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Strange New Worlds X, edited by Dean Wesley Smith Book Review | SFReader.com
Strange New Worlds X, edited by Dean Wesley Smith Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2007 Review Posted: 8/26/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
Strange New Worlds X, edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 10 is this year's edition of the annual short story collection by fans, for fans, edited by Dean Wesley Smith and Paula M. Block. Authors who submit stories must have had only two or less professional sales, and it's interesting watching the discussion of this series on the various Trek Internet boards, with fans talking about the stories they're submitting. This year's collection showcases some previously seen authors (a couple of whom fulfill the third sale criteria to be disqualified from next year's edition). Others are new. Sadly, this will be their only Strange New Worlds sale, as the series is being discontinued after this book. I've had a soft spot for the series since I discovered it, even when the stories don't quite match my interest in Trek, but I guess the books aren't financially viable anymore. Particularly depressing is that the series didn't go out on the highest note, though this year's edition is certainly better than last year's.
As always, the stories are divided by which television series they're part of, with a final "Speculations" section with stories that combine aspects of the various series or take a broader view of the Trek mythos as a whole. Surprisingly, this year's Speculations stories are a lot more centered in the television episodes than they usually are, with two of the three actually incorporating regular characters rather than going off on wild tangents, such as the Trek universe millions of years from now. I have to say I like that, as no matter how enjoyable the stories are, it's nice to have them actually anchored in the series' somewhat. On the other hand, these two stories are among the weaker entries, so maybe it is better to go very broad when you're writing this kind of story. As is usual, there are quite a few Borg stories and one that involves Gary Seven, but these are quite creative takes and I didn't mind their inclusion at all. As is usually the case (except for last year), I quite agree with Smith's choices for the three prizes.
The third prize winner, Carolyn Winifred's "Universal Chord," is a quiet story involving T'Pol (from Enterprise) early in her diplomatic career on Earth. She still doesn't know much about humans or how to interact with them, but she's always been intrigued by this one song that was included in a package of information that was given to the Vulcans after first contact, so they could judge whether they should continue interacting with humans. T'Pol's love for the song, and how universal it is, drags her to a concert put on by the band who recorded it. She's completely mystified by the entire experience, yet also learns some things about interacting with humans. It's a beautifully sedate, touching story about a woman who we don't quite know yet, and how she slowly starts moving to become the character we love (at least if you're an Enterprise fan). The story is filled with wonderful little touches such as T'Pol thinking that the band members have "defaced" her copy of their disc by signing it, and how the humans (both bandmembers and groupies) try to incorporate her into the experience. This is Winifred's first sale, and it's a great story.
The second prize winner, "Echoes" by Randy Tatano, takes place around 100 years in the future from the TNG/DS9/Voyager series. The Borg are still a problem, but scientist Dr. David Solomon has a plan to get rid of them forever, without involving genocide. Solomon is a geneticist, and he manages to incorporate the DNA of Captains Picard, Kirk, and Janeway, as well as a fourth, secret ingredient, to make a captain capable of the mission he's designed. He recruits his friend, Commander Jillian Rush, into the plan as well, but it may not go as predicted. The Borg are an implacable foe, so can even three of the greatest captains in Starfleet history stop them? Yet another anthology with another Borg prize winner. This one wins more by default than anything else, as I'm getting a bit tired of Borg stories. However, nothing else in the book deserves second prize any better than this one does (the previous story, though definitely strong, I don't think is second-prize material). That being said, the story is pretty good, with good characterization of both Rush and Solomon, as well as the clone of the captains. I did find it hilarious that they needed Kirk in there for his dynamism as opposed to Picard's usual penchant for diplomacy. Overall, the story works, and the only thing against it is that it's another Borg story.
