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Radical departures that remain true to their source material

Infinity's Prism - William Leisner, Christopher L. Bennett, James Swallow

I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for a good alternate universe story. This might stem from my enjoyment of alternate history, with its speculation of what might have happened and what those differences reveal about people. But this isn't limited to fictional speculations about history, as I get no less pleasure from alternate spins on fictional universes such as that of Gene Roddenberry's much-loved creation.

 

And this book just hit the spot in that respect. The first of what was a three-book series, it offers three novellas that take the Star Trek canon and spin it off in radical directions. The three are:

 

"A Less Perfect Union" by William Leisner — Premised on a different outcome to the events of the season four Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Terra Prime," it has a more isolationist Earth reconsidering its rejection of joining the alliance of interstellar species (known here as the "Coalition"). It features a lot of characters from the very start of the original series, including a xenophobic James T. Kirk. The name-checking was a little exhausting, but never overdone and was part of the enjoyment of the story.

 

"Places of Exile" by Christopher L. Bennett — This one is most closely tied to its source material. Premised on a slightly different ending to the season three finale "Scorpion, Part I," a slightly more cautious approach to the war between the Borg and Species 8472 soon forces the Voyager crew to adopt a very different mission from the one they had been on since their relocation to the Delta Quadrant. This was the one that, based on the description, I was least looking forward to reading, yet (possibly because of my lower expectations) I enjoyed it the most.

 

"Seeds of Dissent" by James Swallow — Remember Khan Noonien Singh? Imagine what would have happened had he triumphed on Earth and what would have followed over the course of the following three centuries. In some ways it's the most radical departure of the trio, which made it the most entertaining of the three (albeit with a major caveat).

 

All three novellas represent radical departures from the events of their source material, which gives their authors latitude to tell very different stories. Yet what makes it work is the authors' verisimilitude to the characters from the original shows. All three authors nail their depiction of characters that have been so well established over the years, sometimes across multiple shows. Combined with the freshness of the plots, the three stories make for a stimulatingly different yet still faithful departure from the canon that fans of the original series can enjoy.