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Star Trek The Lost Era: One Constant Star

In 2003 Pocket Books published a six-book series called “The Lost Era” that told tales from the almost-century between the end of Star Trek VI and the launch of the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Since then, there have been only two additional “Lost Era” novels published.  In 2007 we got Christopher L. Bennett’s book The Buried Age, which told what happened to Jean-Luc Picard in the decade between the loss of the Stargazer and his assuming command of the Enterprise D.  (Click here for my review.)  Then, earlier this year, Pocket Books published David R. George III’s novel One Constant Star, which tells a story of the Enterprise B under the command of Demora Sulu.

Star Trek: Generations introduced Hikaru Sulu’s daughter, Demora, as the helmswoman of the Enterprise B.  Several novels set in the years that followed have chronicled Captain Harriman’s years as captain of the Enterprise, and established that Sulu rose through the ranks to eventually assume command of the ship, many years later.  One Constant Star presents us with a Sulu who is already well-established as captain of the Enterprise.  During a mission near Tzenkethi space (these aliens were mentioned but never seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and recent Star Trek novels have fleshed out this race and developed them as an adversary of the Federation), an Enterprise landing party discovers a weird situation on the planet Rejarris II.  The planet shows signs of a pre-warp civilization, but there is no sign of life.  What happened to the planet’s inhabitants?

The first half of One Constant Star explores this interesting sci-fi mystery.  I found myself enjoying it, but wondering why this seemingly inconsequential tale warranted a return to “The Lost Era.”  This felt like a story that could have been told with any Trek crew in any era (the TNG crew, Riker’s crew on the Titan, etc.).  In the second half of the book, though, we discover the reason this story is being told, and why this mission was a significant moment in “The Lost Era.”

I think David R. George III is one of the very finest Trek authors out there.  His previous “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, was phenomenal, one of my very favorite Trek books.  His Crucible trilogy for Star Trek’s 40th anniversary, as well as his recent Typhon Pact/Deep Space Nine duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn are also absolutely spectacular and count among the very best Trek books I have ever read.  One Constant Star, unfortunately, was a bit of a let-down for me.

The preponderance of coincidences upon which this story’s resolution hangs was more than I could handle.  Demora Sulu just happens to stumble across — out of all the planets in all of uncharted space — the very same portal through which her father was lost years earlier??  (This doesn’t even make any sense.  Even if the final fate of the Excelsior was unknown, wouldn’t Starfleet have a record of the general area where they had been lost?  Wouldn’t they have sent a ship to investigate, who would have discovered the portal years earlier?  Even if they didn’t wouldn’t Demora recognize the name of the area of space where her father was lost??  I can’t imagine that’s a detail a Starfleet captain would ever forget.)  Getting back to ludicrous coincidences, this portal just happened to deposit Demora — out of all of the possible locations in the universe — just a short space-flight from the mysterious window-between-universes star that she and Captain Harriman had discovered just a few years earlier?  Please.

I like the idea of Demora and Hikaru’s lives being drawn back together, and of Demora being involved in resolving a situation that involved her father.  But the story of the final fate of the Excelsior was weak in my opinion.  The powerful starship was demolished by an ancient piece of technology from a pre-warp culture?  I just don’t buy it.  The novel tries to explain this somewhat by suggesting that the accident happened during gamma shift, when less-experienced officers with a slower reaction time were on-duty.  But that’s just silly.  Excelsior operates for a third of every day controlled by inexperienced officers who don’t really know what they’re doing?  Just because it’s the “night shift”???  That’s silly.  You’d think every shift would have a balance of experienced officers and some younger, less experienced ones.  (Star Trek doesn’t usually like to draw our attention to what happens on a starship when the “main” crew is asleep or off-duty, but the picture of an inexperienced gamma shift drawn here doesn’t work for me at all.  I prefer what we have seen in Peter David’s New Frontier books, in which he postulated a totally parallel staff of officers who work the “night” shifts…)  (Christopher L. Bennett’s The Buried Age also, coincidentally, tells the story of a starship being defeated by an inferior enemy who shouldn’t have stood a chance — the Stargazer’s defeat by the Ferengi DaiMon Bok — but Mr. Bennett was able to make that work in a way that Mr. George was unable to do here, at least for me.)

While I enjoyed the book’s shift, in the second half, to a story that felt more “important” in terms of the larger Star Trek tapestry (Demora’s discover of the fate of Excelsior), I was disappointed that the main mystery of the first half of the book wound up being totally ignored.  How DID a pre-warp civilization build that portal to another world?  (Were they assisted by another, more powerful/knowledgeable, alien species?)  What happened to all the inhabitants of Rejarris II after they went through the portal?  (I couldn’t believe that Demora didn’t wind up encountering them — or some evidence as to what happened to them — once she got stuck on the other side of the portal.  I figured they’d be involved in the climax of the story somehow, or that we’d learn that Sulu and his crew had encountered them or perhaps learned what became of them.  But no.)

The novel left me with lots of additional questions.  What happened to John Harriman and his wife Sasine after they disobeyed orders in order to mount a rescue of Demora?  What became of Hikaru Sulu and his crew?  Did Hikaru retire?  Return to service?  This book left me with a lot of questions, and since “Lost Era” novels are published so infrequently, the prospect of getting any answers seems very small, which is frustrating to me.

Oh well, this was a rare swing and a miss, in my opinion, for David R. George III.

I do want to heap huge praise on the cover artist/designer for mimicking so exactly the look of the covers of the first six “Lost Era” novels!!  That was super-cool, and a huge surprise (since 2007’s The Buried Age didn’t maintain that original unified “Lost Era” cover design).  That was a very nice touch.

I’d love to see more “Lost Era” novels in the future.  This one just didn’t really do it for me.

Previous Star Trek novel reviews:

Star Trek – Unspoken Truth , Troublesome MindsCast No ShadowExcelsior: Forged in FireAllegiance in Exile

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The LimitResistance and Q & ABefore Dishonor and Greater than the SumDestiny trilogyA Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal CoilCold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of MemoryCold Equations Book 2: Silent WeaponsCold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric, The Light Fantastic

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – DS9 relaunch overviewThe Soul KeyThe Never-Ending SacrificePlagues of Night and Raise the Dawn

Star Trek: Voyager – Full CircleUnworthyChildren of the StormThe Eternal TideProtectors

Star Trek: Enterprise — Kobayashi MaruThe Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s WingThe Romulan War: To Brave the StormRise of the Federation: A Choice of FuturesRise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

Star Trek: Titan – Book 1: Taking WingBook 2: The Red KingBook 3: Orion’s HoundsBook 4: Sword of DamoclesUnder a Torrent SeaSynthesisFallen Gods

Star Trek: Typhon Pact – Book 1: Zero-Sum GameBook 2: Seize the FireBook 3: Rough Beasts of EmpireBook 4: Paths of DisharmonyPlagues of Night and Raise the DawnBrinkmanship

Star Trek: The Fall — Book 1: Revelation and DustBook 2: The Crimson ShadowBook 3: A Ceremony of LossesBook 4: The Poisoned ChaliceBook 5: Peaceable Kingdoms

Star Trek: New Frontier – Series overviewStone & Anvil, After the Fall, and Missing in ActionTreason and Blind Man’s Bluff

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations – Watching the ClockForgotten History

Star Trek: The Lost Era – Book 1: The Sundered (2298)Book 2: Serpents Among the Ruins (2311)Book 3: The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346), The Buried Age (2355-2364)

Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions –  Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

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

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