Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds
By Dayton Ward
“2031: United States Air Force fighter jets shoot down an unidentified spacecraft and take its crew into custody. Soon, it’s learned that the ship is one of several dispatched across space by an alien species, the Eizand, to search for a new home before their own world becomes uninhabitable. Fearing extraterrestrial invasion, government and military agencies, which for more than eighty years have operated in secret, swing into action, charged with protecting humanity no matter the cost.
“2386: Continuing their exploration of the Odyssean Pass, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise discover what they at first believe is a previously uncharted world, with a civilization still recovering from the effects of global nuclear war. An astonishing priority message from Starfleet Command warns that there’s more to this planet than meets the eye, and Picard soon realizes that the mysteries of this world may well weave through centuries of undisclosed human history.”
A standard “first contact” becomes anything but standard when Captain Picard and his away team visit Sralanya, located in the Odyssean Pass. The inhabitants of Sralanya have a three-hundred-and-fifty year old grudge to bear and it’s up to cooler heads on both sides to avoid a second disastrous encounter between humanity and the Eizand and to figure out the truth of what happened on twenty-first century Earth.
Picard is thwarted by a lack of information coming from Starfleet’s side, and he’s angry when he finds out that one of his crewmen, Vulcan engineer Taurik (TNG: Lower Decks), has both information and orders coming directly from Admiral Leonard James Akaar (TOS: Friday’s Child). Picard has to put aside his anger and has to stay alive to help untangle what happened during that first contact so long ago.
The story featured quite a few familiar characters from past Star Trek, including Akaar (more familiar from Trek literature), Taurik (The Next Generation: Lower Decks), Rain Robinson (Voyager: Future’s End), Mestral (Enterprise: Carbon Creek) Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln (TOS: Assignment Earth) and more. The book is not a direct sequel to From History’s Shadow and Elusive Salvation, but elements from both books appear here.
The book goes back and forth between 2031 and 2386 and bit-by-bit, the story of what happened long ago emerges. Both sides have things to hide about that first encounter between humanity and the Eizand, but the truth comes out and consequences must be faced, including some for Captain Picard himself.
It’s interesting to uncover what happened so long ago in a first contact and to see how far governments will go to cover up misdeeds and mistakes. I felt like the past stuff dragged a bit with the typical ho-hum good guys escaping just ahead of the bad spook guys, but it was pleasant to revisit some familiar old characters.
Many recent Trek books show the strings being pulled behind-the-scenes and Hearts and Minds is no exception to this. If you enjoy conspiracy-type stories, this will be right up your alley.
Author: Dayton Ward
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Hearts and Minds is available as a mass market paperback for $7.19. Order it here. It is also available as a Kindle eBook and as an unabridged audiobook.