Book Review + Unboxing Video For Star Trek: Federation: First 150 Years | TrekMovie.com
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Book Review + Unboxing Video For Star Trek: Federation: First 150 Years December 8, 2012

by Robert Lyons , Filed under: Books,ENT,History,Review,TOS,Trek Franchise , trackback

It’s the big-ticket Star Trek item of the season (well, for book-lovers, anyway). Join us for a look at “Federation: The First 150 Years.” Find out how this history from the future weighs in – and watch the unboxing video to see how all the components work – below. 

 

 

REVIEW: “Federation: The First 150 Years”
by David A. Goodman
Hardcover – (page count) (Full Color)
47North – December 2012 – $99.99

Chronicling the Future

It’s a topic that many Star Trek fans have probably wondered about: Just how did the Federation evolve into the entity we see in the filmed incarnations of our favorite show? Attempts have been made to explain the Federation’s genesis and development. Some of these efforts have been official, while others have been fan-driven. The previous high-water mark in attempting to chronicle the Federation’s origins is arguably the “Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology”, a product of Stan and Fred Goldstein (illustrated by Rick Sternbach); a work that influenced RPG manufacturer FASA’s Star Trek role playing games, as well as other authorized publications, such as “Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise”.

With the rise of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it quickly became clear that the previous chronological assumptions were being tossed out the window, and a new standard bearer, Michael and Denise Okuda’s “Star Trek Chronology”, were developed to be the definitive, canonical history of the Star Trek universe. For all their research, however, the Okudas, out of necessity, generally included only extrapolations of key points in Federation history based on on-screen dialogue. Much has occurred in the Star Trek universe since the final revision of the “Star Trek Chronology” in 1996. Dates have been tweaked, and an entire prequel series, Enterprise, has messed with assumptions made back during the halcyon days of TNG’s run.

Enter David A. Goodman, and “Federation: The First 150 Years”.

Opening the Box

“Federation: The First 150 Years” is supposed to be an experience. An impressive box is provided to present the entire package. Upon opening the box you are presented with a grey plastic stand with TNG style LCARS panels that do backlight, and a book sitting smack dab in the middle of the stand. This stand, while attractive, is really trivial to the book, adding little value save for the charm.

Inside the back cover of the book, you find a pouch with several additional documents, ostensibly developed for the ‘seventh-fifth anniversary’ of the book. With only a very few exceptions where necessary to project a real-life copyright, or to offer real life-acknowledgements, the book stays entirely ‘in character’ throughout. This is a book, written in the early 24th century, to document the history of the Federation’s first 150 years.


Unboxing video

The Main Event

The true focal point of the “Federation” experience is the book itself. Printed on thick, high quality paper, it reminds me significantly in its construction of a coffee table book that was around my house growing up that covered the first 75 years of the history of General Motors. The book is sturdy and well constructed, with an understated, yet noble, cover. A subtle sparkly sheen highlights the reflective UFP seal, and the weight of the book immediately lends a measure of credibility to the presentation that previous paperback chronologies have lacked.

Breaking open the cover and flipping through the book, the first eye-catching element is the artwork. Only one straight photograph is used in the entire book, one of Captain Archer on a Klingon ‘wanted’ poster. The remaining artwork, which is extensive, is presented in a wide array of styles. Illustrative crew Joe Corroney, Mark McHaley, Cat Staggs, and Jeff Carlisle present works that immediately draw the eye and mind into the historical experience. The art itself has the look of something that would be commissioned for a museum exhibit.

After the artwork, full page and facing page spreads next bring in the reader’s attention; spreads that exhibit significant documents from Federation and other sources, as well as translations into English. These documents cover a wide array of history, from planetary mining rights on Capella to High Council reports on humanity in the wake of the Broken Bow incident. While illustrative of various points fleshed out in the historical narrative developed by David A. Goodman for the book, it is the actual historical narrative itself that stands out for either adulation or scorn.

Setting down to read the text itself, one immediately feels that they are reading a middle school or high school level history text book. In particular, the experience reminded me of reading about the growth and development of the British Empire in my middle school world history book. Broad strokes are drawn, with pivotal events, figures, and concepts being covered in each section. Just like a contemporary history book, there are clearly defined eras of evolution and ethic demonstrated throughout the Federation’s first 150 years.


Sample spread from Star Trek: Federation: First 150 Years

While “Federation” owes a debt of gratitude to the “Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology”, it surpasses its older cousin in the realm of information conveyance. While the “Spaceflight Chronology” was a collection of snippets used to demonstrate the ongoing changes in the life of Earth and the Federation, Goodman’s work is a genuine telling of the Federation’s story which is helpfully illustrated with snippets. This immediately gives the current tome a significantly higher level of believability than the “Spaceflight Chronology”, and makes for a smoother reading experience.

The details of the new chronology, however, are ultimately going to be up to the individual reader to evaluate. Each reader will bring their own personal canon – based on their on-screen, tie-in, and fan-generated reference points – to the reading of “Federation”… some will enjoy it, others will be disappointed, and others will be outright enraged.

Goodman definitely takes different roads to achieve his chronological accounting. He does not employ a Greg Cox-ian revision of the Eugenics Wars, instead choosing to keep his setting clear and consistent with the TOS dates for the conflict, associating it with World War III as established in TNG, and developing what fans will consider either a creative solution or a ridiculous cop out when addressing the fact that our history has never heard of the Eugenics Wars or a genetically-enhanced ruler named Kahn Noonien Singh.

The most significant disappointment of the historical narrative, at least for this reviewer, is the fact that Goodman’s Federation and Starfleet feel ineffectively small. Major battles in the Romulan War, the face-off at Organia… both feature a miniscule number of ships compared to what you would expect. It is hard to get a sense of institutional establishment (for Starfleet) or genuine peril (for Earth and the Federation) when the battles as described bear more resemblance to a small skirmish than to a genuine fleet action. Admittedly, with a history in Trek Tech, particularly fan-generated technical works of the 1980’s and 90’s, my perspective may be skewed, so each reader’s mileage may vary; but these elements of the narrative simply weren’t believable to me when dealing with an interstellar war.

Fortunately, during the period outlined between the founding of the Federation and the development of the Constitution-class starship, a pretty wide variety of history is conveyed; but once Robert April begins work on the ships that would become Starfleet’s standard bearer, the story becomes, in essence, a gloss of The Original Series and the TOS movies. The overview is presented convincingly enough, but it brings to the fore few additional details to tantalize the fan who thought they ‘knew it all’.


Sample spread from Star Trek: Federation: First 150 Years

Pricing and Canonicity an Issue

“Federation: The First 150 Years” is certainly an interesting book. It is an attractive package. Though price pointed at $99.99, online retailers have dropped the price. As of this writing, it is down into the $50’s online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The lower price-point makes more sense, because the value is in genuinely in the book itself. One might hope that the book itself may be released without the stand or the inserts, as they add no significant value to the book itself.

In a recent TrekMovie interview, “Federation” author Goodman acknowledges that this is prime universe ‘canon’ only in the sense that it can stand until someone decides to contradict it. In this respect, Goodman’s work is immediately diminished in importance, because all it takes is one authorized and canonical program to gut portions of the book. That’s a risky way to get this book out there… and, at least in this writer’s opinion, it diminishes the appeal of the book significantly. As opposed to the definitive history of the Prime Universe, we have a way that we got to where the original 60’s TV series took place… not the certain way.

Ultimate Conclusions

“Federation: The First 150 Years” is a beautiful product with great artwork, a consistent, in-universe feel, and a far more historical bent than any previous reference work set in the Star Trek (prime) universe. It can (and will!) be handsomely displayed in the households of many Star Trek fans this holiday season. It will not arrive without controversy among fans, nor without at least some folks being disappointed. However, its ability to stand the test of time will probably best be judged a decade or more from now, at some point after Star Trek has returned to the small screen, the prime universe, or both.

"Star
Trek Federation: The First 150 Years
"
is available today. You can purchase it discounted at Amazon to $59.99.

