STAR TREK: THE LOST ERA – THE SUNDERED
Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels
Pocket Books MMPB
387 pages, $6.99
Date of release: August 2003
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Written by Bill Williams, edited by Steve Krutzler
Synopsis: Unprecedented peace talks with the violently xenophobic Tholian Assembly trigger a deadly confrontation aboard the Starship Excelsior. Now, Captain Hikaru Sulu and his crew are thrust into an unexpected conflict between the Tholians and a mysterious new enemy, the Neyel, whose origins if revealed could lead to war with Earth itself. As the Tholians weave a web of vengeance, the Excelsior is flung beyond the galaxy to discover the hidden truth about the alien Neyel, forcing Sulu to question where his responsibilities lie: with the fragile peace he must preserve, or with the victims of his own world’s tragic past.
Review: When I first heard about the attempt to bridge the gap between Captain Kirk’s death in GENERATIONS and the beginning of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, I saw a vast territory in the late 23rd century and majority of the 24th century that needed exploring. We have seen some novels in the past deal with some of the tapestry of events that had been largely left unfilled – including VULCAN’S FORGE, VULCAN’S HEART, the STARGAZER novels, the TNG-era STARFLEET ACADEMY junior novels, to name a few. As TNG, followed by DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER, progressed through their respective runs on television, we began to see some of the events recorded that occurred in those lost years. But more was needed.
In an attempt to continue bridging that gap, editor Marco Palmieri has developed a six-book series to chronicle some of the events in that time frame, with many Original Series, TNG, DS9, and VOYAGER characters prominently featured. As with the SECTION 31 series, according to Palmieri, this would give readers the opportunity to read each adventure as a stand-alone novel or as part of the larger collective of the lost years in STAR TREK history.
The first book, THE SUNDERED, written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels, begins the series in rousing fashion. Sulu and the Excelsior crew, including Chekov, Dr. Chapel, Janice Rand, Tuvok, and Leonard James Akaar (previously seen in DC Comics’ STAR TREK comics series in 1990 and the DS9 MISSION: GAMMA series) are called into diplomatic negotiations with the mysterious Tholians (from the Original Series episode “The Tholian Web”) to handle a delicate peace agreement with an alien species called the Neyel. On the mission the Tholians discover that Starfleet has dispatched a number of deep space probes into Tholian space, violating the fragmentary peace between the two groups. But the negotiations are disrupted as someone attempts an assassination attempt on one of the Tholian ambassadors. It is up to Sulu and his crew to find out who and why. Now Sulu is given 12 hours to reach a settlement with the mysterious Neyel and unlock the secret of their past in order to preserve their future.
The novel jumps back in time, from the middle of the 21st century to the time frame of the Original Series, as Martin and Mangels detail some of the cataclysmic events of World War III, including Earth’s nuclear holocaust, the first warp drive tests, a disastrous first contact with the Nausicaans (from TNG’s “Tapestry”), and the events leading up to Zefram Cochrane’s plans for the Phoenix, Earth’s first warp-capable spaceship (previously mentioned in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT). Around these events is a story of a group of colonists from the O’Neil Colonies, who are flung from their base around the Earth to a distant part of the universe. At the center of this background story is the development of the surviving O’Neil colonists, whose history and culture bear an important relevance to the Neyel of the 23rd century.
First contact and species evolution stories are interesting, particularly in a STAR TREK adventure. One wrong slip, and that first contact can lead to many years of mistrust. But the right decisions, the right spoken words, and the proper gestures and understandings that are made can lead to peaceful co-existence and dialog, as we have seen over the years in many series episodes. THE SUNDERED is no exception, and this is one of the moral questions Sulu and his crew must face. Are the “aliens” as different as we are?
Eventually, the final confrontation between Sulu and the Tholians recalls the NEXT GENERATION episode “Code of Honor”, as here Martin and Mangels establish the Tholian code of “truthcombat”. This eventual showdown to resolve differences between two warring cultures is a time-honored tradition, one that continues into the future and beyond. The manner in which Sulu and the Tholians combat, however, should please all of the Sulu fans who recall his shining moment in the Original Series episode THE NAKED TIME.
Martin and Mangels balance the action in the story well, developing the diverging and progressing culture of the Neyel and crafting their background story to mid-21st century events, while creating a solid story and bringing back many familiar faces in STAR TREK lore.
All in all, this is a good beginning to the LOST ERA series.
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