01/02/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Simon and Schuster. 438 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 6.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4165-3739-7.
check out websites: www.simonandschuster.co.uk and http://home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett
‘The Buried Age’ is a story about Jean-Luc Picard when he was a mere stripling of fifty and captain of the USS Stargazer, at least at the start. Regrettably, he loses his ship to a surprise attack by the Ferengi and has to undergo a court martial. Soured by the process, he decides to take a leave of absence from Starfleet and seek a career in archaeology. Guinan pops up to intrigue him with legends that hint of ancient ruins and he persuades the University of Alpha Centauri to finance an expedition. The ship Cleopatra’s Needle is no Stargazer but is amply equipped for a long voyage. The only drawback is that some academics insist on bringing their kids along. Picard finds children annoying and thinks they have no place in space.
Hints in the legends lead them to the planet Tanebor. It has no natives at present but has been occupied for two generations by an alien race called the Mabrae, who declare that they haven’t found any ruins but will let Picard and friends search. The Mabrae are great. They live so close to nature that they grow plants on their own thick skins. Warriors have an armour of bark, high ranking citizens have pretty flowers, other personnel have poisons to repel unwanted attentions from amorous academics.
Jean-Luc and his crew unearth a living survivor, kept in stasis, from millennia ago that he initially calls Ariel. Picard takes her under his wing as they plan a search for more stasis bubbles to seek out others of her age old race. But she has a terrible secret that will ultimately lead Picard on a gripping adventure across the galaxy. Along the way, he meets a brilliant android, a beautiful Betazoid counsellor and a few others that have a role in his future.
Christopher L. Bennett started his career in ‘Analog Science Fiction And Fact’ magazine and has a degree in physics and history. He also knows an awful lot of astronomy and a not inconsiderable bit about geology. This solid grounding in science gives his work a veracity and depth that is rare nowadays and pleasing. Moreover, he handles the characters superbly, especially Picard, who happens to be my favourite Enterprise captain. The plot rolls along beautifully with many twists and surprises. It’s a long book but I was never bored.
All in all, this is the best ‘Star Trek’ novel I’ve read in quite a while and might just be the best ever. Certainly a must read for any Next Generation fans and if stars were awarded by SFCrowsnest, I would give this book five, with bells and whistles. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.
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