Thank you to Titan Books for sending a copy of the Star Trek: Lower Decks: U.S.S. Cerritos Crew Handbook in exchange for an honest review.
Fresh off the replicator, the Star Trek: Lower Decks: U.S.S. Cerritos Crew Handbook is designed to be an in-universe text for new arrivals to the titular California class starship. With a clever design and premise, this book manages to foreground your favorite Lower Deckers while remaining true to its in-universe concept. Are you a fan of Star Trek: Lower Decks exclusively or the Star Trek Franchise as a whole? Then you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this fun and immersive book.
U.S.S. Cerritos Crew Handbook
The premise of the Cerritos Crew Handbook is simple. Lieutenant Junior Grade Bradward Boimler has been given an assignment to update an “orientation handbook” for new Cerritos crew members. Some Trekkies are sure to ask, “Wouldn’t that just be handed out on a PADD?” Rest assured, the Cerritos Crew Handbook has an explanation for why it has been issued in phsyical form.
In fact, the Cerritos Crew Handbook goes out of its way to make it seem as though it exists within the Star Trek universe. The book comes packaged with a removable paper band featuring the Lower Decks and book title wrapped around its cover. Once this is taken off, the sturdy paper front and back cover feature a spot-gloss design depicting the Cerritos and other Lower Decks imagery. The spine omits the show’s title. In short, the book is designed to look like something that could exist in-universe.
To me, this evokes memories of some of my favorite childhood books. These include Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life, written from Bart’s perspective. It also recalls books like the Men in Black: Official Agents’ Handbook. However, the removable Franchise branding of the Cerritos Crew Handbook allows it to take its immersion where no in-universe book has gone before.
There’s another book that’s bound to come up in any conversation surrounding the Cerritos Crew Handbook. This is the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual. But the Cerritos Crew Handbook is not this detailed. And just like Lower Decks, there is plenty of comedy mixed in alongside the science fiction. However, the comparison is not unfair, considering both take the foundation provided by their respective Star Trek spinoffs as a foundation for worldbuilding.
Lower Deckers stick together
As mentioned above, Boimler has been charged with putting this book together. But of course, several other crewmembers (and friends) add their efforts to the project, as well. In many instances, these characters get to show up alongside the text to comment and suggest revisions. And fear not: there’s an explanation for why these comments were included in the final text, too.
The book features entries on various Cerritos departments and activities. These are all laid out as you would expect for an orientation-type text. Included alongside key art from the show are screen grabs from Lower Decks episodes. Plus, many of these episodes are directly referenced by the text, and the biggest fans will find plenty of allusions to the minutae of the series. And it isn’t just Lower Decks that’s referenced, either. Well-versed Trekkies will appreciate some of the more obscure Easter eggs.
In addition to information about the Cerritos, there is also a section on Federation allies and enemies. These include several in-depth profiles about species who have been introduced in Lower Decks, like the Kromsapoid from “The Least Dangerous Game.” Still others examine existing Star Trek species, but with a Lower Decks twist. One example is the Ferengi, whose entry is updated to reflect the events of “Parth Ferengi’s Heart Place.”
And the book is rounded out with trio of decision trees by Badgey 2.0. These helpful flow charts can help you navigate thorny (but on a starship, likely) situations like discovering a member of your crew may be a disguised alien infiltrator. Did you see Star Trek: Picard season 3? You want to be prepared when something like this happens!
Keep it moving, Lower Decks
The Cerritos Crew Handbook is a fun a clever book that will make any reader feel as though they’re being welcomed aboard the community on the Cerritos. And really, who doesn’t want that?
School libraries may want to get extra copies of this book. Why? Because it’s sure to be read to pieces by enthusiastic members of the next generation of Trekkies. And while the Cerritos Crew Handbook is a delight, let’s hope it’s followed by a sequel, as we deserve more books that continue to expand the Cali class in a similar fashion.
Star Trek: Lower Decks: U.S.S. Cerritos Crew Handbook is scheduled for publication on December 19, 2023.
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