Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 2012: "Forgotten History"

Lucsly and Dulmur are running out of time in the fast-paced new novel from Christopher L. Bennett. Once again the Department of Temporal Investigation is on the case in the new Star Trek novel, “Forgotten History,” and for this outing they are dealing with the guy who has the biggest time travel rap sheet, James T. Kirk. 

by Christopher L. Bennett
Mass Market paperback – 368  pages
Pocket Books – May 2012 – $7.99

Following up on last year’s feast for nitpicking Trekkers (our review of "Watching the Clock" is at this link), Christopher L. Bennett revisits the world of the Department of Temporal Investigations with “Forgotten History”, a story which takes the reader back to the time of the foundation of the department, and which gives new perspective to the mission of agents like Dulmur and Lucsly. In addition to the erstwhile twosome from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-ations”, many of the DTI staffers from the previous novel return. This is a welcomed feature, because the action gets off to a pretty fast pace, and there’s no need to take the time to get to know anyone new.
Psi 2000: Stupid planet,
you're more trouble than you're worth!
As the book leaves the docks, a radically refit Constitution class starship – sans saucer – confronts the DTI vessel USS Everett… leading to a mystery that has its roots in the depths of the gravity well of the disintegrating Psi 2000 planetoid (TOS: "The Naked Time").
As the tale unfolds, Bennett weaves stories in two timelines – one a political and scientific accounting of the origins and development of the Federation’s governmental bureau tasked with research in temporal fields during the time of James T. Kirk; the other the other a blended timeline-preservation and moral-play set in the current post-TNG novel era.
Bennett spends generous and balanced time in each timeline, balancing the delicate need for gradual revelation of the Kirk-era timeline in order to leave the reader teased and somewhat in the dark about the development and ultimate resolution of the crisis that presents itself in the later era. In doing so, Bennett revisits and ties together many time-travel incidents from the Original Series and the Animated Series, allowing them to form a consistently woven tapestry behind the formation of the DTI. While the race to ‘connect the time-travel dots’ seemed overkill in the previous DTI installment, the addition of the formative storyline to embrace the original Enterprise’s temporal hopping serves to strengthen the author’s attempt to bring forth a consistent theory of time travel in the Star Trek universe.
Dulmur and Lucsly are all business this time.
There is much to love, and much fun to be had between the covers of “Forgotten History”, however there is also one serious disappointment, which is the loss of the depth of the characterizations that made “Watching the Clock” so successful. Without going so far as to label Lucsly, Dulmur, Kirk, Spock, Ranjea, Garcia, or the rest of the gang as whitewashed, a significant level of depth is missing in their portrayal in this book. While last year’s book engaged on a personal level, the new story focues more on the technical level.
That said, “Forgotten History” is by no means dull or devoid of characterization, it simply could have used more of it in order to continue to evolve the environment for DTI storytelling. If this becomes an ongoing series of books, one would hope that Bennett would restore a greater emphasis on individual character development in future stories, while keeping what, for me, was superior technical and historical storytelling found in the current book.
In spite of the connections to the previous DTI book, you need not have read “Watching the Clock” to enjoy “Forgotten History”. Even if you disagree with Bennett’s evolving theory of time travel and parallel universes, it is a well designed, deeply considered, and internally consistent technical narrative that serves to engage and excite the reader – at least this reader. Here’s hoping that further DTI books are on tap for the future.

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