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Star Trek Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

November 25th, 2011
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A few years ago, Pocket Books released a terrific two-book series entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. (Read my review here!)  Each book featured three novellas, each written by a different author, and each featuring a fascinating “what-if” tale set in a different era of the Star Trek universe.  These were stories set in alternate universes, in which the events of Star Trek’s history (as depicted in all of the movies and TV shows) unfolded differently.  That two-book series was phenomenal, containing some of my very favorite Star Trek stories from all of Pocket Books’ novels.  So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that a new Myriad Universe collection, once again featuring three novellas, was being released last year.  It took me longer than I thought to get to reading the book (I’m a busy guy!), but I finally was able to read it last month.  While this new collection, Shattered Light, isn’t quite the home-run that the original two books were, it’s still a supremely entertaining series of stories.

The Embrace of Cold Architects, by David R. George III — In this universe, William Riker, in command of the Enterprise following Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg and transformation into Locutus, is able to defeat the Borg by using the Enterprise’s deflector array to destroy the attacking cube, killing Captain Picard and all the Borg on-board.  That’s a dramatic hook for the story, but the novella’s focus is actually on another change: that Data’s attempt to create a daughter, Lal (which we saw in the TNG third season episode “The Offpsring”) was delayed by several months, so that shortly after Lal’s creation, Data found his creator, the cybernetics genius Dr. Noonien Soong (as seen in the early fourth season TNG episode “Brothers”).  Dr. Soong is able to prevent the cascade failure in Lal’s positronics brain, thus saving her life.  But as we saw in “The Offspring,” many in Starfleet grow worried by the presence of a second android on-board the Enterprise, and an Admiral from the Daystrom institute (an advanced Starfleet research facility) begins pressuring Captain Riker to remove Lal from the Enterprise and bring her to their facility.  I think David R. George III is one of the very best authors working on Star Trek novels these days, so I was really excited for his contribution to this collection.  And The Embrace of Cold Architects starts out quite strongly, as we follow the ripple effects of Lal’s presence — and Picard’s loss — through the events of the early fourth season of The Next Generation. But, ultimately, this novella wound up being my least favorite story in the collection.  It ends incredibly abruptly, leaving, in my mind, the story barely half-way told.  Events build up to Data’s making a dramatic choice at the Daystrom Institute, but immediately afterwards the story ends.  I really wanted to see what happened next!  I didn’t feel like the choice represented the climax of the novel — to me, those events almost seemed like an extended introduction, with the real meat of the story being what happened after Data did what he did.  Equally frustrating: we spend pages watching Captain Riker struggle with the escalating aggression of the Cardassians and the build-up to war (I was quite taken by Mr. George III’s depiction of how the events of “The Pegasus” went down rather differently with Riker in command), but just as things are building to a head, we cut to Data’s actions at Daystrom and then the story is over.  We never return to Riker and the Enterprise, and we never learn what happened with the Cardassians.  Nothing in The Embrace of Cold Architects is bad.  Actually, the story was dramatic and compelling.  It’s just that it feels, to me, like only the first half of what would have been a really terrific twice-as-long story.

The Tears of Eridanus, by Steve Mollmann & Michael Schuster — In a world in which Surak’s teachings never took hold on Vulcan, the Vulcans have remained a violent people at war with themselves.  Without their presence on the interstellar scene, the United Federation of Planets was never created.  Instead, an Interstellar Union was formed between Andor, Earth, and Tellar.  Years later, Hikaru Sulu commands to I.U. vessel Kumari. But when his daughter Demora, part of an observation team on Vulcan, is captured by the natives, Sulu is forced to attempt to open a dialogue with this savage race.  While he deals with the elderly T’Pau (known by Star Trek fans from her appearance in “Amok Time;” and a younger version of the character appeared on several episodes of Enterprise), Demora encounters the incredibly ancient S’oval (familiar to viewers of Enterprise) who carries, in his mind, a katra that might change the course of Vulcan history.  I really loved this story.  The focus on Sulu is well-deserved, and I enjoyed this glimpse at the slightly-different progression of his relationship with his daughter Demora.  But more than that, I was intrigued by this depiction of a planet Vulcan that never found logic, and in a fairly short span of pages I found myself more interested in T’Pau and most especially S’oval than I ever was by their television incarnations.  This novella weaves connections with several other famous works of Star Trek fiction, which is fun, but it also creates a unique vision of its own.  It’s great.

Honor in the Night, by Scott Pearson — An elderly Dr. McCoy witnesses the death, at peace in his bed, of former federation President Nilz Baris.  Baris’ last words were “Arne Darvin.”  When reporter Marta Jensen gets wind of this, she sets out to interview some of the key figures with whom Mr. Baris interacted over the course of his long and prestigious life, in order to get to the bottom of the meaning of those enigmatic last words.  Yes, Scott Pearson’s novella is Citizen Kane in the Star Trek universe, and it’s every bit as much fun as that premise sounds.  We follow Ms. Jensen as she tracks down her interview subjects (including some well-known Klingons), and as they begin to tell her their tales, the novella takes us back into the time-period being described, so we can follow the events as they unfold.  Obviously, any Star Trek fan worth his or her salt has seen “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and so we of course know the secret of Arne Darvin, a secret which has, in this universe, remained concealed.  But what really surprised me as the story progressed was how Captain Kirk’s failure, at space-station K-7, to discover that the quadrotriticale grain had been poisoned, and to reveal Darvin’s true identity, actually resulted in what could be considered positive results.  Though the immediate result was catastrophic — the death of all the colonists on Sherman’s Planet and the loss of that planet to the Klingons — I was quite intrigued to follow the alternate history that Mr. Pearson was weaving, and to see how that tragedy wound up leading to what one could argue was actually a better future for the Federation than that of the canonical timeline.  Who knew that Nilz Baris, portrayed in “The Trouble with Tribbles” as an arrogant, incompetent buffoon, would turn out to be such a hero!  It’s a pretty cool twist.  My only complaint with this story was the ending.  I was expecting Ms. Jensen to eventually learn the truth, and I was eager to discover her reaction when she did.  But, instead of Ms. Jensen using her investigative skills to uncover what really happened with Arne Darvin, she winds up just getting told the whole thing in the story’s final pages.  It was disappointing that she was so passive in the story’s climax.  Oh well.  Still, Honor in the Night is a terrific story, and it makes quite a meal out of several minor characters from a single episode of classic Trek. (I also got a big laugh out of Mr. Pearson’s joking revelation of Mr. Baris’ middle name in his acknowledgements section at the end of the book.)

Even though I had some quibbles (tribbles?), this was a terrific collection of Star Trek stories, and I really hope this Myriad Universe series continues.  Are you listening, Pocket Books??

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek — Unspoken TruthTroublesome Minds

Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Sky’s The LimitDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending Sacrifice,

Star Trek: Voyager — Full Circle

Star Trek: Titan — Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesBook 5: Under a Torrent SeaBook 6: Synthesis

Star Trek: Typhon Pact — Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of Disharmony

Star Trek: Department of Temporal InvestigationsWatching the Clock

Star Trek: The Lost Era — Book 1: The Sundered

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2)

Beyond the Final Frontier — Josh’s favorite Star Trek novels

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