Forged in Fire takes place between the movies Star Trek 5 and 6, it describes how Hikaru Sulu becomes Captain of the U.S.S. Excelsior. During Sulu’s youth, we learn that he narrowly saved himself and his parents from being killed by a bloodthirsty, albino Klingon who is forced to live as an outlaw. In the present, the outlaw has been staging biological viral attacks against his perceived enemies.
During a diplomatic conference between the Federation and the Klingon empire, held on Earth, the albino attacks the meeting. His cloaked freighter then makes a surprise attack above Earth’s orbit and destroys the Klingon’s diplomatic flagship. Sulu defies orders from Starfleet and crosses into Klingon space to help three other Klingon captains in tracking down the Klingon outlaw. He is later called to a Starfleet tribunal for this crime, but a Klingon diplomat makes it clear, right before Sulu makes his plea to the charges, that disciplining Sulu will hurt relations with Qo’noS.
A character that is often mentioned in Deep Space Nine, Curzon Dax, is a Trill featured in the story as part of a diplomatic team, being mentored by Spock’s father, Sarek. After the conference attack, Curzon joins the Klingon’s on their ship to assist with repairs and boosting their sensors, a creeping respect between the Klingons and the Trill begins to emerge, which reflects scenes from DS9 where Dax is often found in the company of Klingon’s and enjoying their cuisine.
The story makes nods to other Star Trek series, such as this, and are done well and many familiar characters are included while keeping their interactions fresh. The book goes deeply into descriptions of Klingon culture, also making smart use of the Klingon language. Many scenes concerning the viral attacks had dialogue about genetic science, I found a few of these nuggets helpful for my own writing project.
The ending is good, but bitter-sweet. The outlaw’s criminal organization is crippled, Sulu’s and Curzon’s help leads to greater relations between the two powers, showing the first steps of the Federation-Klingon alliance.
I found this book had a lot of depth and handled the series’ material well, and I found that Sulu’s command style reflected well with what we know about his character. Many scenes were described in detail, such as aboard the Excelsior and Klingon ships, Starfleet tribunal, and on Qo’noS. I found the characters fit into the story well and scenes of violence weren’t sugar-coated. This was a great story with lots of unique touches, the outlaw Klingon is a great villain who has a lot of depth. It’s a shame that this was never turned into a movie, I doubt that television could give this story justice. My only complaints are that the dialogue can be a bit too serious at times and the loose threads that were left unresolved. It should be noted that the U.S.S. Excelsior was first featured in Star Trek 3 and was created by the late Leonard Nimoy.