Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Best and the Brightest

Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Best and the Brightest by Susan Wright
Published February 1998
Read August 14th 2015


Previous book (TNG publishing order): #46: To Storm Heaven

Next book (TNG publishing order): Planet X



Spoilers ahead for The Best and the Brightest!

From the back cover:
Every year, Starfleet Academy in San Francisco attracts many of the most talented and ambitious young people in the Federation. They come from all over the Alpha Quadrant, from hundreds of worlds and species, to prepare themselves for the challenges of the final frontier. 
Meet a new generation of cadets: a newly joined Trill just beginning the first of many lives; a Bajoran vedek who finds himself torn between his vows and an unspoken love; a reckless young man fond of pushing the limits; a feline alien raised among Humans; a brilliant but immature young woman with a lot to learn; and a native-born Earth woman with a talent for engineering. 
Together they will learn about courage, life, teamwork, and themselves. Their future is just beginning—but one of them will not survive!

My thoughts:

I first read The Best and the Brightest years ago when it first came out. I was in high school at the time, and I suppose that much of what the main characters were going through echoed a lot in my own life. Looking ahead to college and what I wanted to eventually do with my life, I found myself facing the same problems that confronted the cadets in this novel. What if what I chose ended up not being what I wanted to do? What if I failed? What if the expectations I set for myself or that others set for me turned out to be too high? Reading this novel years ago helped me to confront those questions, though I may not have been entirely aware of it at the time. All I knew is that this story spoke to me on a basic level, and I developed a fond remembrance of The Best and the Brightest.

So, re-reading The Best and the Brightest years later, how does it hold up? Truly, I am torn.

I did enjoy the re-read, mostly through the lens of nostalgia. I remembered loving the characters and enjoying the exploration of the heady days of young adulthood when the entire world lay before me. Since first reading this novel, I have had a wonderful amount of life experiences (with still much more to come, hopefully). Looking back with a more experienced eye, it was a little harder to identify with the characters and where they were in life, which detracted from the experience somewhat. That's not to say that these issues aren't still a part of my life; they really are, even though I'm at a much different stage than I was all those years ago.

The cadets at Starfleet Academy contend with their own life decisions as well as the political goings-on of the galaxy at large.

While I enjoyed the story and the characters, I couldn't help feeling that there wasn't quite enough there. The story flies through the years, jumping from one situation to the next, and never lingering long enough on the individual stories to give us a complete picture of the lives of the cadets (with a couple of exceptions). With six different characters to explore, I could have used a more deliberate pace, allowing us to go beyond the fast impressions we get. That said, if the pace were more deliberate, would my fifteen year old self have been as enamored with this book as I was? Maybe it is just written more for the young adult sensibility, and I have to make my peace with that.

Even with the fast pace, there is a lot to recommend the story. I really enjoy the interactions among the characters, and the insight into the wider world of the Federation from a perspective other than the Enterprise or Deep Space Nine was very interesting. The novel takes place over a tumultuous period in Star Trek history, tackling things like the discovery of the Bajoran wormhole, the loss of the Enterprise-D, the rise of The Maquis, the introduction of The Dominion, and much more. It is a crossroads in Federation history, and The Best and the Brightest gives us a unique perspective on these events. The cameos by familiar characters such as Jadzia Dax and Guinan serve to tie the story to the wider Trek universe as well.

A dark moment in Star Trek history takes on an even deeper meaning for the characters in this novel.

Finally, I have to acknowledge one aspect of the story that I absolutely loved, both then and now. In The Best and the Brightest, two of the cadets enter into a romantic relationship. Moll Enor and Jayme Miranda, both female, go through the same things that any two people go through during young love: crushes, awkwardness, and silly, day-to-day concerns. These days, this is far less out of the ordinary than it was for fifteen year old me. This was the first exposure I had to a same-sex relationship that seemed just as "normal" as any other. None of the other characters batted an eye, and it was treated as genuinely as any other romantic relationship. Since those days, I have learned terms like "heteronormativity," and I understand now how big a deal this story was and how much it helped to shape my values and beliefs to this day. So, for this reason as well as the enjoyment I got out of reading this novel: thank you, Susan Wright. You made a difference in my life.

