"A Choice of Futures" by Christopher L. Bennett was a welcome return to Star Trek's Enterprise era. I had been looking forward to reading this from the moment I heard about it as I have enjoyed most of the previous books from this era and I was one of those rare people who actually seemed to enjoy the TV series. I am happy to say this it didn't disappoint and I really enjoyed seeing some of the early development of the Federation.
The story itself follows the former crew of the Enterprise who have moved on to other roles after the Enterprise was decommissioned following the Romulan War. The Federation has recently formed following that war and the politicians and Starfleet are still trying to understand and agree to what they want to be. So when a strange race of beings begins to attack ships seemingly at random, Admiral Archer and his former crew must try and walk the fine line between war and diplomacy and ensure the newly birthed Federation does not collapse at its first real challenge.
Whilst the synopsis above seems rather simple, there is actually a huge amount going on throughout the novel as the former Enterprise crew and other new characters are spread across various ships and locations. However, Bennett does a great juggling act which keeps the story engaging and well-paced. I didn't find myself getting confused at all and I was impressed with the way in which this multi-threaded story allowed all the characters a chance to shine which is something that at times was missing from the TV show and other novels.
One element of the novel I was particularly impressed with were the characters themselves who Bennett has captured perfectly. The development and change that has occurred in them over the years since the period portrayed in the TV show feels natural and realistic. However, this was further enhanced by the fact that at their hearts you could still see and hear the very people they had been in the TV show. For example I loved how Shran's mannerism and voice came across just as I would expect, but there was now an element to his actions that were more thoughtful and considered due to his experiences and relationship with Archer etc.
There was one aspect of the novel which will either appeal or displease you depending on your own views and this was in relation to the way in which Bennett manages to create many links to other novels and TV episodes. Personally, I enjoyed catching the various references to other elements of the Star Trek Universe as I think it has been done with a fair amount of skill and subtlety. However, I know "Small Universe" syndrome can drive other readers to despair so I just wanted to warn people that there are elements of this within the story.
Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable return to the crew of Star Trek: Enterprise and I really am looking forward to Bennett's next book in the series. On a personal note as someone who has not previously read on his novel's I was hugely impressed with the style, characterisation and pacing. This novel is a prime example of what a good Star Trek novel can and should be about and it makes me a little sad that due to my chronological reading challenge it may be a fair bit before I get to read any of his other books.
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