Review: The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack


Sylvia Tilly takes center stage in the latest Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel as readers find out what events led her to join Starfleet.

Most fans of Star Trek: Discovery would probably agree that Commander Saru was the breakout character of the show’s first season. The Kelpien was popular with fans and even those who didn’t like the show had to agree that the performance of Doug Jones was simply incredible.

Not me though. From the moment she first appeared on screen I quickly became a huge fan of Cadet Sylvia Tilly.

That appreciation only grew as the first season continued. It’s hard not to be a fan when you watch her unbridled enthusiasm for her work, best shown when she drops an f-bomb for the first time in franchise history. Add in the whole experience in the Mirror Universe and you have a character that is perfect for what Star Trek is and an actor in Mary Wiseman who beautifully bring her to life.

Now Tilly fans can get some background on everyone’s favorite mushroom expert in the latest Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel, The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack.

The novel follows Sylvia Tilly over the course of a year, beginning with her sixteenth birthday and ending with her decision to join Starfleet. Over that year we see Tilly go from a sheltered, privileged Federation citizen to the capable young woman viewers fell in love with on Discovery.

Writer Una McCormack is no stranger to the world of Star Trek, having written no less than seven previous novels set in various Trek settings. However, what makes The Way to the Stars unique is that it’s something Trek has had very few of: a coming of age story.

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You won’t find any grand space battles or tales of intrigue in the pages of The Way to the Stars. Instead what you will get is an engrossing page-turner that gives us a Tilly just at the start of her journey to discovering who she is. All the parts of the character we met on Discovery are there, but we also get a peek at what made her who she is and how she came to the decisions she did.

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed was that the evolution of Sylvia Tilly doesn’t happen overnight. So often in comic of age stories the character has a great revelation about their life and after a few pages they are a totally different person. Instead McCormack weaves those changes throughout the course of the entire novel. Tilly changes bit by bit, each experience building on the last. It’s refreshing to watch that kind of development in a character from the first chapter to the last.

Cover of The Way to the Stars (Image: Simon and Schuster)

Another refreshing aspect of The Way to the Stars is that not everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow by the last page. When the story is finished, Tilly still has some family drama that is unresolved and given her always positive disposition, you can’t help but hurt for her. Hopefully these will be touched on again over the course of future seasons of Discovery or, even better, a second Tilly novel.

The only negative I will say is that if you are not a fan of Sylvia Tilly then there is nothing in The Way to the Stars for you. The book is all Tilly, all the time. Hopefully if you didn’t like her on the first season of Discovery and if you give the novel a chance it might change your mind. But your milage will vary.

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The Way to the Stars is a great addition to any Star Trek reader’s library, especially those that are fans of Discovery and Sylvia Tilly. It is a fun, entertaining read that will get you excited to see what Tilly does next in Discovery Season 2.