Final thoughts:

While the story may have lost some of the luster it had when I first read it seventeen years ago, it remains a fun story with characters I truly came to care about. It taught me about friendship, love, grief, and the importance of recognizing the importance of people who are different from me, and about the validity of another's experience, all lessons that resonate in my life to this day. While I would have appreciated a slower, more deliberate pace and, ultimately, more time with these characters, I can't fault the story for playing to its audience. Adolescent me was very thankful to have read this story, and adult me was happy to rediscover it.

Also by Susan Wright:

My next read:

Next week: the much-anticipated new release by Kirsten Beyer: Voyager: Atonement!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Release Day! Voyager: Atonement

Star Trek: Voyager
Atonement by Kirsten Beyer

Long-time readers of this site will know that one of my favorite Trek Lit series has been the Voyager post-finale novels by author Kirsten Beyer. It's always a treat when another chapter in her tales of the Full Circle mission to the Delta Quadrant is released, and this month sees the release of Atonement! Following up from the previous novels Protectors and Acts of Contrition, Atonement continues the story of Voyager's dealings with the Worlds of the First Quadrant, with Janeway on trial by a coalition of former Delta Quadrant foes for her actions during Voyager's first trek through the region.

Check below for links to purchase Atonement from Amazon.





Publisher's description:
An original novel set in the universe of Star Trek: Voyager—and the sequel to Protectors and Acts of Contrition!

Admiral Kathryn Janeway faces a tribunal determined to execute her for supposed crimes committed during Voyager’s maiden trek through the Delta Quadrant. Captain Chakotay knows that the Kinara, several species now allied against the Full Circle fleet, are not all they appear to be. The Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant—a pact he cannot trust—is his only hope for unraveling the Kinara’s true agenda and rescuing Admiral Janeway. Meanwhile, Seven and Tom Paris are forced to betray the trust of their superiors in a desperate bid to reveal the lengths to which a fellow officer has gone in the name of protecting the Federation from the legendary Caeliar.

Purchase Voyager: Atonement:

Mass-market Paperback: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk
E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca


Monday, August 24, 2015

Literary Treks 117: Read The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy

Interview with author David Mack
Seekers #3: Long Shot






What if the laws of probability were no longer a factor, and the most improbable and unthinkable things began to happen? This is exactly what the crew of the Sagittarius runs into in the latest Seekers novel, and the solution may just cost them more than they bargained for.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther welcome back author David Mack to discuss his latest book: Seekers #3: Long Shot. We talk about its creation, being villainless, illustrating the Prime Directive, scientific research, crew interactions, personal connections, life to the fullest, what’s next for David, and where to find him online.

In the news section we talk about TNG: Warped and its humorous ideas for a season 8 of The Next Generation.


Literary Treks 117: Read The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy
Interview with David Mack, author of Seekers #3: Long Shot





Previous episode: Literary Treks 116: Bajor's John Hughes Story

Next episode: Literary Treks 118: Footie Pajamas


Saturday, August 22, 2015

No Surrender

Star Trek: S.C.E. #13
No Surrender by Jeff Mariotte
Published March 2002
Re-released in print form as part of the S.C.E. compilation No Surrender in 2003.
Read May 11th 2015


Previous ebook (S.C.E.): #12: Some Assembly Required
Next ebook (S.C.E.): #14: Caveat Emptor


Original e-book cover

Compilation of SCE #'s 13 - 16
No Surrender (Paperback) from Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
No Surrender (Kindle) from Amazon.com | Amazon.ca



Spoilers ahead for No Surrender and the rest of the Corps of Engineers series!

From the back cover:
The Kursican Orbital Incarceration Platform -- known as "the Plat" -- is the primary prison facility for Kursican, a world applying for Federation membership. When the Plat malfunctions, the U.S.S. da Vinci is sent to Kursican to board and repair the out-of-control orbital station.
But the da Vinci crew finds itself in the midst of a political firestorm, as the malfunction is the result of sabotage by a group of political agitators -- one of whom is Augustus Bradford, an old friend of Captain Gold's. While Commander Gomez and her crack S.C.E. team try to put the Plat right, Gold must balance his duty against his loyalty to his friend -- before Kursican explodes!

