One of the wonderful things about the Star Trek EU novel-verse is the sheer scale of it. As of May 2020, we’ve seen over 850 stories (novels, short stories, comics, etc.) published under the Star Trek banner since 1967. While that’s undoubtedly overwhelming to some extent, it’s also a wonderful way for Trekkies everywhere to find a small niche of the fandom – whatever that may be – and dive into it way more than they ever could by just watching what’s presented to us on screen. For me, what I love about the novels is the opportunity to read stories that can fill in gaps in continuity, or build further upon smaller moments that I felt deserved more.
To be completely transparent, as a Trek fan, I’m a relative newcomer to the novels. I’ve read a handful of them and read *about* countless others that I’ve since hurriedly added onto my Goodreads ‘want-to’read’ shelf. So hopefully, this is the first of many posts I’ll make here praising some aspect of the novel-verse or outright recommending books.
An aspect of Trek that I’ve always felt has been criminally under-explored is the swath of time between the time-skip that happens in the film, Star Trek: Generations. I don’t think I’m speaking only for myself when I say I want to know more about that timeframe. What adventures did Captain John Harriman & the crew of the Enterprise-B get into? What was Sulu’s relationship with his daughter like? What adventures did Sulu get into as captain of the Excelsior? How did Spock begin his work towards Unification between Vulcans and Romluans? Aside from what we see in “Yesterdays’ Enterprise,” how did the Enterprise-C get involved defending in defending Narendra III from the Romulans? What happened to Saavik? What were the rest of the TOS crew up to after Kirk “died”?
Of course, all of these questions are really just the tip of the iceberg and there’s just so much to explore!
This timeframe has since been referred to as The Lost Era and has actually spawned a series of novels specifically written under that banner. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to reading the books in this specific series yet, but I wanted to shed a little light on a couple of books that take place during this era but were written before ultimately it came to be: The Captain’s Daughter by Peter David and Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz.
Both of these two novels take place during the aforementioned lost era but both predate the official series by 8 and 4 years, respectively.
I definitely found different degrees of enjoyment from reading these two books; there are of course elements I didn’t care as much for and some that I absolutely loved. But despite that, I have a strong appreciation for what they’re both trying to do, and the creativity with which the authors work with some beloved characters and build new ones from the ground up.
Peter David’s The Captain’s Daughter presents us with a mystery right off the bat: the apparent death of Demora Sulu at the hands of her captain, John Harriman of the Enterprise-B. What follows is an interesting look at the relationship between Sulu and his daughter, the relationship between Harriman and his father (a classic amoral admiral), the status of the Federation and Starfleet as it stands in galactic politics during this time, the personal and political fallout from the “death” of James T. Kirk as well as a further exploration of Demora as a character herself outside of the brief glimpses we got in Star Trek: Generations. Along with that, without going into spoilers, this book also gives us some pretty fun science-fiction concepts to chew on and some great, uniquely Trek situations to play around in.
Vulcan’s Heart from Sherman and Shwartz is technically a follow-up to another novel from the pair called Vulcan’s Forge, but I found that it could be read as a standalone relatively easily (although more can be better!). This book sees Spock living his life as an ambassador and tells us how he began his journey towards his Vulcan/Romulan unification project that we see in TNG. It also strongly builds on his relationship with Saavik that we only briefly get to see in the films, gives us context to Picard’s off-handed remark that he attended the wedding of Sarek’s son as a lieutenant in the TNG episode, “Sarek,” and gives us the political tensions that led Captain Rachel Garrett to defend the Klingons from the Romulans at Narendra III (complete with a nice and neat tie-in with “Yesterday’s Enterprise”). I didn’t love this book as much as David’s novel (it was a bit too heavy with the Romulan politics for my taste), but I’ll echo again that I really appreciate what it gives us in the Star Trek universe and that’s a unique story that hadn’t previously been told.
So if you’re like me and crave more Star Trek in any form, crack open one of these books and learn about some of the untold history of the Trek continuity. Or, if neither of these tickle your fancy, check out one of the other 850 stories (so far!) that are out there to explore.