The Higher Frontier is a Star Trek novel written by Christopher L. Bennett and takes place between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This book delves into the period which led to James Kirk finally accepting his promotion to admiral as Spock takes on the role as captain of the USS Enterprise.
A race known as the Aenar has all been wiped out when this novel begins, and the Enterprise is assigned to investigate the attacks as the second five-year tour comes to an end. Kirk and company are reunited with telepath Miranda Jones and Medusan ambassador Kollos who first appeared in the television episode Is There In Truth No Beauty?. The novel is full of references to other previous novels and television episodes. It seems that the crew’s recent encounter with V’Ger had awakened latent ESP abilities in many people throughout the Federation which has generated in brutal attacks from beings known as the Naazh. The story explores the different prejudices and suspicion directed to those with unusual abilities.
Bennett can indulge in a little too much exposition between characters for my liking sometimes, but I ended up still enjoying this latest effort when it was all done. I am not one of those fans who need to be revisit previous stories much and was at first a little exasperation to the callbacks littered throughout this one, however the main plot ended up keeping me hooked.
I also liked that the story sort of unfolds over a period of almost over a year as well. We see the crew face the idea of their careers finally moving them away from each other. Spock even has to examine his choice of refusing command in a new light. There was a sense of real conflict between the idea of the main characters staying together where they knew they performed well and valued and allowing the natural progression of career trajectory to play out.
Bennett packs quite a few personal dramas among the characters which could get a little distracting from the action, but he also makes them a bit more tangible and realistic than what was sometimes presented in the television series and movies. Anyway, even if there were some practices that sometimes fail to endear me, I find this novel to be one of the better ones in the range. It’s good to revisit this particular crew in a period of their lives that leaves plenty of room for creating new adventures.
I will next be reading another installment of a series featuring Jane Hawk, a recent widow with a unique set of special skills, that allows her to bring down an agency that was behind the very troubling suicide of her husband. Suicides are troubling anyway, but Hawk has something to target here in The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz.