Star Trek: Allegiance in Exile
I have really enjoyed all of the Star Trek novels written by David R. George III. Just a few weeks ago, I heaped enormous praise upon his “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, that depicted “The Tomed Incident” and a story of the Enterprise B. I also really loved his recent two-part Deep Space Nine-centric “Typhon Pact” duology, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn. So I was eager to read Mr. George’s new novel, an adventure set during the original five-year mission of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise.
Allegiance in Exile is a very interesting, unusually structured Star Trek novel. The book doesn’t just depict one adventure. Instead, it is set over the course of the entire fifth and final year of the five-year mission. I really enjoyed that approach, as it allows Mr. George to tell a more expansive story than I had expected.
On the other hand, I had a hard time shaking the continuity implications of this novel taking up the full final year of the five-year mission. Even before reading this book, I always found it hard to imagine that the events of all of the 79 original Star Trek episodes could have happened during the span of the five-year mission. The Enterprise crew would have been on a new adventure in an entirely new and different region of space practically every week! Wouldn’t there have been travel-time between adventures, not to mention time to prep for each new mission, and to repair the ship after each time they ran into trouble? And that’s just thinking about the 79 aired original Star Trek episodes, not to mention all of the other books and comic books that depicted countless additional adventures set during the five-year mission. It definitely stretches the imagination to think that all of those events could have happened within the span of five years.
But Allegiance in Exile muddies those waters even further, because this novel suggests that the final year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission was spent mapping a particular region of unexplored space. That is logical, and it also makes sense that, rather than having a new adventure every few days, that weeks or even months might pass between new adventures with new alien life-forms. That is the scenario as presented in Allegiance in Exile, in which year five of the five-year mission passes fairly uneventfully, with only a few adventures every few months (adventures depicted in the book, and which wind up connecting as Kirk and his crew attempt to solve a mystery). That means that all of the other adventures of the five-year mission didn’t just happen during the course of five years, but rather during the first FOUR years of the five-year mission, which seems even more implausible.
On top of that, Allegiance in Exile presents us with all sorts of new revelations about the end of the five-year mission. The book specifically focuses on Sulu, and we learn of a deep love-affair that he began with a fellow member of the Enterprise’s crew, a love that would end tragically and result in a bitter schism between Sulu and Captain Kirk (don’t worry, they weren’t rivals for the girl, thank goodness), resulting in Sulu’s actually transferring off of the Enterprise, and serving for many months on a different starship. Now, look, I love when Star Trek novels explore new territory and tell us new things about these well-known characters. I love it when the books break out of the “everything back to normal at the end of the episode” formula that most of the Trek TV shows had to maintain. But it strains my credibility to accept the notion that Sulu spent much of the final year of the five-year mission serving on another ship.
I love the Sulu story in Allegiance in Exile. I was captivated by Mr. George’s story of Sulu’s love affair, and I was devastated by the tragic way that story ended. Mr. George has a great handle on the Sulu character. I loved seeing Sulu brought to life in this way, and I very much enjoyed this skillfully woven story. I also enjoyed seeing some new members of the Enterprise team brought to life, and in particular I thought the Enterprise’s Archaeology and Anthropology officer, Ensign Mai Duyen Trinh, was a wonderful new creation. I loved this new character, and I enjoyed the details of her Vietnamese ancestry that Mr. George wove into her story. But, again, it felt to me like there was too much radical, never-before heard-of new information presented in this novel: that Sulu fell deeply in love and then eventually transferred off the Enterprise seemed too out of place with established Trek continuity. (It doesn’t help, by the way, that this story of Sulu’s split from his captain and temporary transfer to another vessel is so similar to that of Enterprise NX-01 Captain Archer’s bitter split with HIS helmsman, Travis Mayweather, as depicted in the recent Romulan War novels.)
My favorite part of this novel was the depiction, in the final third of the book, of the Federation’s first contact with a race of aliens that figured hugely in the 24th century-set Star Trek TV shows. (I wouldn’t dare spoil which race!) That was very cool, and, of course, I loved that it was Captain Kirk who made the first contact. Also, my DS9-loving heart was overjoyed by the reference found in the novel to the Ascendants, a seemingly forgotten story-line from the DS9 relaunch series of novels that I desperately hope will be resolved in a future book. The inclusion of the Ascendants in this book gives me hope! A big thank-you to Mr. George for keeping that particular story-thread alive.
I was also very pleasantly surprised by a particular bit of continuity with other Trek novels. Over the past few weeks, I have been writing about the “Lost Era” series of novels that Pocket Books published back in 2003, depicting the events of the seventy-some-odd years between Captain Kirk’s last adventure in Star Trek: Generations, and the launch of the Enterprise D in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Well, many years before that series of books, back in the late eighties/early nineties, Pocket Books published a series called “The Lost Years,” which chronicled the gap between the end of Kirk’s first five-year-mission and the launch of the refitted Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In those novels, we met a Starfleet admiral named Lori Ciana, with whom Kirk fell in love. Well, I was very surprised to see Lori Ciana make an appearance in this novel! That was a big surprise, as I don’t believe that character has appeared in any Star Trek book published in the last twenty years. I loved seeing her here, and it makes me want to go back and read those “Lost Years” books all over again.
On its own, Allegiance in Exile is a very entertaining, well-written classic Star Trek adventure. It’s a compelling, fast read. It doesn’t seem to me to fit smoothly, though, into Star Trek continuity as I understand it, something which bothered me as I was reading the book. So that lowered the novel, somewhat, in my estimation. Still, it was fun to see Mr. George try his hand with Kirk and co., and I am eager to see him return to the 24th century (and hopefully more DS9 stories!).
Previous Star Trek novel reviews:
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Sky’s The Limit, Destiny trilogy, A Singular Destiny, Losing the Peace,Immortal Coil, Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory, Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons, Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric
Star Trek: Voyager – Full Circle
Star Trek: Mirror Universe (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards & Shadows – Star Trek: Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire — Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions – Star Trek: Myriad Universes (Books 1 & 2) – Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Shattered Light