Monday, October 29, 2012

Immortal Coil

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang
Published February 2002
Read October 29th 2012


Previous book (The Next Generation): The Genesis Wave, Book Three
Next book (The Next Generation): A Hard Rain


Click to purchase Immortal Coil from Amazon.com

Spoilers ahead for Immortal Coil (and Star Trek Nemesis, if you haven't seen that yet)!

From the back cover:

He is perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form--self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming. Created by one of the most brilliant and eccentric intellects the Federation has ever known, the android Data has always believed he was unique, the one true fulfillment of a dream to create children of the mind.
But is he?
Investigating the mysterious destruction of a new android created by Starfleet, Data and the crew of the USS Enterprise uncover startling secrets stretching back to the galaxy's dim past. That knowledge is coveted by beings who will stop at nothing to control it, and will force Data to redefine himself as he learns the hidden history of artificial intelligence.

My thoughts:

I'm doing things a little differently than usual. You see, this month's new Star Trek release (The Next Generation: Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory) is the first book in a new trilogy by David Mack. A trilogy that, according to the author himself, is greatly influenced by events in this novel. I was all set to dive right into The Persistence of Memory, but this heads-up from David Mack meant that I just HAD to read Immortal Coil. And boy, am I glad I did. Jeffrey Lang's novel is a real winner, and one that I'm ashamed to have never read before. Rather than get only new releases reviewed straight away (still upcoming is the e-book only release Vanguard: In Tempest's Wake) and save past novels for later reviews, I figured I should get Immortal Coil out of the way, seeing as it has such an apparent impact on Mack's latest.

Jeffrey Lang did an excellent job with this novel. In particular, the way he wrote Data was superb. Immortal Coil features a post-emotion chip Data, which was an aspect of the character that was rarely done right. In Insurrection and Nemesis, for example, the emotion chip was largely ignored, and Data acted much like he did in the television series. Here, we see him integrating the emotions he feels into his everyday life. In particular, we see the beginnings of a real romantic relationship for him. Rhea McAdams seems to be a perfect companion for him. In fact, maybe a little TOO perfect... She is, of course, not exactly what she seems, and the revelation of her identity has a huge impact on the events of the novel. Another effect of the emotion chip is that it produces a bit of an existential crisis in Data, one that he deals with throughout the novel. While fiction often presents us with a theme of characters coming to terms with their own mortality, this novel puts a unique spin on it: Data must come to terms with his own immortality.

I have always wondered at the lack of exploration of the artifical lifeforms encountered during James Kirk's time with regards to Data's search for his own identity. The original Star Trek explored the idea of androids a staggering number of times: Dr. Korby's android duplicates (and Ruk) from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", Mudd's androids from "I, Mudd", Sargon's attempt to create android receptacles in "Return to Tomorrow", and finally Rayna Kapec, the android created by the immortal Mr. Flint in "Requiem for Methuselah." Immortal Coil ties these episodes together and allows us to see what became of these incidents. Of particular interest was the revelation that Mr. Flint did not in fact die after the events of "Requiem for Methuselah"; rather, the information that Dr. McCoy gathered on him was a ruse to make Kirk and company think that he would die. He is still very much immortal, and still has a role to play in events in the 24th century. Some may call this tying together of events throughout Trek history "continuity porn," but the linking of these events makes a lot of sense. Besides, sometimes I just love me some continuity porn!

While reading Immortal Coil, I was struck by one overpowering thought. This thought remained with me the entire time I was reading. That thought was: man, do I ever miss Data. I miss reading about him working alongside his colleagues on the Enterprise, I miss him learning more and striving to become ever closer to being human, and I miss the dynamic that his character brought to the Trek universe. I know, I can always go back and read novels that take place before his untimely demise in Star Trek Nemesis, but it's just not the same. Data was a terrific part of the Trek universe, and it is diminished by his absence. After reading this novel, I found myself hoping that one day Data will take his place with the group of artificial lifeforms introduced here, but then I felt a wave of sadness as I realized that his death meant that this would never happen. I'm very excited that David Mack's new trilogy is a follow-up to this novel, as the ending practically screams for a sequel.

C'mon Trek Lit, resurrect this guy! You already did it once for a
character killed in the "canon." What's one more between friends?
Final thoughts:

I very much enjoyed Immortal Coil. The exploration of Data's emotions and what immortality would truly mean is fascinating, and a great topic for a novel featuring him. This particular story and the knowledge of the existence of a group that Data could call "his people" makes his death in Nemesis even more tragic than it already was. This novel has gotten me extremely excited for David Mack's new trilogy, and I can't wait to crack open the pages and get reading. I really recommend Immortal Coil, even if it's just because I'm jonesing for more Data in my life, as well as my love of "continuity porn."

More about Immortal Coil:


Also by Jeffrey Lang:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Section 31: Abyss with David Weddle (2001)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Left Hand of Destiny, Book One with J.G. Hertzler (2003)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Left Hand of Destiny, Book Two with J.G. Hertzler (2003)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Light Fantastic (2014)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Force and Motion (2016)

My next read:

I'm finally reading David Mack's new novel, The Next Generation: Cold Equations #1: The Persistence of Memory. Look for a review soon!