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A Definitive History of the Federation, it takes Star Trek Seriously
on December 6, 2012
If you've ever been watching an episode of Star Trek and heard a throwaway line about something that happened "in the 22nd century" and wanted to know more, this book is for you. If you ever noticed an apparent contradiction in how the show quoted its own historical events, this book is for you. If you've ever thought about the universe that exists around the characters in the Star Trek and wanted to know how it actually works, this book is for you. If you loved the adventures of Captains Kirk, Picard, Archer, Janeway and Sisko and were curious about how the things they did shaped the events of their time, this book is for you.
To be clear, Federation: The First 150 Years is not a technical manual. It's not an art book. It's not about the history of Star Trek the franchise or Star Trek the television show. It is a history book of the titular United Federation of Planets, the interstellar political body whose flag the Enterprise proudly flies. The book is written in an "In Universe" style, meaning that from the beginning to end, everything is from the perspective of a historian living and writing about Star Trek events as if they actually happened.
While that might sound dry, Goodman's prose is snappy and peppered with quotes and "first person" accounts, giving it a lot of flavor and personality. Clearly Goodman has a background and interest in real-world history, a background that informs the decisions he makes as he ties together all the one liners and throwaway comments from dozens of Star Trek episodes and movies into a believable, cohesive, and enjoyable narrative about the founding and growth of one of scifi's most famous interstellar nations.
Then there's the art. I've seen other reviews comment with disappointment about the art style in the book, but I disagree heartily. It was a bold and expensive choice for the publisher to commission dozens of new illustrations featuring events, seen and unseen, from the Trek canon. Some have complained that they were expecting more screenshots from the shows, but I disagree - this volume is an illustrated history written in style that, cover to cover, takes the Star Trek universe seriously. To use simple photos from the shows would break the immersion, as rarely are cameras really present at these historical events, and the few that were certainly wouldn't happen to have the same composition as a still frame from the television shows. The watercolors in the book elevate the work considerably, making it feel archival and purposefully crafted.
And that doesn't touch on all the other inclusions: newspaper clippings, snippets of important treaties and documents, and the extra set of materials tucked away in the back jacket. All designed with great care, flavor and attention to detail.
It's hard to overstate how many amazing nuggets are waiting to be found for a fan who has grown up with, and wanted to live at least a little part of their own life in the same universe as Captain Kirk and the rest.