My thoughts:

It's been a few months since I've posted a Starfleet Corps of Engineers review, so I figure it's time to give that series a bit of attention once again. Next up is number 13, No Surrender, the first story in the fourth S.C.E. omnibus, also titled No Surrender.

In this story, the da Vinci is called upon to repair an out-of-control orbital prison and to rescue a number of Federation officials who are visiting the station. Complicating matters is the involvement of an old friend of Captain Gold's. Years ago, Gold and Augustus Bradford were good friends who attended the academy together, but over the years, Bradford became disaffected with the Federation and Starfleet. Now living in the Kursican system, Bradford has become politically active, opposing ties between the system and the Federation.

Each of the characters seem to be getting their own "story" in turn, and No Surrender is primarily a Captain Gold story. We see how he reacts when he has to choose between his duty and loyalty to an old friend, a story that is by no means new or unique. Still, we get some good insights into Gold's character, and it was nice to learn more about him.

There are some fun moments in this story, including an exciting sequence in which a rescue team from the da Vinci must infiltrate the out-of-control prison complex via a dangerous spacewalk, all the while avoiding automatic weapon fire and the relentless forces of Newtonian physics. A fun, ably-told story, although there is nothing supremely groundbreaking here.

Final thoughts:

Captain David Gold finally gets some interesting character moments, and we see what duty to the Federation and Starfleet means to him. The primary antagonist comes across as fairly deluded and a little off-his-rocker. I would have been interested to see a more reasoned debate from him, with a legitimate argument rather than the dangerous threat of violence that automatically makes his character unreasonable. Still, an interesting story with a few good action sequences that made this a sufficient afternoon read.


Also by Jeff Mariotte:

My next read:

The Next Generation: The Best and the Brightest by Susan Wright, an unorthodox tale about cadets attending Starfleet Academy. Look for that review next week!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Literary Treks 116: Bajor’s John Hughes Story






Unity saw Bajor finally make it into the Federation as a member world, fulfilling one the earliest storylines of the Deep Space Nine television series. Transition is never easy and Bajor now finds itself experiencing the growing pains of integrating itself into the interstellar community.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther talk about the Worlds of DS9 story Bajor: Fragments and Omens. We discuss the different pace, the changing times, Jake Sisko's role, Bajoran conspiracy theories, the endgame, theology and science, how people make the place, and our ratings.

In the news segment, we rejoice at the announcement of a new edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Star Trek: Prey trilogy, new books from Christopher L. Bennett, and review Star Trek/Green Lantern #2.


Literary Treks 116: Bajor's John Hughes Story
Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Bajor: Fragments and Omens by J. Noah Kym





Previous episode: Literary Treks 115: Maybe He's Not An 80s Fan

Next episode: Literary Treks 117: Read the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy


Sunday, August 16, 2015

TNG: Season 8 Book Coming This Fall!

Some fun news for you today: coming in October is Star Trek: The Next Generation: Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season! Based on parody Twitter account @TNG_S8, Warped is by account creator Mike McMahan, with illustrations by Jason Ho.


Publisher's Description:

In the basement of the Star Trek archives, behind shelves of U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D models, bags of wigs, and bins of plastic phasers, sits a dusty cardboard box. Inside is a pile of VHS tapes that contain never-before-seen episodes and behind-the-scenes footage for something truly amazing. The world thinks there are only seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but there’s one more. A secret season.
Actually, not really. But that didn't stop Mike McMahan, creator of the parody Twitter account @TNG_S8, from making a guide full of: 
REAL* TNG SEASON 8 FACTS AND STORIES!REAL* TNG SEASON 8 DIALOGUE AND IMAGES!(* Again, not really, of course. This is humor. Sorry.)

Release date: October 13, 2015.

Click here to pre-order Warped from Simon and Schuster!



Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Returned, Part 2

Star Trek: New Frontier
The Returned, Part 2 by Peter David
An e-book exclusive novella
Release date: August 3rd 2015
Read August 5th 2015


Previous book (New Frontier): The Returned, Part 1

Next book (New Frontier): The Returned, Part 3


Kindle: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Spoilers ahead for The Returned and Star Trek: New Frontier!

