Winston Churchill is said to have remarked, “history is written by the victors.” But does that mean that all history is propaganda? What happens when history has singled your people out as monsters? How do you respond with both humility and a commitment to truth?
Heady issues form the spine of Dayton Ward’s brand-new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, Hearts and Minds, but the meat of the book is a tension-filled covert action thriller that for the most part keeps the reader glued to the page.
The action in Hearts and Minds takes place in two time periods. The main story follows Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E in the 24th Century some seven years after Star Trek: Nemesis and following the events from Ward’s Star Trek: The Next Generation: Headlong Flight (released in January). They are exploring the Odyssean Pass, a poorly-charted region of space far from Earth. When the Enterprise investigates signs of a spacefaring culture in one of the solar systems in the area, their approach triggers a series of cryptic orders that throws Captain Picard into potential conflict with Starfleet Command. Vulcan engineer Taurik (known to TNG fans from the episode “Lower Decks”) has background information and specific orders from Admiral Leonard James Akaar (the baby from the TOS episode, “Friday’s Child”), but is under orders to reveal to Captain Picard only what he absolutely needs to know in order to complete his mission. This tension between Taurik, Akaar, and Picard throws a monkey wrench into Picard’s ability to make first contact. Things get even more intriguing when it becomes clear that this may not be Earth’s first contact with this planet, after all, and that the prior contact may well have been disastrous for all concerned.
The second time period is 21st Century Earth, where the secret American agency Majestic 12 is tracking down a crashed alien ship and its lone survivor. At the same time, the mysterious agents of Aegis, a group of highly-advanced, benevolent aliens helping to shepherd the Earth through its turbulent adolescence into peaceful coexistence with the rest of the galaxy, work to keep Majestic 12 from making mistakes that cannot be undone in their contact with this alien species.
The 24th Century storyline starts out slowly and is filled with frustration in its early stages, but builds to become an exciting race to understand whether the people of Earth interfered disastrously in an alien culture long before the existence of the Prime Directive. The lives of Captain Picard and his crew are at stake, as is the Federation’s understanding of its history. Meanwhile, the 21st Century tale starts out with a bang, but ends up meandering along to its conclusion by the end of the novel. The Majestic 12 storyline keeps your interest high near the beginning of the book, and the Enterprise storyline picks up the excitement towards the middle of the story. As a result, there’s enough going on to keep you turning the pages, wondering what will happen next.
It’s part first-contact story, part spy thriller, and part action adventure, and author Ward makes it all work together. This is the first novel I’ve read by him, and I hope it will not be the last.
The very end of the book picks up key threads from David Mack’s Star Trek: Section 31: Control (which I reviewed last month) and brings them into Captain Picard’s world. I’m interested to see where that goes from here.
There’s a lot of continuity referred to in this novel that as a newcomer to recent Trek fiction I was a bit lost in, but Ward gave enough details for me to catch what’s been going on. For newcomers like me, hang in there, the bulk of the book is comprehensible and enjoyable.
I would have liked a closer look at the culture of the alien race the crew encounters, and some indication of what makes them different from how humanity sees the universe. But other than those things, I found this novel a lot of fun, it held my interest, and made me want more.
Hearts and Minds Available now
Hearts and Minds is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Robert Petkoff, which is also available at Amazon or at as part of your subscription at Audible. You can get it for free and get a 30 day free trial by joining Audible (and help support TrekMovie) by visiting audibletrial.com/trekmovie.
More Star Trek books this summer
There is more Star Trek summer reading from Pocket Books coming up soon. On June 16th they release the e-book novella Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Shield of the Gods by Christopher L. Bennett. And on June 26th comes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack. And then Bennett returns with the fifth novel in the ‘Rise of the Federation’ series: Star Trek: Enterprise: Patterns of Interference on August 29th.
And Dayton Ward has another one of this Star Trek travel books coming out on July 11th, with the Hidden Universe Travel Guide to the Klingon Empire.
Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher.