Star Trek: Strangers From the Sky by Margaret Wander Bonanno

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Damian, Jan 15, 2020.

  1. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I read this book years ago when it first came out. This past year I did a re-read of "Enterprise: The First Adventure," and I read "The Captain's Oath" by Christopher Bennett, and about 2 or 3 years ago I read the "My Brother's Keeper" trilogy by Michael Jan Friedman that focused on Kirk before he was captain and the time between "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Corbomite Manuever". So it seemed logical to re-read this novel since it took place partly during the same period.

    As far as Captain Kirk goes it feels closer to "Enterprise: The First Adventure" than it does to "The Captain's Oath" and "My Brother's Keeper". Which is probably to be expected since this was written about the same time as E:TFA. In E:TFA Kirk is more rough around the edges, quick to say things without thinking and still needing some refining. Whereas in TCO and MBK I find Christopher and Michael Jan Friedman go with a more reserved, contemplative by the book Kirk as reflected in the first season of the original series.

    Strangers From the Sky, on the other hand, is much more consistent with WNMHGB than Vonda McIntyre was in E:TFA. Strangers...has the crew consistent with WNMHGB first of all. She does make a nod to E:TFA by saying McCoy had left the Enterprise to deal with personal issues so Dr Piper was asked to come back from retirement to take his place temporarily (in E:TFA Kirk tries to contact Dr Piper to come out of retirement because they couldn't find McCoy at first). But Kirk in Strangers.... much as in E:TFA, is impulsive, speaking without thinking and ready to take quick action without having all the information. Other than the retconning of the characters from E:TFA to WNMHGB this novels seems like it can naturally follow E:TFA pretty well (though I guess it's more correct to say E:TFA was the retcon).

    As to the plot. The book is in 2 parts. The first part is sometimes before TWOK. Spock is captain of the Enterprise running training missions while Kirk is supervising the cadet training as we saw in TWOK. Part of the first book is also devoted to Vulcans accidently crash landing on Earth 20 years before first contact was supposed to take place with them. The history of the Federation as it was known then was recounted at the beginning. It is vastly different than what we would later see in TNG and particularly First Contact. I believe the history was based on an old game if I'm not mistaken, where Earth goes out first to find new life, on Alpha Centauri, and first contact with the Vulcans occurs when an Earth ship rescues a disabled Vulcan vessel. Also, at this point, World War III and the Eugenics Wars were the same. They had not yet been split into two separate conflicts. The 21st century portion of the book takes place around 2045 and depicts an United Earth largely recovered from the last World War, though Earth is still developing into the society it would be later. Kirk and Spock are having disturbing dreams after reading a book describing an alternate history and then they learn they were involved with an early mission to repair history.

    Then begins the 2nd part of the novel. That part takes place before WNMHGB (and an indeterminate time after E:TFA). They discover a planet that is appearing and disappearing at random intervals and when they take a landing party down they end up lost in the 21st century. They discover that Vulcans were on Earth more than 20 years before they were supposed to be. So each member of the landing party (the same members it is noted who would transport to Delta Vega some time later) goes out to try to find out what is going on and fix the damage to history.

    While it does not fit in the existing continuity of the Star Trek universe as it stands today, I found it an excellent novel nonetheless. It was an enjoyable read front to back. The Enterprise episode "Carbon Creek" has some similar themes in Vulcans landing on Earth after an accident years before first contact was supposed to occur. Though the episode and the novel follow vastly different courses after that.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Not a game, but the Spaceflight Chronology, IIRC. Also the basis for the history in The Final Reflection and the dating scheme in Final Frontier/Best Destiny.
     
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  3. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    The book-within-a-book idea works so well, as it already had in "The Final Reflection".

    What I love is MWB (Garamet)'s anecdote that she was so broke that she couldn't afford her own copy of "Spaceflight Chronology", so she perused it in bookshops and memorised all the Amity log entries, dates and other references she needed.

    The audio book, despite being severely abridged, is excellent. George Takei's narration is so good, especially voicing Melody Sawyer.

    The Enterprise episode "Carbon Creek" seems to borrow much from "Strangers..." And I loved that episode, too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
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  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I've still never owned a copy of that book. It's weird that I missed it when it was new/recent, since I collected every Trek book I could get my hands on back then. If I'd owned it at the time, I would've gotten a lot more of the references in the novels. But I was barely aware it existed. I actually thought its version of the Trek chronology originated in a Best of Trek article, but that article was just using the SFC as one of its sources (and it said as much, but I overlooked that part).
     
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  5. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yup. But FASA did borrow pretty heavily from the Goldstein's for the timeline for the Trek RPG they produced in the 80's, so I can see why Damian may have thought that is from where it had come.
     
  6. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I think I might have an old copy of FASA somewhere. I have no idea how I ended up with one but I'll have to look around to see where I have it.

    I do remember being fascinated by the history in the foreward. I was a pretty new fan at the time this novel came out and it was the first time I read anything about the beginnings of the Federation, first contact and all. Plus it was one of the only books at that time to feature 21st century Earth.

    I'll admit, I was a bit annoyed the film First Contact threw most of this away (though it helped that I loved the movie). Though in retrospect TNG had already done that to a degree during the show.
     
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  7. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Weren't the Andorians also the first aliens humans ran into, rather than the Vulcans?
     
  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Strangers From the Sky is still a short stretch away for me (Deep Domain first, then Strangers), but right now I'm making my way through the fouth chapter/section of the Spaceflight Chonology, which starts getting into establishing relations with Alpha Centauri, getting warp drive ships in motion, and rescuing the Vulcan scout ship and first contact with Tellarites, too! It's seems like a very happy and frantic future history, and it almost seems like humanity is to busy doing space things to have the time and energy for war (there's no mention of WWIII that I've seen at all, but the Eugenics wars aftermath gets a passing reference in the form of a mysterious DY sleeper ship). Its impressive that author MWB made the effort that she did to be inclusive of the SFC book.

    Oh! This interests me, I would love to learn more. Do you remember which article...?
     
  9. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Alpha Centauri was the first contact. The UNSS Icarus visited Alpha Centauri in the late 2040s. Contact with the Vulcans IIRC was in 2067 when the UNSS Amity assisted a disabled Vulcan ship. I don't recall it mentioning Andorians, though I seem to recall that the Federation was founded by Earth, Alpha Centauri, Tellar, Andor and Vulcan (which Enterprise did stay consistent with though Alpha Centauri was a human colony and not an alien planet).
     
  10. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, it's a bit more optimistic then the 21st century we later hear about in TNG and DS9. There are still some growing pains. In Strangers... there are still small pockets of terrorist groups and humanity doesn't seem quite ready for alien life.

    Strangers references WWIII and the Eugenics Wars as one and the same. Colonel Green was part of the conflict (as future history was revised and the wars separated he became part of WWIII). I found it a good alternate Star Trek story. Like a number of books in the period it does not fit with the current Star Trek canon but I still thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

    It's interesting to read books from the time before TNG when they didn't have as much 'canon' to work off of. It lead to some fascinating stories, alternate views of the future in Star Trek from where it ended up. I love TNG and all the spin offs that followed, but it's nice to read stories with an alternate take on how Star Trek could have went.
     
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  11. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Hmmm, maybe it was another story. I swear I remember reading an older Trek book and being surprised it was the Andorians that Earth made first contact with rather than the Vulcans. And yes I am aware of the Myriad Universes novella with the Andorians, but it was something I read before that came out.
     
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  12. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Hmm, can't help you there. I don't recall any stories with Andorians being Earth's first contact. Christopher is usually pretty good with remembering stuff from older Star Trek books so hopefully he'll chime in if he recalls such a story.

    In the chronology I believe Andorians were an early species Earth encountered, just not the first. I also seem to recall somewhere the Andorians being involved in some war in the late 21st century with a species that disappeared I think after.
     
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  13. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    The writer of "The Final Reflection", John M Ford, was commissioned by FASA to write scenarios and (Klingon) sourcebooks for their RPG, and he drew on the material he'd already included in his novel, hence the "Spaceflight Chronology" featured as well.

    Most fanfic prior to TMP that I remember assumed that the Alpha Centaurians were first, and this is suggested in the "Medical Reference Manual" (originally fan-published, then commercially) and based on clues in the Franz Joseph "Technical Manual".

    The Andorians were early, but not first. Leslie Fish did the big fan treatise on Andorians, and she didn't have them as the first contact.

    The "Spaceflight Chronology" had early references (and the term "thiptho lapth"). Supposedly at an early think tank about forming a UFP, the Andorians laid claim to all territories that were visible in the heavens over Andor.

    "Star Trek Maps" builds on Joseph's and Palestine's suggestions that Epsilon Indi (in the constellation of Indus the Indian) is Andor's star. "Maps" puts it in the same system as Triacus, and includes the events prior to "And the Children Shall Lead" that wiped out other planets' populations.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It was titled simply "A Star Trek Chronology," written by Jeffrey W. Mason, and published in The Best of Trek #6 in 1983. It's largely just a more concise retelling of the SFC timeline, IIRC.


    Yes... the Star Fleet Technical Manual established the founding worlds as Earth, Alpha Centauri, 40 Eridani, Epsilon Indi, and 61 Cygni, but it implied that all of them except 40 Eri (which James Blish had previously identified with Vulcan) were human colonies. The Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual then identified Epsilon "Indii" and 61 Cygni as the Andorian and Tellarite home systems, respectively.



    It's from Spock's World by Diane Duane, p. 46 of the paperback edition. She referenced the Amity backstory from the SFC/Strangers but replaced the "Alpha Centaurians" with the Andorians, I'd guess because Roddenberry or Richard Arnold shot down the idea of native Alpha Centaurians. Or maybe Duane herself didn't like the idea. Indeed, the idea of native Centaurians is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of "Metamorphosis," which clearly established Cochrane as an Earth human; "Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri" was supposed to mean that he was noted for settling Alpha Centauri, not for being a native of it.
     
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  15. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Thank you very much @Christopher I appreciate it. Although I am enjoying periodically dipping into the SFC, the book's structure makes it a little frustrating sometimes. If the article provides a nice, tidy overview of the history, it will be nice to read that as a suppliment to the sourcebook.

    As far as the Alpha Centauri, its fun to have an alternative explanation, but it's surprising how quickly they become fast friends and share their warp inventor and warp drive concept. It reads as surprisingly generous of the Alpha Centauri, and worryingly opportunistic of humans. Their physical and psychological differences are minimal and downplayed to the extent that they might as well be humans anyway.

    I'll run with it, with books that declare them as extraterrestrial, but they might as well be human in all other books.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020
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  16. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Cool. I think I glossed over that aspect to conform everything in my head when compiling "The Andor Files" for my website. "Spock's World" has Earth meeting Andorians before Earth met the Vulcans. (But had Vulcans already met the Andorians in that?)

    Of course, "Strangers From the Sky" gave us the secret First Contact (with the public still thinking it was with Alpha Centauri) and then the movie "First Contact" including an Earth-born Cochrane but a Vulcan First Contact party.

    Duane's book suggests that encountering the Andorians allowed Earth to lose some of its xenophobia before meeting the Vulcans.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes, as I said, it just plugged the Andorians into the Centaurians' role in the SFC/Strangers first contact narrative. The same story but with one of the players changed.
     
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  18. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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  19. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Ah, that was it. Thank you, I was starting tot think maybe I was mistaken. I do find it a bit funny that a book focused on Vulcans made Andorians the first aliens humans encountered rather than the Vulcans.
     
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  20. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Hmm, ok. It's been years since I read Spock's World so I must have forgotten.

    I have to admit I originally misunderstood it as well.

    One thing I kind of liked about Strangers is the idea that we went out and found alien life. For some reason I'm not sure humanity is mature enough to handle aliens coming here. Somehow I just feel humanity as a whole would adjust better if we found it 'out there' first. And I think Strangers even alluded to that at one point when they were discussing the history of first contact.