–This review contains spoilers. Proceed with caution–
Era: The Original Series
Series: New Earth (#3)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2000
Belle Terre. The latest planet to be colonised by the Federation. This is the new frontier, and brings with it all manner of troubles. Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura are about to face these troubles, with nothing but their wits to aid them . . .
The six-part New Earth saga was always something of an enigma to me. It was that little series tucked away at the top of the bookshelf, touching the ceiling of the used bookshop. A series that said Star Trek on the side, but didn’t identify with any of the crews. there were no familiar faces on the front cover. Back in the day, I left well alone, but now a Christmas gift from a charity shop has brought the third volume into my hands, and I can finally unravel some of those decades-old questions.
New Earth: Rough Trails features the original Enterprise crew, though in a reduced capacity. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy don’t turn up until the very end, and so it’s the B-team of Chekov, Sulu and Uhura who get the bulk of the action. Perhaps more unusually, this book is entirely set on the surface of one planet, with the Enterprise itself never being seen. It’s very much a Western story, to the point where Mal Reynolds and his crew would not be wholly out of place. There are some handwavey explanations to cover the reduced level of technology, and they largely convince, but it’s clear that this is an exercise in genre mashing rather than any coherent logic. It’s an excuse to have Peacemakers, ranchers and saloons, but the mix of genres is generally quite fun, and a nice change of scenery for Star Trek.
This is book three of six, and as such there are elements that didn’t wholly make sense to me. There is mention of the Burn (no, not the Discovery one) and something called a Quake Moon, as well as some alien marauders later on whom we are presumably meant to be familiar with. These are of course reader issues rather than book issues, but they still made an impact. However, the main arc of Rough Trails easily stands alone. Like the bets episodes of Star Trek, it tells a complete narrative while weaving in aspects of the wider universe. You could pick this book up, read it, and never look at another Star Trek novel again, and you’d get a whole story. Or, like me, you coud immediately add the other five volumes of the series to your wishlist.
Though the Original Series is the part of Star Trek I am least familiar with, this was a good outing for the Enterprise crew, and a particularly good showcase for the usual side characters. Yes, it hits a whole load of Western tropes squarely on the head, but Rough Trails still feels fresh in the context of Star Trek, and holds a lot of promise for the rest of the series.
If you want a better look at some underserved classic Star Trek characters, or just want a change of pace from the usual space exploration narrative, then this is a series and a book you’re bound to enjoy.