Book Review – Star Trek Discovery: Wonderlands by Una McCormack

**Note: This review contains spoilers through Season 3, Episode 3 of Star Trek: Discovery.**

From the Publisher:  In a desperate attempt to prevent the artificial intelligence known as Control from seizing crucial information that could destroy all sentient life, Commander Michael Burnham donned the “Red Angel” time-travel suit and guided the USS Discovery into the future and out of harm’s way. But something has gone terribly wrong, and Burnham has somehow arrived in a place far different from anything she could have imagined—more than nine hundred years out of her time, with Discovery nowhere to be found, and where the mysterious and cataclysmic event known as “the Burn” has utterly decimated Starfleet and, with it, the United Federation of Planets. How then can she possibly exist day-to-day in this strange place? What worlds are out there waiting to be discovered? Do any remnants of Starfleet and the Federation possibly endure? With more questions than answers, Burnham must nevertheless forge new friendships and new alliances if she hopes to survive this future long enough for the Discovery crew to find her….

Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery begins with Michael Burnham’s arrival in the year 3188, where she is desperate to find the Federation, Starfleet, and her own crew.  Instead, she finds Cleveland Booker, who tells her that what she’s looking for it long gone… mostly.  And he takes her to meet Aditya Sahil, the self-appointed guardian of a former Federation space station – the only remaining outpost in this area of space that even tries to uphold the principles of a seemingly-defunct organization.  When we next see Michael on screen, a year has passed, and her time in the future has changed her.  And Una McCormack’s Wonderlands shows us how.

Michael is unmoored.  She is from a Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communist society, and has suddenly been deposited in a time when capitalism has run amok.  The structures and the institutions that have helped define her are nowhere to be found.  And her entire support system has disappeared.  Except for her very new acquaintances, Book and Sahil, she has no one.

As she slowly begins to acclimate to this new time, her speech and mannerism and ideals all set her apart as odd.  She struggles to find her place, she thinks about giving up or changing course, and eventually she finds new purpose and even starts to fall in love… with a cat, of course.  And though her ultimate goals of locating what remains of the Federation and determining the cause of The Burn never waver, Michael’s methodology and reasoning evolve.  She becomes the Michael Burham that is reunited with her crew on screen in “People of Earth,” but isn’t quite sure she belongs with them any more.

Wonderlands also provides us with some additional insight to the history of the future.  As Michael investigates, we learn that there were cracks in the foundation of the UFP long before the burn.  The political situation seems to have been very similar to where the Federation found itself before the attack on the Utopia Planitia shipyards in 2385, as detailed in the Star Trek: Picard novel The Last Best Hope (also by McCormack).  In both cases, the organization was beginning to collapse under it’s own weight, unable to serve all member worlds equitably.  In the 29th Century, this strain was exacerbated by the Temporal Wars, and then punctuated by The Burn in 3069.  It’s an intriguing political situation ripe for exploration, and I hope we learn more about this history on screen as the crew of Discovery settles into the 32nd Century.

It’s no secret that Una McCormack is one of my favorite Trek authors.  She is so knowledgeable, giving us callbacks from self-sealing stem bolts to plomeek soup, and a pretty fab Cardassian courier.  McCormack also pays tribute to several fan-and-pro Trek writers, naming former Starfleet officers for them, including Sondra Marshak, Myrna Culbreath, Jean Lorrah. and Vonda McIntyre.  (I’ve asked for confirmation on this on Twitter, which I haven’t yet received – but I would be shocked if these surnames used together just happened to be a coincidence.  UPDATE: Confirmed.)  It’s just really lovely.  You can tell when an author really loves a franchise, and McCormack absolutely loves Star Trek.

Wonderlands was published on May 18, 2021 in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. It is available online or at your local retailer.

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