 

Comments

1. rogerachong - December 8, 2012

Sweet

2. The Great Bird lives - December 8, 2012

Almost bought it, but opted for ST:TNG Season 1 blue ray…damn, time to sink down another 50 or so… That’s awesome.

3. LizardGirl - December 8, 2012

Wow, it’s beautiful. I love the look of the book. Very official looking. The light up stand is awesome too. The price is a little high, but it sure beats the Star Trek Atlas book.

4. MattR - December 9, 2012

Well the fleet was always really small during the TOS era. So it being small during the Romulan war makes sense.

5. Mikey C - December 9, 2012

I have got to get this. They are putting out so little Trek reference material anymore. I wish that they would update the Star Trek Encyclopedia.

6. pilotfred - December 9, 2012

great review
i so want it

7. Floggy Bottom - December 9, 2012

Utterly non-canon, but I cherish my Franz Joseph tech manual for this kind of material (which I would say influenced this book as well).

8. An Old Codger - December 9, 2012

Mine came in the mail a few days ago. Love the look and feel of it, but am not allowed to read it until Christmas. Can’t wait. May order a 2nd so one stays nice while the other becomes tattered over time. :-)

9. Hat Rick - December 9, 2012

This book is an indication of how rich, how deep, and how utterly involving is the universe that Gene Roddenberry and so many others created. We truly owe it to them for starting this ball rolling, and above all, we owe a debt of gratitude to the vision of that former United States Army Air Corps (as it was called back then) pilot and LAPD officer whose name we know so well.

He may have been Air Force, but he knew the Navy had a place as well! Accounting for the nautical references we find all over Trek….

Some day, there will be historians of popular culture who will marvel that one man could have been so influential in so many aspects of human endeavor, from pizza cutters to space shuttles to theories of warp travel. Like George Washington to America, Gene Roddenberry was Trek’s indispensable man.

Along with him is the team effort we see exemplified in this latest book, which carries on the tradition of detail and forwarding thinking, and perhaps, most of all, the idea of a hopeful and wonderful future, full of things we have never seen before in places we have never been, but soon will go.

It’s true that the book is, at best, only semi-canonical, but what of it? It is an expression of faith that the future will unfold, in some way, in the way it should.

A beautiful book, for a truly beautiful enterprise.

10. T'Cal - December 9, 2012

I’m very interested. For those who have it, please explain the vents that appear to be speaker openings on the sides of the display. Are they, in fact, speakers? If so, what is played over them? How do they sound? The UFP emblem that is on the display and covered by the book almost looks like it illuminates; does it?

I was always a huge fan of the ST Encyclopedia and even more so, the digital version called the ST Omnipedia. I asked Mike Okuda if he and his wife would ever update it and he said he didn’t think the publisher would do that. Pity. I’m amazed it isn’t updated and made available for tablets.

11. CaptainDonovin - December 9, 2012

I ordered this sometime in May, got it last week. I flipped through it first then read up to the Xindi conflict. The reviewer is correct in that it reads like a history book. Being a history buff I appreciated this feel. There are nice references to things throughout Trek of this period, including a mention of a ship from a movie that came out in ’09.

If you like Trek Reference materials, ya gotta get this one.

12. Elias Javalis - December 9, 2012

9@

Well said, rich and Beautiful!

13. Cody A - December 9, 2012

Just finished reading this. The art work for Captain April, Daystrom, and Mavrick in front of the drawing board is very good. I swear the artist made Captain April to look like Gene R.

14. Hat Rick - December 9, 2012

Thanks, Eilas! :-)

15. Nick - December 9, 2012

@10 T’Cal – Yes, the lines on the side of the book are the speakers. When you press the “Initiate” button below the book, there is a forward-like message played from “Admiral Sulu”. It is shown in the unboxing video, around 1:10, though he doesn’t play the entire thing. The UFP symbol under the book, along with the Top and bottom panels do light up when that message is played.

@13 – Cody A – Totally intentional on April looking like Gene :) The Okudas used his picture for April in both the Star Trek Encyclopedia and the Star Trek Chronology. It’s mentioned on April’s Memory Alpha page

16. sean - December 9, 2012

“instead choosing to keep his setting clear and consistent with the TOS dates for the conflict, associating it with World War III as established in TNG”

So this ignores all the Okuda-authored books like the Encyclopedia and Chronology? They clearly establish WWIII as happening much later, somewhere around 2026.

17. Red Dead Ryan - December 9, 2012

I thought that WW3 took place during the 2050′s. That is what “First Contact” indicated. No exact date was given, but Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight was the result of those events, according to the movie.

And this is probably why a book about the history of the Federation is useless. Canon is inevitably contradicted despite the best of intentions on the part of writers and producers.

This is an extrapolation of the history of a not-real future. Based on the scripts written by ordinary people within the past 47 years.

18. Robbert - December 9, 2012

Looks very interesting.

However, let me get this straight; those two speakers on either side, are only capable of producing ONE sentence? Even if it’s from George Takei?

19. sean - December 9, 2012

#17

First Contact just says the war ended around 2053 (a decade before they arrive), it never says when it started.

20. MORN SPEAKS - December 9, 2012

I want to know if we’ll ever see an update to Star Trek:Chronology? The Okudas need to stop working on Blu-Rays, auctions, and NASA and get on it!

21. Commodore Adams - December 9, 2012

@ 19 Sean

Agreed.

22. MC1 Doug - December 9, 2012

Barnes & Noble sells if for $61.79…. also a great deal!

23. VulcanFilmCritic - December 10, 2012

Mine arrived a few days ago, damaged, so I sent it back immediately. Amazon was very good about sending a replacement within a day. If you are giving this a a gift, make sure it hasn’t already been opened by the curious or the acquisitive. The box really should be sealed in some kind of shrink wrap.

24. EJA - December 10, 2012

Wondering if this book takes into account the events of the recent J.J.Abrams movie….

25. bearytrek - December 10, 2012

#24
It does not, except in the most overreaching way (Kirk was born on the Kelvin rather in Iowa).

26. bearytrek - December 10, 2012

btw I got the book last Friday and couldn’t put it down till I finished it…the base is cute but is probably the reason the price is so inflated…is it worth $100? No. But the book is a treasure trove of gold…you’ll recognize a name from TOS episodes who had a part to play in the creation of the Planet of Galactic Peace from ST V, there is a connect-the-dots rationale to the disparate machinations of the Klingon Empire, and of course the never revealed history of the Romulan War (and why they had cloaking devices during Archer’s time but never pressed the advantage till Kirk’s)…

27. Father Robert Lyons - December 10, 2012

#4 – As I noted in the review, as a child of the era when Technical Fandom was in its golden age, I had the Star Fleet Technical Manual, Ships of the Star Fleet, Starfleet Dynamics, and so many other books at my disposal that painted a much more robust space-going force than is depicted in “Fed:150″. That’s my literary pedigree, so it leaves me feeling very unthreatened to read the account of the E/R war in “Fed:150″.

#18 – I made an editorial choice to only play the introduction to Sulu’s narrative. It’s 45 seconds long, and in a video that already went 5 minutes, I felt that was too much. Additionally, the perk of buying the set is that you get to listen to all of it.

28. Lt. Bailey - December 10, 2012

This book is great for filling in the history (canon) of STAR TREK that started from First Contact thought the Archer/ENTERPRISE era right up to the Kirk era. This was a fine gift for me and worth the wait, even though I knew my wife was getting it for me.

29. MC1 Doug - December 10, 2012

#13: Cody, in a number of publications, including (I think) the Star Trek Encyclopedia uses a a photoshopped image of Captain April and the face is that of Gene Roddenberry.

30. Adam E - December 11, 2012

I wonder if they’ll sell a version without the display for less $?

31. Admiral Rex - December 12, 2012

My wife got it for me for Christmas. Can’t wait to open it! Although I wish the author would have used some elements from Trek Lit, I’m interested to see what history he has put together.

32. Quinn - December 15, 2012

Ok, dumb wife here with a question. Husband is a huge fan of next gen, does this book cover any, in part of that history, or is it only through TOS? Thanks!

33. Anthony Pascale - December 15, 2012

Quinnn

This covers Enterprise and TOS era.

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