I really wanted to like this book, since I haven’t read a Star Trek novel in about 20 years, but sadly, I didn’t. The writing is of the quality one might expect from a fanfic (and actually much worse than some excellent fanfics I’ve been lucky enough to read.)
The characters don’t ring true–Kirk’s default setting seems to be “capricious jerk,” while Spock and the rest of the crew are reduced almost to shadows.
The story has promise (people from a newly-discovered planet want to publicize their entry into the Federation by hosting a starship race open to non-Starfleet ships), but its execution is dreadful. The Rey could have been a fascinating addition to the Star Trek universe because of their ability to affect others with the force of their emotions–a power to which Vulcans and Romulans are particularly susceptible. Instead, they are portrayed as childlike and weak, despite this unique power which allowed them to dominate their planet after having evolved from prey animals (!) and despite having discovered space travel on their own.
More troubling than this, though, is the casual racism on display. Sulu is portrayed as an inscrutable cipher who controls his emotions almost as much as Spock does, and is referred to as an “Oriental.” One ship’s all-human crew proudly flies the Confederate “Stars and Bars” flag without facing any censure, which is unconscionable even in this century, let alone Kirk’s. And at the end, when Kirk visits the disgraced Romulan commander in hospital, he refers to the man as “not a Romulan or a Vulcan,” but a different kind of being–not too far from the “one of the good ones” rhetoric often faced by people of color in our own time.
Altogether, “The Great Starship Race” is a disappointment and one which the serious fan would be well-advised to skip.