Ward’s storytelling feels like a natural addition to this series.
The last note we’ll make about why we think this book is worth reading is what it does with Commander Paul Stamets and Captain Michael Burnham. Remember in the season three finale how Burnham ejected Stamets away from Discovery against his wishes so the Emerald Chain wouldn’t take advantage of the engineer’s spore drive skills? We thought that animosity would manifest more in season four than it did, and indeed it appeared Stamets harbored little ill will toward Burnham in the most recent season. This book helps explain the gap in our understanding of this relationship. At the start of Somewhere to Belong, Stamets does indeed harbor resentment against his captain for her actions while combating the Emerald Chain, and it’s through this book’s course of events, and what happens to Stamets specifically, that makes him organically ease off the hostility. So, we appreciate this book making his behavior in season four less disorienting – although it’s a shame fans had to wait until now to thoroughly understand that relationship.
Taken together, there are plenty of reasons to read Somewhere to Belong. Ward expertly uses past events in the Star Trek timeline to inform Discovery’s latest adventure, and fleshes out a story perfectly fitting Discovery’s philosophy. Plus, this is the only book with a Galaxy Quest reference, so what’s not to like?
You can order Star Trek: Discovery – Somewhere to Belong now on Amazon.
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