BOOK REVIEW: A Choice of Futures, by Christopher L. Bennett

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Era: Enterprise

Series: Rise of the Federation (#1)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 01/01/2013

Verdict: 4/5

 

From the ashes of the Coalition rises the United Federation of Planets. Spearheaded by Earth, the Federation sets about its goal of discovering new life and new civilisations. But even with the Romulans defeated, the Galaxy is far from a safe place, as Admiral Jonathan Archer is about to discover . . .

If the Romulan War duology was Enterprise‘s fifth season, then the five-part Rise of the Federation must surely be its sixth and seventh. A Choice of Futures picks up a little while after the end of the Romulan War, and sees the young Federation taking its first steps into the wider Galaxy. It’s a decent balance of boldly going forwards and dealing with repercussions from past adventures. Impressively for the opening part of a five book series, it also manages to tell a complete story, though there are of course some matters left unresolved.

I absolutely adore stories about creating empires, and I think the Federation counts as one in this regard.  A small group of allies trying to expand their influence on the Galactic stage is exactly the sort of story I want to read, and one that lives up to Enterprise‘s promise of showing how the Federation came to be. With the Federation much smaller than we are used to seeing, and the Orion Syndicate posing a significant threat, there are certain parallels between this book and the current (third) season of Star Trek: Discovery, but I think it’s too early to read too much into those similarities right now. What I particularly like about this book is the way other powers react to the titular rise of the Federation. Though it is a utopian ideal and has the best intentions, the Federation is still an expansionist power, and naturally this doesn’t go down well with everyone. Bennett does a good job of showing the flaws in the Federation without needlessly adding conflict.

A remarkable thing about this book is that the trio of Archer, Trip and T’Pol are largely relegated to supporting roles. This allows the usual side cast to really shine. In particular, Malcolm Reed and Hoshi Sato. Reed becomes a captain here, and Bennett does an excellent job of showing how his command style differs from other captains’. Personally, it’s a style that would have liked to see more of in Star Trek, and indeed fiction in general. Reed is not there to make friends, he is there to do a job. It’s a natural advancement of Dominic Keating’s portrayal of the character and I look forward to Reed having a starring role in the rest of the series. Hoshi, meanwhile, gets to do some real translation work. This is the real shining point of the book, as not only is it fascinating in its own right, it also addresses issues with the episode ‘Silent Enemy,’ which this book could easily be considered a sequel to.

A Choice of Futures has its work cut out for it, balancing a continuation of Enterprise‘s saga with the need to show how the Federation of Kirk’s era came about. I appreciated the descriptions of the ‘new’ Starfleet uniforms and all their various influences, and wish we could have seen them on-screen. There are a few nods to the future as well, particularly in character name. The appearance of a Kirk is obvious, but there’s also a Paris floating around. These references stick just the right side of easter eggs, but they do make the universe feel just that little bit smaller. Which is only fitting, given the time period.

Despite the odd wobble, A Choice of Futures is a must-read for Enterprise fans, and a fascinating look at a key part of the Federation’s history.

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