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Star Trek: Discovery novel ‘Wonderlands’ review

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New Star Trek: Discovery novel ‘Wonderlands’ arrived this week! We’ve dived into the new adventure for an in-depth review, including it’s many insights and intriguing elements that link directly to season 3’s storyline.

REVIEW

Notable Trek Author Dr Una McCormack returns to the Trek Universe to deliver a great book that fleshes out the brand new frontier offered by Discovery. Wonderlands is the latest book to tie into the Star Trek: Discovery series and offers us a great look at the 32nd century which the series now inhabits, with many interesting connective tissues to the series’ third season.

THE STORYLINE

The book takes place in the year 3188, the year in which Commander Michael Burnham finds herself sent to with her red angel suit. This is also the year in which she finds herself alone before the arrival of the Discovery in the next year of 3189.

Many fans found themselves disappointed that there was a time skip between the arrival of Burnham and that of Discovery, not shown in the show. This book chronicles those events that Burnham found herself in, and these events are fascinating and varied.

This book definitely enhances Season 3 of Discovery, fleshing out the year Burnham was isolated from her ship. It enhances some of the feelings Burnham has, especially having told Tilly she had given up hope. As well as some references from Season 3, such as “That incident at Donatu VII” which Book made in Season 3 episode 3 People of Earth

Not only does the story flesh out the year that Burnham was alone in the future, but also this post-burn future itself. We get a deep look into how many different people were affected by the Burn. From planets that were able to become self-sufficient, but decided to isolate themselves. To planets that relied on the trade that being a Federation member allowed, who now found themselves scarce of the resources needed to survive.

The consequences of “The Burn” in roughly 3069

This gives some much needed detail to the post-burn future which Discovery season 3 barely scratched the surface of. And it also gives some much needed conflict to the book narrative, and the challenges that Burnham must overcome. Burnham finds out that she can’t always be successful in this new future by simply using the methods of the past, and that she has to learn to adapt.

Aditya Sahil played by Adil Hussain

The people in this book truly feel alive, with complex characters being one of McCormack’s strongest points as a writer. Expanding on characters we see a lot in Season 3 such as Cleveland Booker (David Ajala), to those we see little of including Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain). Sahil is expanded on heavily in Wonderlands, which is great since he was a standout star of Discovery’s 3rd season. We really didn’t get enough of him.

Book gets some great development in Wonderlands too. But we get a Book in this book (pun intended) that is slightly different from the series, but not incongruent from the series. He is trying to get Burnham to focus on her new life here in the future, instead of clinging to a past which may never come. He obviously clashes with Burnham about this throughout the story, with their relationship being strained along the way. There is definitely a lot of great Burnham and Book content and a push towards their eventual romance. seeing it develop from Wonderlands into what we see on-screen is amazing.

The Queen: Grudge

And of course Star Trek: Discovery Season three introduced us to the Queen herself, Grudge the cat. Wonderlands certainly delivers on some great Grudge content. From all the discussion between Burnham and Book about the magnificent cat, or their conversations with Grudge herself. If you loved the addition of Grudge into Season 3, you will definitely enjoy Wonderlands.

The story also looks very deeply at what the Federation truly was, which was only touched upon in Discovery. It wasn’t just its planets, its ships or its people, but an idea of mutual coexistence and tolerance. From the many different places Burnham finds herself in, it helps to reinforce this idea.

All in all, this book, like Una McCormack’s previous book “Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope” provides some much needed depth and fleshing out of seasons storyline. Not only is it a great companion piece to the series, but it truly enhances scenes from Discovery.

If you were at all interested in this brand new frontier of the future gave us, then we highly recommend that you pick up this book for yourself. It is very engaging and I could not put it down whilst reading. The characters are beautifully written. The situations Burnham finds herself in are varied and interesting. And the lore implications this book offers are interesting for the wider Star Trek Universe.   

STORY & LORE BREAKDOWN

Wonderlands takes us to many different places, and show’s us how they have been affected by the Burn. This takes up most of the structure of the book, and provides for some the interesting situations Burnham finds herself in. Not only does it pose some interesting story ramifications, but has lore implications for the wider Star Trek Universe.

Starbase Devaloka, Aditya Sahil’s Relay Station

The book reveals the name of Aditya Sahil’s starbase as “Devaloka”. “Deva Loka” being a plane of existence similar to heaven in Indian Religions. Sahil is very much expanded on from the great character we met in season 3. We learn the history of his grandmother Priya Tagore who was alive during the Burn and a Federation Council member prior to it. She serves as our vessel for learning information about what the Federation was like leading up to The Burn.

