5 of 5 stars.
Spock-Lovers beware! There is not much of our favourite green-blooded hobgoblin in here!
Sadly, I mean it. He has a few lines, but overall he’s not one of the main protagonists.
Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad book.
On the contrary.
When I jumped into the Star Trek fandom in the late 80s/early 90s there were A LOT of books written about the various TV shows: The Original Series (TOS, Kirk, Spock, McCoy etc.), The Next Generation (TNG, Picard & Co.) and Deep Space Nine (DS9, I can’t even remember anyone but Odo and Dr. Bashir). (Voyager and Enterprise came later, when I had already lost most of my interest.) In other words: I read a lot of Star Trek books.
For all non-Star-Trek-fans: The books were NOT the episodes in written form. The books were either tie-ins with the series or completely new, stand-alone stories.
Either way: No matter how much I read, very few of them rang true.
It’s not easy capturing an already existing character, getting him “right”, let alone eight, twelve or twenty of them. Especially since every viewer probably has a different view on their favourite Star Trek crew member and what happens to it, and you just can’t get it right ALL the time.
So, to exactly no-one’s surprise, I didn’t like many of the books. (And that in a phase of my life where I was a LOT LESS picky about outrageous love stories and highly unlikely character developments.)
“Death Count” is one of the commendable exceptions.
It takes the already existing characters and makes them BETTER.
Hard to believe, I know, but it really does.
L. A. Graf concentrates mainly on three characters which were always mostly stereotypes and/or prompters in the series: Uhura, Chekov and Sulu. Settled somewhere between the end of the TV show and before (I think) the first movie, Chekov is now with Starfleet Security and Uhura is a Lieutenant Commander. And they’re absolutely not the clowns the TV series sometimes degraded them to be, they’re fully functional, serious and professional Starfleet officers. We get to know a lot more about their personal lives and their friendship that built and strengthened over the years.
There also is a refreshingly mature Captain Kirk who has to deal with Orions, Andorians and – worst of all – Starfleet auditors.
I’ve rarely read a Star Trek book that provides an interesting case, has the characters down to a T (and even develops them accordingly), conveys the seriousness of a dangerous situation without getting silly, and with a dash of humour and the good-natured teasing we’re so familiar with.
As good as it possibly gets.