Era: Enterprise, Season 4
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Social SF/Space Opera
Publication Date: 2006
Enterprise has been recalled to Earth for a meeting that will make history, but first they have one final mission. The Confederacy is an ancient power bloc comprised of many alien species, but a mysterious new threat brings the Confederacy to the brink of war . . .
Dave Stern’s fourth Enterprise novel marks the end of the stories set during the time-frame of the TV show, and since I have already read the relaunch novels, Rosetta also brings an end to my journey through the tales of the NX-01 and her crew. It’s a moment tinged with sorrow, but this final outing for characters I’ve known for two decades is a triumphant send-off.
Stern’s writing and his grasp of both characters and setting have always been strong, but Rosetta rises through the ranks of its comrades with tighter plotting, a removal of the flashbacks that have bothered me in his other works, and the capturing of that lightning-in-a-bottle that is Star Trek. This is a franchise that is all about exploring space, meeting new people, understanding them and overcoming adversity, and here is a book that has all of that. The Antianna are a threat that recalls that TOS classic ‘The Corbomite Manoeuvre’ as well as the early Enterprise episode ‘Silent Enemy.’ They’re not a threat that has to be faced with overwhelming firepower (although there are certainly characters who would try) but by talking to them. By translating a signal they send. And if it’s translation you want, to Hoshi Sato is where you need to turn.
As the cover suggests, this is very much a Hoshi-centred novel. Even if everything else were pedestrian, that would be enough to put it in my good graces, but pedestrian Rosetta is not. Hoshi may have been underutilised in the show, but in the books she’s had a larger share of duties. Just as Reed took the lead in What Price Honor? in Rosetta Stern shows us just how these characters should be written. This is an Ensign Sato still bearing the scars of her encounter with the Xindi – one of many neat nods to continuity in the book – someone who has seen the worst of what space has to offer but still comes out with a sense of optimism. You don’t get much more Trek than that.
And it’s not just Hoshi who gets a lot to do. The equally underused Travis Mayweather leads the books B-plot as he attempts to get money back from a years-old deal gone wrong. It ties into the main narrative, of course, but it also serves as a nice distraction from the heavier politicking, as well as showcasing the boomer lifestyle that waned over the course of the 2250s. Straddling the line between these two plots is Reed, and I’m convinced no one can write him as well as Stern. He leaps off the page with all the quiet charm Dominic Keating would be able to muster, and seeing this trio of the ensemble take a commanding position in the story is a nice break from the usual three. Not that Trip, T’Pol, or Archer feel wasted. Trip has some great moments as he is thrust into a position of authority, T’Pol provides a reassuringly grouchy presence, and Archer, being Archer, gets to be an action hero. Really the only character who doesn’t have much to do is Phlox, and even he gets some killer lines in the early stages.
With its exploration of character as much as of space, and a mystery that hinges on humanity’s ability to think like the inhuman, Rosetta is a perfect sendoff to the voyages of Enterprise.