Starbase Devaloka also has more people onboard than just Mr. Sahil, about 20 people are living there. One such character is called “Jeramiah”, an old courier who has a deep hatred for the Federation. His animosity stems from his planet being left for itself after the Temporal Wars. Jeremiah lives in a place on the station called “The Back 40” where he helps to keep the station running. He also aids Burnham in fixing her tricorder, which will eventually help her find out where and when the USS Discovery will arrive into the future.

Captain Archer and Temporal Operative Daniels watching the Timelines during the Temporal Cold War

The Temporal Wars are also massively expanded on in Wonderlands. We learn that a vast number of member worlds were brought into the Federation, before and during. This is very similar to what happened during the Dominion war when protectorates under the Federation were vastly increased.

The Evoran’s were given Protectorate status in the Federation in only a year of achieving Warp to help recoup losses from the battle of Sector 001 and the Dominion War in 2375

This increase in member worlds caused the Federation and its governing structures to become too unyielding. This caused many issues. Smaller member worlds problems with go resolved, while the oldest members would get priority. 

This is extremely similar to the problems that the Federation faces during the Romulan Relocation incident in 2385. The Federation was forced to pull out of its aid mission to Romulus, due to member worlds threatening to leave the Federation. They believed that their voices were not getting heard. This was expanded on in The Last Best Hope, which was also written by Una McCormack, a prequel to Star Trek: Picard.

Michael Burnham’s Nirvana Class Flyer “Alice”

In most Una McCormack books, you will find the inclusion of Starships named after notable female scientists, archaeologists, and other professions. In this book we get the USS Maryam Mirzakhani, a notable female mathematician who won the Mathematician Fields Medal. This ship was found within the “Necropolis” a ship graveyard. It was named such due to holo-projectors on the vessels activating when people board them, which makes for a very fascinating location. Burnham finds her own courier shuttle the “Alice” in the Necropolis. A Nirvana Class Flyer, it’s a small one person vessel class which is very reliable. Burnham finds the Maryam Mirzakhani and recovers its dedication plaque. It tells us the ship was constructed at the “New Utopia Planitia Shipyards”, so at least we know that after the events of Star Trek: Picard, the Utopia Planitia Shipyards are eventually rebuilt.

Interior of Michael Burnham’s Nirvana Class Flyer “Alice”

The trinkets within Burnham’s shuttle seen in Season 3 are noted within this book, especially the stories behind them. The items are:

  • Black Boxes from the USS Yelchin and the Gav’nor
  • Holo-Journal of Counselor Priya Tagore, grandmother of Aditya Sahil
  • Coral Necklace from Ikasu
  • A “Federation” symbol from a Generation Ship
  • An IDIC from a Starfleet Re-enactor 
  • Dedication plaque from the USS Maryam Mirzakhani
  • Picture cube of friends
  • The Christopher Pike Medal of Valor
  • Delta Badge

It wouldn’t be an Una McCormack book without some Cardassian representation. In Wonderlands we get the point of view of Iliana Pa’Dan, a Cardassian who is the product of something called the Cardassian Diaspora.

The main villains of this book are a group called the “White Palm”, which gives very much an Urukai feeling. The White Palm are called such because they have white markings on their ships, and can apparently appear out of nowhere. We find out later in this book that their means of transport are the transwarp tunnels which are used in Season 3. 

The Nautilus travelling through a Transwarp Tunnel created by Project Rabbit-hole

These Transwarp tunnels were actually developed by Federation Scientists aboard Starbase 906, known as Starbase Vanguard. The project was called Project Rabbithole, continuing with Michael Burnham’s Alice in Wonderland recurring theme. This was a project to help with the dwindling dilithium resources of the Federation, along with the Ni’Var Project SB-19. Unfortunately the project was not entirely successful. The tunnels subjected ships to extreme stresses which caused them to be destroyed, which explains the amount of debris that is found within them.

Ni’Var Project SB-19
Black box of the USS Yelchin NCC-4774-E

Burnham buys the black box of the USS Yelchin and has a hard time understanding the benefits of a currency based economy. This is one of the black boxes we see in season 3, when Burnham collects it from a mercantile exchange.  

We get some very interesting lore about the black boxes, they are very different from the log recorders we have seen in previous Treks. They were redesigned at some point during the 26th century to be practically indestructible. They also record a copy of the crew’s personal logs. 

This having been done in the 26th century suggests some need to require almost indestructible log buoys. A big event we know might have happened in the 26th century was “The Battle of Procyon V”. This was the battle between the Federation and the Sphere Builders. Now that battle may not have happened, due to the change in timelines, but a similar incident may have happened between the Federation and Sphere Builders that warranted the need for indestructible black boxes.

Also, an interesting thing is that at some mercantiles you will see Starfleet Re-enactors. These performers dress up in slightly incorrect Starfleet uniforms and play pretend, looking for old relics they can add to their collections. Burnham offers herself off as an expert on the Federation, and makes a tidy profit selling off Federation trinkets she has recovered. She used the profits to buy the Black Box of the USS Yelchin.

