Saturday, 16 January 2021

Wagon Train to the Stars (Star Trek New Earth #1)

AuthorDiane Carey
First Published: 1999
File size/Pages: 1225KB / 265pp
Ebook Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Ebook Date: July 2012

Continuing my 2021 Challenge, the next book is the first in the Star Trek miniseries New Earth. Written by Diane Carey and published in 1999, this series deals with the exodus of humans bent on settling a new colony far from Federation and Starfleet control, in the star system known as Occult.

The New Earth series was devised to be solely concerned with The Original Series (TOS) crew of the Enterprise, unlike other miniseries that had gone before which flitted across the various time periods of the Trek universe. John Ordover, editor of the licensed novels between 1992 and 2003, devised the concept from his own reaction to the television series, Voyager. He was dissatisfied with the lack of Voyager's crew having any 'turf' to defend other than their own ship. He wondered what kind of stories could come out of a colony being settled far outside the common galaxy or from Earth's influence, yet having a Starfleet crew and ship assigned to protect that settlement and also expand the Federation's reach from that new home base. There is a widely believed story that Gene Rodenberry, creator of Star Trek, when touting the idea of the new series described it as "Wagon Train to the Stars". This was Pocket Books chance to carry out that theme in fiction format.

Diane Carey is an American author born in 1954. She began her career writing romance novels under the pen name of Lydia Gregory. Now best known for her works in the Star Trek universes, she wrote two of the inaugral books in the Trek lines, Broken Bow for Star Trek: Enteprise, and Ghost Ship for Star Trek The Next Generation. By 1999 she had many Trek books already under her wing and went on to author (or co-author) three of the six New Earth installments.

As the title suggests Wagon Train to the Stars concerns the journey to the Occult system by the settler's ships. Kirk, soon after the events of Star Trek The Motion Picture and the encounter with V'ger, is asked to lead the Starfleet support that will accompany the colonists. He accepts the mission, but requests that in order to do so he needs to be given the rank of Captain, rather than Admiral. Despite this, the responsibilites of commanding the vast number of ships, from privateer vessels to repair ships, and the demands on his time by the colony senior officials results in his duties being rather more than just the Captain of the newly refurbished Starship Enterprise.

Kirk has to contend with his senior officers being assigned to major roles outside the Enterprise, Checkov on security, Uhura on emergency proceedures, McCoy on the medical centre. Added to this, he encounters a familair face amongst the colony - someone he would rather not be part of the expedition.

Whilst all this unfolds, Carey also introduces us to the current inhabitants of Occult. The planet the expedition has targetted for populating has been called Belle Terre, but the system itself is one containing a binary star formation, complex relationships have evolved between two races in the sector resulting in an ancient ongoing war that has reached the stars. These races learn of the impending arrival of the new colonists - and they aren't very welcoming.

Carey writes a great first book for a miniseries. The similarities between the concept and the real-life colonising of the American Wild West is a little thick sometimes (I wonder if this race of aliens are supposed to be the Indians? No - really?), however, it's easy to allow this obvious comparison when the storytelling and the prose is so excellent.

There are just enough pointers to remind you that we are talking post-tv TOS here. I find myself often defaulting to thinking of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in their television period when reading about them in fiction - so the call-outs to new outfits and new/more elderly thinking or reactions by the characters, such as Spock, help to bring me back in line with the New Earth timeline.

Even though the premise of the book, the tale of a journey to a new star system by dozens of ships, could be quite dry. Carey balances the mundane problems faced by Kirk and his crew with some really fantastic action sequences. I was genuinely surprised how exciting they were to read, she is able to bounce from ship to ship, and from planet to planet and back again without causing any confusion - and the perfectly placed action set pieces made this book seem like it was only half as long as its page count.

Thankfully, Carey is co-author of the second book of the series, alongside Dean Wesley Smith, so I am very excited to read it. I just hope they get the balance right again. Introducing new characters alongside the main TOS crew can be difficult and in this book it was done with ease.

Highly recommended.

No comments: