Like most fans, there are few Star Trek novels I keep telling myself I should get around to reading. Sarek. Imazadi. But the book I most looked forward to reading and procrastinated the most was The Lost Years.
The cover and the blurb on the back make some great promises. It seduces you with that compelling gap between the last episode of The Original Series (TOS) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP). How did Kirk end up in the admiralty, even after he swore he’d never be taken out of the captain’s chair? What drove Spock back to Vulcan to pursue monasticism and the purging of all emotion? How in the fuck did McCoy become such a wreck and where did he get that amazing disco outfit? With the events of the last few months, I decided I needed something pensive and prone to dine on ashes. So I ordered a copy and started reading.
The novel starts off on a almost odd and forgettable note. An ancient vulcan named Zakal is plotting revenge against Surak, the founder of Vulcan philosophy. We hear him rant on his deathbed, swearing that this is not the end. “Okay,” I told myself, “That’s a bit weird…” But before the implication sunk in the novel returned to more familiar grounds.
The Enterprise is returning after the original five year mission, and the crew is celebrating. At this point in the book, I continued to have hopes that the story would split into three separate plotlines as we follow each of the character’s journeys. McCoy is planning to return to the Fabrini -- the people inside the generational ship in For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky to see an old love. Spock decides to take three months of leave to consider his career options. Kirk, infuriated by Admiral Nogura denying him the command of a starship during Enterprise’s refit, discovers he’s being offered something rather more compelling instead.
All of that quickly changes, however, with the abduction of Sarek and Uhura during a tense diplomatic mission. And then, Zakal is raised from the dead, threatening to bring his terrifying mental powers to the Romulans. The story here is told well enough, and it was tense and entertaining, but it was also incredibly frustrating.
The Lost Years is a poor title for this book. It’s better thought of as The Lost Couple of Weeks, and Some Ancient Vulcan Mind-Lord. It’s disappointing because the story took the easier path instead of the more interesting and introspective one. I was truly hoping the story would end with each character returning to the Enterprise just in time to confront V’Ger in TMP. Instead, the most interesting promises of the novel occur virtually off camera. No questions are answered at the end of the book, and there is no pining for “the good years” which I so sorely craved.
The book is good enough as Star Trek novels go, but it goes with easily marketable action rather than fulfilling it’s promise. I’d recommend it if you have no preconceived notions about the novel, but it’s by no means special.