Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Lost Years

Star Trek: The Lost Years by J.M. Dillard
The Lost Years #1
Published October 1989
Read: November 22nd, 2011

Next book (The Lost Years): A Flag Full of Stars

Previous book (The Original Series): The Cry of the Onlies
Next book (The Original Series): The Kobayashi Maru
Spoilers ahead for The Lost Years!


From the back cover:


"The Lost Years" tells the story of Captain Kirk's final hours in command of the USS Enterprise, and how he, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy struggle to establish new lives apart from each other and the starship.
We see the newly promoted Admiral Kirk, in charge of a specially created Starfleet division, as he attempts to defuse a critical hostage situation; Mr. Spock, who in the midst of a teaching assignment on Vulcan, finds the one thing he least expected; and Dr. McCoy, whose unerring instinct for trouble lands him smack in the middle of an incident that could trigger an interstellar bloodbath ...    

About the Novel:

As the novel opens, we see the final hours of the life of a Vulcan Kolinahr Master named Zakal.  Far in Vulcan's past, around the time of the Romulan exodus, Zakal is dying of a grave disease.  Extremely adept at the mental disciplines, Zakal is an opponent of Surak's reformation movement.  A former student comes to collect his katra (essentially, his living spirit, or soul).  Zakal surrenders his katra to the student, but as he dies, he swears that he will have his revenge on Surak and his followers.


In the "present," it is the final hours of Captain Kirk's five-year mission of exploration.  The Starship Enterprise docks at Starbase One in orbit of Earth, and the crew prepares to leave for their next assignments.  Captain Kirk has been lobbying Starfleet for another starship command; specifically, that of the USS Victorious.  However, they have been silent on the issue of his next posting.  Kirk does not want to be promoted to Admiral, and threatens resignation from Starfleet rather than accept promotion.  (After seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we all know how that turns out.)  Spock has his choice of two assignments: command of the science vessel USS Grissom, or a position teaching at Starfleet Academy.  McCoy plans on visiting the people of the asteroid-ship Yonada on their new world, and reconnecting with Natira (see: "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" - TOS).

The newly-promoted Admiral Kirk

Kirk eventually accepts promotion to Admiral, serving as a "diplomatic troubleshooter" with Vice Admiral Lori Ciana, an action which ultimately leads to the resignations of both Spock and McCoy from Starfleet.  Although the three friends are all each following a different path, events and circumstances will bring them all back together again.  A diplomatic incident erupts when Lieutenant Uhura and Ambassador Sarek are kidnapped by agents of an anti-government movement on a distant planet, and the galaxy is threatened when Zakal's katra is released from imprisonment on Vulcan.



My Thoughts:

Generally, a quite enjoyable piece of Star Trek writing.  As I've stated in earlier reviews, I like when Trek literature attempts to fill in the gaps left by screen productions of Star Trek.  The Lost Years was an explicit attempt to do just that.  I've always wondered why Kirk, someone who loved being a captain so much, would accept promotion to Admiral, and in this novel we are given that answer.  Also, The Motion Picture always had me wondering why McCoy resigned from Starfleet, and why Spock did the same and decided to become a student of Kolinahr.  We get those answers as well, but in the case of Spock's transition to Kolinahr student, I felt that the explanation was a little thin.  I understood the difficulties he had faced in this novel, but I didn't think they were enough to drive him to attempt to purge all emotion and vow never to see his friends and family again.


The crisis faced by Admirals Kirk and Ciana was interesting, and I enjoyed the slightly different than human norm way of thinking of the aliens.  The crises faced by Bones and his new travel partner, Keridwen Llewellyn, also felt real, as though we were dealing with real people who experienced real emotions.  I did, however, feel that the parts dealing with Keridwen being precognitive were a little strange.  I am a self-admitted skeptic, and that definitely colours how I view things like "psychics" and other "non-scientific" things.  However, it's Star Trek, so if I can accept Vulcan mind-melds and Betazoid empathy, I guess it's not much of a leap.


I did enjoy the exploration of the character Lori Ciana who, according to Gene Roddenberry's novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was one of the victims of the transporter malfunction in that movie.  The revelations of the kind of person she was and what she meant to Kirk in The Lost Years added just that much more emotional resonance to that already disturbing scene.

Vice Admiral Lori Ciana, victim of a particularly gruesome transporter accident.
Finally, I do have to add that while reading, I paint a pretty vivid picture of what is happening in my mind.  While I enjoyed the fact that The Lost Years fills in the missing events from a not-often explored period of Trek history, I resented that I had to picture the Starfleet personnel wearing the Motion Picture-style uniforms!

Really, Starfleet?  REALLY?

Final Thoughts:

Always a fan of works that fill in missing periods of Trek history.  J.M. Dillard does her usual competent job here.  I also appreciated how much she used the history of the Romulans as outlined by Diane Duane in My Enemy, My Ally and especially in The Romulan Way, seeing as I had just read that novel.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise!

Final rating for The Lost Years: 8/10.


My next read:

Right now, I'm reading Excelsior: Forged in Fire by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels.  I'm also anticipating the release of David Mack's final entry in his mirror universe saga, Rise Like Lions, due next week.  Hard to say which one I'll review first!