© 2013 Christopher L Bennett
The Romulan War is over, and with it, Michael Martin’s authorship of the Enterprise Relaunch. The newest Enterprise novel, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, is penned by reader favorite Christopher L. Bennett, whose previous novels are steeped in scientific enterprise. A Choice of Futures is grounded in politics, with a bit of crime and a scientific thread woven in to great effect: though initially minor, it features prominently in the novel's conclusion and allows Bennett to fly the flag of Star Trek optimism by asserting that the Federation's success is stemmed in its pursuit of knowledge, diplomacy, and peace -- not empire and force. That can't be taken for granted with this fledgling Federation; its predecessor, the Coalition of Planets, collapsed, and the tensions which kept it which like lingering animosity between the Vulcans and Andorians are still present. Managing the multitude of problems inherent in creating a government which consists of planets occupied by widely-varying species, languages and cultures, amid a conspiracy by Shadowy Criminal Forces engineering problems, could break or harden such an idealistic polity. All that provides enormous tension to keep a reader riveted, and that's before character drama comes into play, like Trip Tucker’s continuing involvement with Section 31 and Malcolm Reed’s coming-of-age as he takes command of his own ship. Trip's line is in fact that only hindrance to readers new to the series or Trek literature in general. Otherwise, A Choice of Futures is a clean slate for the series, and its future looks bright if this first work by Mr. Bennett is any indication. He deftly combines mystery, action, fresh treatments of older characters, and a little science into a fairly exciting read. Its chief flaw is the cover, which is about as exciting as steamed beets.