The Grand Prize winner, on the other hand, definitely deserves it. "The Smell of Dead Roses," by Gerri Leen, tells us how Perrin met Sarek (Spock's father), who became his wife after Amanda died. It's the story of their time together from their first meeting when Perrin was a very young girl to Sarek's final death during the TNG era of the television series. Much like Amanda's marriage to Sarek, it all seems "very logical" for them to get together, though sadly the constraints of a short story keep us from seeing how the bond grows. In one part she's his ambassadorial intern and in the next, they're getting married. This really deserves a book of its own, but I doubt we'll ever get it. In the meantime, this story will have to suffice, as this abruptness is the only fault in it. The story packs an emotional wallop and Leen's characterization is brilliant.
There are a few other strong stories in the book, definitely more than last year, though none of them are award-worthy. They're just fun. One of them is Paul C. Tseng's "A Dish Best Served Cold," which was probably my favorite of the non-prize winners. Yes, it's a Borg story, but with a wonderful twist that it's about the two Pakleds (a race of relatively simple-minded people who want to prove that they are strong to the other races in the galaxy) who kidnapped Geordi LaForge in one of the TNG episodes, and whom Riker tricked into handing him over by taking advantage of their lack of intelligence. Captain Grebnedlog has never gotten over this humiliation, and he's determined to get his revenge. When even the Borg won't assimilate them because of their uselessness, they become determined to reverse that decision because they feel it's the only way to become strong themselves. Anybody with a memory of the episode ("Samaritan Snare") will love this story, as Tseng captures the Pakleds perfectly. Especially funny is their attempt to impersonate the Borg and Worf's reaction to that.
Sadly, the previous volume's regard for weaker stories does continue in this edition, though not as badly. The two "Speculations" entries I mentioned earlier are prime examples of that. "Brigadoon," by Rigel Ailur, involves a planet that appears once every 100 years, though only five days pass on the world itself. This story involves all the television series, as they interact with the planet's inhabitants to try and help them solve a technological problem, but the emotional content feels forced and I didn't find the situation interesting at all. Also, Ailur doesn't even have Dax mention her love affair with a man on a similar planet to this. Yes, the episode sucked, but it seemed pretty important to Dax at the time.
"Reborn," by Jeremy Yoder, has the Pah Wraiths released in the final battle between Sisko and Dukat in the final episode of DS9. They're destroying the universe, and Q enlists Captain Picard to help stop them because his power is vastly diminished by his battle with them. Picard must jump to all the other series (except Enterprise), along with the Sisko who has become one with the Prophets, to stop them. I really don't like this type of story anyway, where the author takes Q or some other Trek-related cosmic force, and has something threatening the fabric of the universe, so the story already had one strike against it for me. This time, however, the pieces just seem disjointed as Yoder bounces Picard and Q from one ship to another in staccato scenes where we're barely there and realizing what's happening before they move somewhere else.
All in all, this is a fairly weak finale to the Strange New Worlds series, but it's definitely an improvement on last year's edition. Many more of the stories caught my attention to at least enjoy them and I had fewer lukewarm reactions than I did a year ago. The stories are also a quick read, so if you're a Trek fan, you should definitely pick it up. This series was a good way for unknown authors to get a first sale and also to write in the Trek universe, and I hope Pocket Books does something similar in the future.
As usual, I will list the stories below:
"The Smell of Dead Roses" by Gerri Leen (Grand Prize)
"The Doomsday Gambit" by Rick Dickson
"Empty" by David DeLee
"Wired" by Aimee Ford Foster
"A Dish Served Cold" by Paul C. Tseng
"The Very Model" by Muri McCage
"So a Horse Walks Into a Bar" by Brian Seidman
"Signal to Noise" by Jim Johnson
"The Fate of Captain Ransom" by Rob Vagle
"A Taste of Spam" by L.E. Doggett
"Adjustments" by Laura Ware
"The Day the Borg Came" by M.C. DeMarco
"The Dream" by Robyn Sullivent Gries
"Universal Chord" by Carolyn Winifred (Third Prize)
"You Are Not in Space" by Edgar Governo
"Time Line" by Jerry M. Wolfe
"Echoes" by Randy Tatano (Second Prize)
"Brigadoon" by Rigel Ailur
"Reborn" by Jeremy Yoder
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