Originally published in late 2008, the Destiny trilogy is a major linchpin of Star Trek tie-in fiction. This hugely ambitious series combines characters, ships and backstory from several TV series and films and is a deeply rewarding read for Star Trek fans.
Note: this article contains mild spoilers for the Destiny trilogy.
Here’s an understatement for you - there is a lot of Star Trek. In fact, in total there are already around 800 episodes of the various TV series, plus 13 films. Right now, there is more Star Trek in production than ever before with no less than five separate TV shows in production and a new film due for release in 2023. It’s an extraordinary amount of stories, but this summation leaves out a whole, massive sphere of the franchise: the books.
Now to be clear, Star Trek books are not canon, so in a sense they are not an essential part of your experience even for franchise completists. The books are a huge and fascinating resource for fans, however, with their own sprawling continuity. The sheer scale of Star Trek print and ebook fiction is vast - there are already over 850 books available, with more being released each year. There are sub-series which tie in with The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise as well as ones which tie in with the current productions Discovery and Picard. In addition, there are many books set within the universe but only minimally connected with specific shows. These include the 18-volume New Frontier saga which follows the USS Excalibur, and the massive Starfleet Corps of Engineers series which runs to dozens of novellas, alongside numerous others. To put it another way, the galaxy is really big.
For a manageable and reasonably self-contained series which nevertheless brings in a huge range of characters from around the Star Trek universe, the Destiny trilogy is easy to recommend. The three books Gods of Night, Mere Mortals and Lost Souls were written by David Mack and published in late 2008. They are set primarily in 2381, about a year and a half after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis and hinge on a new, catastrophic invasion by the Borg. Having tried and failed to assimilate Earth, and finding the United Federation of Planets to be a consistent thorn in its side, the Collective has decided to simply eliminate its enemies altogether. The build-up to these events was seeded in a number of previous books, and its ramifications continued into a number of later ones.
The scope of Mack’s work is huge. The trilogy focuses primarily on no less than four Starfleet vessels - the USS Enterprise-E commanded by Jean-Luc Picard, the USS Titan commanded by William Riker, the USS Aventine commanded by Ezri Dax, and most intriguingly the NX-02 Columbia, sister ship of the main vessel featured in the prequel series Enterprise. Mostly operating independently for much of the story, the four ships each have a distinct role to play in the plot. In a way, the story of the Columbia is the most critical, mostly related in flashback as its events take place in 2168. Its captain, Erika Hernandez, is crucial to the trilogy despite having only appeared in a few episodes of Enterprise.
Having chosen such a huge scale for the story - the very existence of the Federation and countless billions of lives threatened by the Borg - Mack works hard to make sure that references are made to the characters and ships that aren’t central to events. The fate of the USS Voyager is alluded to, the USS Excalibur fights a key battle and destroys a Borg cube, and the USS da Vinci is credited with saving the planet Troyius by somehow “making it disappear.”
The flipside to the series’ broad scope is that the books can’t focus in great detail on particular characters. For example, while part of the appeal is seeing Ezri Dax command her own starship - a powerful, experimental Vesta-class one at that - her role is important but relatively small in terms of page count. Similarly, fans of Jean-Luc Picard or his new executive officer Worf will be better served by reading books specifically focused on The Next Generation. The beauty of the Destiny trilogy is not a deep focus on individuals - although Erika Hernandez comes close - but on the broad sweep of a massive conflict, and how it affects numerous ships, worlds, and people.
It also goes without saying that a deep knowledge of Star Trek lore helps a lot in terms of getting the most out of these books, and having seen all of the key TV series is almost mandatory. With this in mind, Destiny provides a large-scale, rollicking and often surprising adventure which delves into the inner workings of the Federation, relationships between heroic captains in crisis, the origins and fate of the Borg, and more besides. There are some excellent setpieces, such as a Hirogen attack on the Enterprise and Aventine and the efforts of Takaran security chief Lonnoc Kedair to disable a Borg ship from inside.
Destiny may not be the best entry point in the enormous continuity of Star Trek books, but it is a great example of what the form is capable of. Readers who have tackled and enjoyed this trilogy can jump off into a wide variety of different directions depending on where their particular interests lie - and that's key to the enduring appeal of the Star Trek universe today: there's something for everyone.
I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.