Windows on a Lost World by V.E. Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Enterprise is assigned to ferry and assist an archaeological project within the Dulciphar star cluster and more specifically the world Careta IV where ruins had been observed which may hold the key to why this are of the galaxy has so many dead cultures and worlds. The archaeological team and landing parties beam down and almost immediately the world feels "wrong" but no one can explain why. Chekov is accompanying the Djelifan native Talika Nyar who looks down with some scorn on the weak male she is lumbered with. They do however discover something buried or more accurately hidden and screened, a few days later a device is uncovered and the mystery of what it does, why it was hidden and who hid it needs to be answered.
Through some experimentation the "mirror" like device reveals an image of another location, it seems to be some sort of gateway (similar to the Iconian devices) and even with extreme caution Chekov and Talika are pulled through to appear somewhere. Further misadventures or plain carelessness causes more people to be pulled through the device and the only indication of where there are going is the new life form readings of large crab like creatures appearing elsewhere on the planet. Some of the "transported" people begin to understand what has become of them and to manipulate their surroundings, contact is made and slowly but surely the story behind this world and her people is revealed and it's not pretty.
Windows on a Lost World is an epic piece of scifi and expands upon what you would expect from Trek with scifi more akin to independent stories. There is a darkness in the narrative that makes the Klingons and Romulans look like playground bullies yet a determination and courage that allows the Enterprise and the scientists to eventually triumph and reach the point where there is only one decision to be made. The irony is not lost that the same lesson is being learnt by the Federation people as was learnt 100,000 plus years ago by another people.
An entertaining and disturbing story at times, adds to the collective work of Trek with some style.
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