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Strange New Worlds VII, edited by Dean Wesley Smith Book Review | SFReader.com
Strange New Worlds VII, edited by Dean Wesley Smith Genre: Star Trek Publisher: Simon and Schuster Published: 2004 Review Posted: 10/3/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Strange New Worlds VII, edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Book Review by David Roy
Have you read this book?
Eight years ago, the editors at Pocket Books (mostly John Ordover, I believe) had an interesting idea. What if they had a contest, asking fans to submit Star Trek short stories? The editors would pick a bunch (23 in the current edition, but I'm not sure how many they started with) that were good enough to publish, give them a publishing contract, and put them together in a compilation, called Strange New Worlds. In addition to this, they would pick three of these stories and give them an extra prize. Thus, was the "Strange New Worlds" concept born. The eighth edition will be coming out this summer, but this is a review for Strange New Worlds VII. The stories in this edition were pretty good, though there were a lot more "ho-hum" stories then I would have liked. I do have to say that the editor, Dean Wesley Smith, picked the three best to be prize-winners. A couple came close, but the winners were definitely the cream of the crop.
The stories are divided by the television series they are attached to, with another section called "Speculations." These are stories that are too broad to be tied to just one of the series. Perhaps it's something that spans almost all the shows (like the wonderful "Guardians," detailed below). Or maybe they bring together elements from more than one series (no example in this edition, but there could certainly be examples, such as bringing together Q (from Next Generation) and Trelane (from the Original Series). The other two stories in this section of Strange New Worlds VII don't really fit this concept, however, as one deals with a Dax, from "Deep Space Nine" (though it is a future Dax) and one deals with Picard and the history of the Borg. Still, the stories are a bit broader than just "another adventure with the crew of the Enterprise," so maybe that's why.
The grand prize winner was the Next Generation story, "Life's Work," by Julie A. Hyzy. This is the story of Data's creator, Noonian Soong, and the time when his wife finally left him because he was too wrapped up in his work. He was working on a final emotion chip that he would be able to put in Data when a crisis in his marriage happens. His wife, Juliana, has determined to leave him because he's more married to her work rather than to her. The weird thing is (as established in one of the "Next Generation" episodes), Julianna is actually an android that Noonian fashioned after his real wife died, because he couldn't bear to be without her. He made her a perfect copy of his wife, so much so that she doesn't even realize she's an android. He's understandably shocked when she tells him she's leaving, and it's a testament to his craftsmanship that he created her so perfectly that she has enough emotions to actually leave him. Hyzy captures the characters perfectly, especially during a poignant scene where Noonian has deactivated her to examine what's happening, and carries on the conversation with her that he knows he would have if she were currently activated. It's a touching story, compelling despite the fact that it doesn't have any of the regular Trek characters in it. Definitely worthy of the grand prize.
The second prize entry is "Guardians," by Brett Hudgins, one of the "Speculations" stories. This story travels a *long* way into the future. It's about the Horta and how they've interacted with the Federation throughout the 50,000 year lifetime of the mother Horta. Eventually, humans leave the Horta home planet of Janus VI, and leave them alone (though the former head of the mining colony there does make regular visits to his new Horta friends). However, when a scientific station on the planet containing the Guardian of Forever (an ancient time portal discovered by Kirk & the Enterprise) is wiped out, an ancestor of the original mining colony head remembers the Horta and thinks that they would make great protectors of the guardian. The rest of the story is various vignettes through almost 50,000 years, as various races come to the Guardian planet. Some to try and conquer it (like the Borg) and some to just look at the past (like a certain founder who is remembering his past Bajoran lover many, many years in the future). At times, this story seems to gloss over events a little too quickly, but all of the vignettes are good in their own way. Some are just little snippets (such as a couple of visits by Q, complaining about how humanity is suddenly becoming equal to the Q as they move on to the next level) and others are a bit more detailed. I did have a little trouble with some of the future history (the Federation is still around, virtually unchanged politically and socially, thousands of years in the future, though they have obviously improved technologically), but overall, the story was quite good.
Finally, the third prize winner is "Adventures in Jazz & Time," by Kelly Cairo. This is the story of a gift that Wesley (still a futuristic Traveller, and disguised as a Federation professor) decides that he wants to give something back to one of his role models, Commander Riker. He gives him a truly interactive jazz holoprogram containing the jazz great Stan Kenton. Even better for Riker, Kenton asks him to sit in with him and is willing to give him some lessons. This is a dream come true for Riker, who has idolized Kenton for a long time. Cairo captures Riker's love of jazz wonderfully, and the story, while pretty short, covers all the bases. Wesley leads Riker to the program and then dutifully bows out of the picture. While I don't know anything about Kenton, she manages to capture the feel of a jazz great as well. There's no conflict in this story. Just a young man wanting to do something nice for one of his mentors, and the love of jazz. Just poetic.
The rest of the stories in the volume are hit or miss. Some have some glaring errors (one has Seven of Nine, from Voyager, speaking with a lot of exclamation points, something the rather monotone Borg woman wouldn't do). Others are decent but don't carry that spark that carries them over the top. Still, it's an interesting read, and a number of the current Trek authors got their starts in Strange New Worlds collections, so it may be something to pay attention to if only for that. It's worth a looksee.
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