Monday, September 2, 2013

From History's Shadow

Star Trek: From History's Shadow
© 2013 Dayton Ward
388 pages

The geocentrists were right: Earth is the center of the universe. Or at least, it was in the 20th century, for how else can you explain how many extraterrestrials, time-traveling or otherwise, there were running around it?  One moment, the USS Enterprise was sailing merrily along, and the next -- there were two aliens chasing one another in the cargo bay, both of whom had been living on mid-20th-century Earth for decades, one of whom wanted to destroy Earth's civilization before it could destroy hers. The other was a Vulcan named Mestral, whose survey ship had crashed and who declined rescue after discovering I Love Lucy. As his goal of peaceful observation conflicted sharply with the other's goal of triggering an Earth-shattering kaboom, they schemed and fought against one another amid the human space race until their feud ended with their somehow teleporting across space and through hundreds of years. Well, such things happen in the 23rd century, especially to Kirk.  

The story gets more complicated, and more fun, but it began in 1947, in a place called Roswell, when something crashed in the New Mexican desert. The government claimed it was a weather balloon, but rumors couldn't help but escape that what crashed was an alien ship, and the military was hiding the truth from the public.  From History's Shadow, set largely in the 20th century, tells the story of the United States' response to encountering that alien life back in July '47. As a secret security department devotes itself to investigating reports of UFOs,  they find much more than a series of stories to be debunked. Oh, there are false leads, all right -- but then there are the crashed probes and series of mysterious incidents that reveal the truth: there are aliens on the planet, all right, and they're not all from the same place. Some watch, some help, some sabotage -- and there are seven humans serving a mysterious shadow organization from the future which is itself monitoring and countering the aliens.  Mid-20th century Earth is a cosmic meet-and-greet.  

From History's Shadow is a fantastically fun Star Trek novel that plays with various conspiracy theories of the 20th century. Dayton Ward links several Star Trek episodes from various series into an integrated story, one appealing for its retro appeal think alt-historical fiction), and especially so because it functions as a standalone novel. (As much as I appreciate the integrated quality of the Treklit series these days, it's a relief to find a novel that doen't require three more for context!) Although readers will enjoy From History's Shadow most if they've seen "Little Green Men" (DS9) and "Assignment: Earth",   the episodes are not required reading.  Ward deserves high praise for how smoothly he fit together elements from The Original Series and Enterprise, and delivering a strong Trek novel that is largely told from the perspective of characters completely outside the usual cast of characters,  many being 20th century Americans. Considering how serious the Typhon Pact/Cold War in Space books have been, From History's Shadow is a welcome easy read, a mystery-adventure alien conspiracy story of the space race, with a Star Trek twist. 

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations, Christopher Bennett; Star Trek TNG: The Persistene of Memory, David Mack. Both of these take elements from a wide variety of Trek episodes and moves into a single, grand story. 
Assignment: Eternity, featuring Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, the latter of whom is a major supporting character in From History's Shadow
Roswell High, Melinda Metz, a series of YA books from the late '90s and early '00s about the alien children who survived the Roswell Incident and who live among humans in secret. It inspired a TV show with better characters (in part) but an inferior story: one episode called "The Summer of '47"  tried to tell what happened.

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