Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No Time Like the Past

Star Trek: The Original Series
No Time Like the Past by Greg Cox
Release date: February 25th, 2014
Read March 1st 2014

Previous book (The Original Series): From History's Shadow
Next book (The Original Series): Seasons of Light and Darkness (e-book)

Purchase (MMPB): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
Purchase (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for No Time Like the Past!

From the back cover:
STARDATE 6122.5. A diplomatic mission to the planet Yusub erupts in violence when ruthless Orion raiders attempt to disrupt the crucial negotiations by force. Caught in the midst of a tense and dangerous situation, Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise finds an unexpected ally in the form of an enigmatic stranger who calls herself “Annika Seven.” 
STARDATE 53786.1. Seven of Nine is taking part in an archaeological expedition on an obscure planetoid in the Delta Quadrant when a disastrous turn of events puts Voyager’s away team in jeopardy -- and transports Seven across time and space to Yusub, where she comes face-to-face with one of Starfleet’s greatest legends. 
STARDATE 6122.5. Kirk knows better than most the danger that even a single castaway from the future can pose to the timeline, so he and Seven embark on a hazardous quest to return her to her own era. But there are others who crave the knowledge Seven possesses, and they will stop at nothing to obtain it -- even if this means seizing control of the Enterprise!

My thoughts:

I will freely admit that when I first heard about the concept behind this novel, I was skeptical. Seven of Nine travels back in time for an adventure with Captain Kirk and the original Star Trek characters? Doesn't that seem a little... fan-wanky?

Generations meet as Seven of Nine is
thrust back in time to the 23rd century.
I should have known better than to doubt a veteran of Star Trek writing such as Greg Cox! After reading No Time Like the Past following its release last month, I found that I had to eat my words. Mr. Cox has crafted a terrific story that is both fun and realistic despite the fantastical premise.

In fact, while reading No Time Like the Past, I remembered why the novel is such an excellent medium for Star Trek. In 1996, we got an episode that was unprecedented: Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations" showed us a crossover between DS9 and the original series. While that episode was ground-breaking and incredibly well-done, it still suffered from one inescapable limitation: no new footage of Captain Kirk and the rest of the original cast could be created. However, in the case of the novels, the action is limited only by the writer's imagination. So, while on the face of it the idea of Seven interacting with Kirk and company seems silly, with the right author at the helm, the end result is excellent.

The society of the infamous half-black/half-white aliens
from the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is
explored in No Time Like the Past.
With regards to the plot of No Time Like the Past, the story is a fun romp through some of the highlights of Kirk's original five-year mission. In the pursuit of the solution to the puzzle that will allow Seven to return to her own time, we are taken first to Gamma Trianguli VI. Home of the machine-god Vaal, Gamma Trianguli VI was first seen in the episode "The Apple." From there, we get to visit Cheron, the planet of Bele and Lokai from the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." It is in this part of the book that I found the most enjoyment. Cox's exploration of Cheronian society is excellent, and I really enjoyed the deeper look into this strange culture that ultimately destroyed itself due to race-based hatred. Finally, we get to revisit Sarpeidon, site of another time-bending adventure, the TOS episode "All Our Yesterdays." Cox's love of the original Star Trek is apparent as he ties together a number of different adventures to craft his tale.

Greg Cox makes good use of the Orions as the villains of the piece. While the primary antagonist feels a little one-note at times, it was nice to see the Orions used instead of the usual stand-bys, the Klingons and the Romulans. Personally, I would love to see a little more exploration of Orion culture in the novels.

One other note that I would like to add: something that's been missing from Trek lit that I think would be welcome is further adventures set during the respective television series' timelines other than The Original Series. With No Time Like the Past, we get a taste of what that would be like with Seven of Nine and the Voyager crew. It was definitely enjoyable, and I have to think that there would be a market for more novels set during the run of TNG, DS9, or Voyager. The problem, of course, is what do you set to the side to make room for those stories? I would not want to give up the shared continuity we've been enjoying lately in the 24th century, nor would I like to lose some of the more unique series on the go at the moment such as Titan, Rise of the Federation, or the upcoming Seekers.

Final thoughts:

Great interactions between Seven and the classic Trek crew make this novel a memorable one. Greg Cox really captures the voices of the original cast as well as that of Seven of Nine, and the interplay between Seven and the TOS crew felt very genuine. Additionally, revisiting some of the "greatest hits" of the original series is an interesting concept that plays out well. I especially enjoyed the exploration of the culture of Cheron.

Greg Cox has certainly shown a penchant for unique time-twisting adventures that are sure to make the most stalwart Temporal Investigations agent blanch in horror. Whenever you open a Greg Cox novel, you can be sure that a fun time will be had! No Time Like the Past marks another excellent entry into his catalogue, and I'm looking forward to his next novel, due out at the end of this year!

More about No Time Like the Past:

Also by Greg Cox:

My next read:

Next up, in preparation for his Lost Era novel coming out later this year, I will be reviewing David R. George III's first Lost Era novel, Serpents Among the Ruins. Coming soon!

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