Ikasu, a self-sustaining planet, is visited by Book and Burnham. They recover a call from the planet by a mother, who uses a Starfleet Subspace Relay that was left in the system. This world has looked inward since the Burn and has isolated themselves. It is taboo to not only send transmissions, but even to study the outside and look at the stars with a simple telescope.

As seen in Season 3 of Discovery, there is brand new technology in the 32nd century. Such as personal holo-projectors which scan the environment and disguise you as the life forms it detects. It’s a new way to investigate pre-warp civilisations invented by Starfleet, an upgrade to the cloaking suits seen in Star Trek: Insurrection.

Isolation suits from Star Trek: Insurrection

Burnham and Book help to get a mother and daughter off the planet, and bring them to Sanctuary IV to start a new life. They also take the Starfleet Subspace Relay, which helps Burnham recover the message from Admiral Senna Tal from Earth.

The next situation that Burnham finds herself in is on a Generation ship, where the elders despise the Federation. The Federation left their homeworld to descend into civil war after the Temporal Wars. The young on the Generation ship were told that the Federation never existed, so that they could forget the trauma that was caused. However the young find out resulting in a generational split. Burnham manages to resolve the conflict before it devolves into civil war.

In season 3 we hear mention of “The Incident at Donatu VII” from Book, and we see that play out in Wonderlands. Donatu VII is actually a hidden world which the couriers use to settle down and have their own families. This world is under attack from the White Palm, and Burnham convinces the Couriers to band together to defend their home.

Blackboxes from left to right (USS Yelchin, USS Giacconi, Gav’nor)

Burnham goes to Starbase Vanguard and is offered the blackbox of the Gav’nor, a Cardassian ship. It’s offered in exchange for helping the forces of Vanguard Station assume control of Starbase Devaloka. However before she realises it, Vanguard is actually run by the White Palm. They run the local systems and see themselves as a new Federation, but their methods are very much unlike starfleet. Book saves Burnham, and they manage to steal the blackbox as well as logs from Starbase Vanguard.

With the two black boxes in-hand, Burnham realises that there is a difference in the timestamps related to “The Burn”. This rarity of blackboxes from the time of the Burn really helps to tie-up some of the plot points from season 3.   

Looking through the logs that were stolen from Starbase Vanguard, the last was recorded in 3186, which was 2 years before Burnham arrived. So there was a Starfleet presence in the area in which Burnham found herself only a couple of years before she appeared. It’s good to see more factions of Starfleet still being able to operate so long after the Burn, and should offer more interesting stories in the future as the Federation is reborn and starting to reach out again.   

White Palm Raiders come to attack Divaloka, but are fended off by a collective force of couriers and other allies that Burnham has made in the last year. From members of the Generation ship, to the Ikasians they helped. This was a great way to tie together the book and all its varying plot points in an extremely satisfying way. 

Burnham and Book decide to take the fight to the White Palm, and assault Starbase Vanguard. However, before they can even open fire they are called to beam onto the station. It turns out that Burnham’s Cardassian Courier friend Iliana Pa’Dan has already organised a coup against the White Palm. It is successful as so many White Palm raiders are off station to take Divaloka.

Throughout the book, Iliana Pa’Dan has been wanting to retire as a courier. They have now become the commander of a very influential starbase which has access to 15 worlds. These are self sufficient, and even have industrial replicators. 

Terralysium

On their return to Divaloka Burnham finally gets a reply from Terralysium, the world which was saved by Gabriel Burnham in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. As we found out in season 3, Gabriel Burnham didn’t return to Terralysium when she went back to the future, but actually went back to Essof IV. News from Terralysium was the last hope that Burnham was holding on to. It was not the news she expected, but Burnham finally accepts she may have to stay in this future without the Discovery, and should let go of the past and try to make a future for herself.

The book finally ends with an actual scene from Discovery Season 3, episode 2 “People of Earth”, in which we see Burnham and Book on the Nautilus practicing on a Suus Mahna training program. 

All in all the story of this book does not only enhance the story offered in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, but does offer some very big implications for the entire Star Trek Universe. Enterprise may have mentioned the Temporal War, and Discovery may have added some flavour to it, but this book has definitely fleshed out the Temporal War into an actual tangible event which I would love to now see in a TV series.

Star Trek Discovery ‘Wonderlands’ is available to buy now in paperback and digital:

  • Amazon Kindle US / UK
  • Amazon (Paperback) US / UK
  • Apple iBooks US / UK
  • And various other bookstores

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Dom Parishttps://twitter.com/DomDParis
The resident "Loremaster" among the team, Dom is typically found fact-checking videos and articles for the Trek Central team, as well as reviewing the latest episodes and movies.

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