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Revisiting “The Lost Era: Serpent Among the Ruins” Retro Review

Revisiting "The Lost Era: Serpent Among the Ruins" Retro Review

Rediscovering The Lost Era: Serpent Among the Ruins – A Retro-Review

Captain John Harriman, seen only for a brief period in Star Trek: Generations, occupies a valued place in Star Trek by being the captain of an Enterprise. Unfortunately, his time on screen didn’t elicit much confidence from viewers, as the young captain struggled in the rescue of refugee ships in that movie. Ultimately, the character was simply a vehicle through which James Kirk could heroically and sacrificially step in and save the day. So, we were happy to read Serpents Among the Ruins, as it casts Harriman in a much more complicated light. But more than that, this book gives readers one of the best Star Trek novels out there.

Part of The Lost Era series, Serpents Among the Ruins, released in 2003, is the work of David R. George III, no stranger to Star Trek fiction. This work includes the novels Provenance of Shadows, The Fire and the Rose, and The Star to Every Wandering, among many others. George’s experience in this franchise shows in Serpents Among the Ruins. Crafting a story that takes place in 2311, a year not regularly seen on screen, is a challenge that involves knowing the franchise well enough to paint a convincing picture with words. As such, we felt the locations, characters, and technology seen in Serpents Among the Ruins were perfectly at home in our mind’s eye – even when it came to items unique to this book, like the powerful and ill-fated U.S.S. Universe.

You may have noted the year this book takes place – 2311 – is a bit removed chronologically from Star Trek: Generations. George uses the 18 years between 2293 and 2311 as a canvas upon which to build Harriman’s character. No longer is Harriman the eager-to-please green commander who runs half a ship; now he is a fiercely intelligent and emotionally complex veteran captain. And emotionally complex, indeed, as the captain is deeply in love with another Starfleet officer, Amina Sasine, has a fraught relationship with his father, Admiral Blackjack Harriman, and he must deal with the resurgence of an old nemesis, the Romulan Aventeer Vokar. So yes, you could already tell Serpents Among the Ruins is a much-welcomed spotlight for Harriman that does more justice for him than Generations ever could.

Despite our praises about George’s competent characterization of the main character, this book’s well-crafted and clever plot is quite possibly the best thing about it. George has fashioned a story centered on the fabled Tomed Incident, the event referenced in a few TNG episodes (most notably “The Neutral Zone” and “The Pegasus”) that led to the signing of the Treaty of Algeron, which barred the Federation from creating its own cloaking device. Serpents Among the Ruins fills in the background as to why the Tomed Incident was a catalyst for such long-lasting interstellar political machinations.

We’ll take any chance we can get to read more about the adventures of the Enterprise-B. Photo: Paramount.

Of course, we aren’t going to spoil the intricate plot that unfolds among the book’s 366 pages, but just know Harriman is the key to, shall we say, cleverly preventing a major, catastrophic interstellar incident – and he does it in such an intelligent way. Kudos to George for crafting a story that will surprise you, make you think and help you appreciate how various factional interests fit together in the puzzle that is Star Trek galactic politics. The story’s tone reminds us of the darker aspects of Deep Space Nine’s storytelling rather than, say, The Next Generation, but don’t worry – George never loses sight of what makes a Star Trek story a Star Trek story.  There will be plenty of city-upon-the-hill rhetoric to go around.

Harriman isn’t the only star of the plot, of course. Familiar faces from screen and book alike, such as Demora Sulu (Star Trek: Generations), Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), Elias Vaughn (Avatar, Book One), Vreenak (DS9: “In the Pale Moonlight”), along with characters unique to Serpents Among the Ruins, contribute to making the tale of the Tomed Incident an engaging read. Notably, like her captain in Generations, Demora was seen only briefly and without much to do; this book changes that, as she intriguingly handles both command of the Enterprise-B and her own key involvement in keeping an interstellar war from igniting.

Serpents Among the Ruins lives up to its parent series’ name, in that it effectively and entertainingly fills in a missing piece of Star Trek lore – at least, if you don’t care about Star Trek novels not being officially considered canon (which, for our money, you shouldn’t). For those who enjoy Serpents Among the Ruins, George has more to offer; he wrote a second Lost Eras novel in 2014 focusing on Harriman and the Enterprise-B, so you can bet that one is on our reading list.

Our favorite part about reading Star Trek novels is that the Star Trek universe is expanded and honored so creatively and entertainingly from what we see on screen. Serpents Among the Ruins is a case study of how an author can contribute to the Star Trek pantheon and honor its established characters.

"Serpents Among the Ruins" book cover

The Lost Era: Serpents Among the Ruins and its sequel are available to buy on Amazon.


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Written By

Kyle Hadyniak has been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and isn't ashamed to admit that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis are his favorite Star Trek movies. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @khady93.

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