Publisher's Description:
Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun's search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D'myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun's determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

My thoughts:

Continuing directly from Book 1, The Returned Part 2 finds Captain Calhoun and his crew in the pocket universe, seeking out the D'myurj homeworld on a mission to rescue the Federation captives being held there. Having found a D'myurj ship with nearly the entire crew murdered, Calhoun discovers their attackers: the Dayan. A single D'myurj survivor is found aboard the disabled vessel and brought to the Excalibur. After agreeing to help the Dayan seek out and destroy the D'myurj, Calhoun learns from the rescued alien that the Dayan may be an even greater threat.

The underlying themes of this book are much more complex than it would seem at first blush. It wasn't until discussing the book with Matthew Rushing on episode 115 of Literary Treks that I came to really appreciate the depth of the story that Peter David is telling here. In many ways, the issue faced by Calhoun with regards to the D'myurj is similar to a classic Star Trek trope: the idea that the motivations of aliens are more complex than we humans (or people of the Federation) give them credit for. In the classic episode "Arena," the Gorn seemingly commit a wanton act of mass murder in their attack on the Federation colony on Cestus III. At the end of that episode, we learn that the Gorn thought that the Federation was the invader, and they were merely protecting their own people from what they perceived as the violent encroachment of the colonists. Similarly, it seems that the D'myurj attacked the Xenexians in order to preserve their own species, which is in danger of being wiped out by the Dayan. While still a horrible crime, Calhoun finds that their motivations may not have been what he thought they were.

Mark McHenry
As usual, the quirkiness of the New Frontier universe is present on every page of this novella. Peter David's prose is always a pleasure to read, and I definitely enjoyed the juxtaposition of the harsh nature of the Dayan and their almost soft-spoken manner when dealing with Calhoun and his crew.

Robin Lefler and Mark McHenry's story on New Thallon continues here as well, with McHenry gaining planetary fame due to his seemingly god-like powers. There is also a surprise guest star who makes his identity known at the end of the book. Those of you who have read the story will know why I'm excited to see this mystery character and Mark McHenry come together...

Final thoughts:

In some ways, The Returned, Part 2 suffers from what Matthew Rushing and I have termed "middle book purgatory." It's difficult to give a solid rating to a story that is incomplete. There are a lot of interesting themes and ideas up in the air, and I am looking forward to seeing how they are resolved in Part 3. Part 2 was definitely enough to hold my interest, and I once again find myself wishing I had the third part already downloaded. September can't come fast enough!

More about The Returned, Part 2:

Also by Peter David:

My next read:

Next week, my review of #13 of the S.C.E. series: No Surrender by Jeff Mariotte.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Literary Treks 115: Maybe He's Not an 80s Fan






Part 1 of The Returned left us with a cliffhanger: Calhoun and his crew had traveled to a pocket universe in hot pursuit of the aliens responsible for the genocide of the Xenexians in order to rescue the Starfleet personnel they had taken hostage.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther discuss The Returned, Part 2. We talk about the soap opera nature of New Frontier, how the story works for a long-time reader, a captain on the edge, a lively universe, a surprising guest, being in middle book purgatory, permanent political classes, the fight for survival, and the good that men don't do.

In the news segment, we discuss the latest issue of Star Trek Ongoing #48.


Literary Treks 115: Maybe He's Not an 80s Fan
New Frontier: The Returned, Part 2





Previous episode: Literary Treks 114: An Overabundance of Colons

Next episode: Literary Treks 116: Bajor's John Hughes Story


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Long Shot

Star Trek: Seekers #3
Long Shot by David Mack
Release date: July 28th 2015
Read July 31st 2015


Previous book (Seekers): #2: Point of Divergence

Next book (Seekers): #4: All That's Left



Spoilers ahead for Long Shot!

From the back cover:
SCIENCE GONE MAD... Bizarre sensor readings lead the Starfleet scout ship USS Sagittarius to an alien world where efforts to harness a dangerous and unstable technology have thrown the laws of probability out of balance. Now, events that might have occurred only one time in a trillion are happening constantly—to deadly and dazzling effect.

A PLANET IN PERIL... As disasters and miracles multiply globally at an ever-increasing rate, it’s up to Captain Clark Terrell and his crew to shut down the experiment-gone-wrong before its storm of chaos causes the planet’s destruction. But the odds against their success—and their survival—might be too great to overcome.

My thoughts:

When Seekers was first announced, I was very excited. I had absolutely loved Vanguard, and another series by the same authors featuring some of the same characters was an exciting prospect. The first two books, Second Nature and Point of Divergence weren't bad. I enjoyed the story well enough, but it felt like there was something missing. It didn't quite have that one-two punch I'd come to expect from the authors of Vanguard. Still, I loved the premise of Seekers, including the fact that it represented a return to "one and done" style stories. I really do love the interconnected stories of the post-Nemesis novels, but the idea of having exploration-based "planet of the week" stories on occasion is very welcome. So, with all of that said, what did I think of the latest adventure of the crew of the Sagittarius? In short: I loved it.

It is in this novel that I feel these characters have really found their "voice" again. I really enjoy the dynamics between the characters. Captain Terrell is fast becoming one of my favorite lit-only commanding officers, and the relationships between characters such as Theriault and Dastin, and between Ensign Taryl and Torvin brought a smile to my face as I read this novel. I think this series sets the record for novel-only characters, with the only "canon" character being Captain Terrell. This doesn't hurt the story in the slightest, as I found myself empathizing with every character on the Sagittarius and genuinely concerned about their personal stories.

Captain Clark Terrell - the only canon character aboard the Sagittarius.

Another aspect of Long Shot that I really appreciated was the lack of a villain. These days, it seems that a story can't be told unless there is some kind of villain bent on universal domination or a madman out for revenge or a manipulative evil genius attempting to gain power. Thankfully, this novel breaks with that tradition, instead giving us a "man vs. nature/expanding field of weirdness" type story (it's Star Trek; that's totally a valid category). In some ways, it reminded me of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the only Trek film in which the crew isn't fighting some oppressive evil enemy (The Motion Picture sort of gets a pass as well).

This smaller adventure gives the author time to focus on great character development. The quadrant-spanning sweeping epic adventures are great, but I feel like they sacrifice some of the smaller stories due to their scope. This smaller, planet-of-the-week adventure really lets us get into these characters' heads and see what makes them tick. There is not a single character in this novel that I didn't like, and the story itself was compelling and fun to read.

In the second season DS9 episode "Rivals," alien gambling devices alter probability all over the station. Is the device in this episode based on the same principle on a grander scale?

As far as the plot goes, the idea of a probability field affecting the outcomes of random chance was a fun concept to explore on a planetary scale. I wonder if the small "gambling devices" from Deep Space Nine's "Rivals" operated on a similar principle? It was interesting to see this idea writ large, and the true consequences of mucking about with probability. I'm curious who initially set the "trap" for the people of this world. Perhaps they are an antagonist we will meet in future Seekers adventures?

Blink and you'll miss it:

David Mack continues his tradition of including little "easter eggs" and in-jokes for readers to find. My favorite? A subtle reference to the "Thanks, Obama!" meme.

Final thoughts:

Like so many Star Trek novels, it is a love of the characters that really makes this story shine. David Mack has created a group dynamic that is a hell of a lot of fun to read. Combined with a fun, high-stakes adventure, Long Shot makes for a great read. I'm very interested to see where these characters go in the future, and where certain relationships will end up. Some great character development for the small crew of the Sagittarius gives me a lot of hope for the future of Seekers.

With an already-excellent year in Trek lit to this point, it is no small praise to say that Long Shot is my favorite novel of the year so far.

More about Seekers #3:

Also by David Mack:

My next read:

Next week: my review of the second part of the e-book series, New Frontier: The Returned by Peter David!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Star Trek Encyclopedia: Updated!

Boy, this is a big day for news in the world of Star Trek books, isn't it?

According to StarTrek.com, an updated edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia is set for release in autumn of 2016. Updated for the first time since 1999, the encyclopedia will now cover every facet of the prime universe, including VoyagerEnterprise, and Star Trek Nemesis, as well as feature an appendix covering the J.J. Abrams alternate universe.



Coming in 2016 from becker&mayer!, the encyclopedia will be two hardcover volumes of Trekky goodness. Very excited to see this finally updated! As great as Memory Alpha is, I miss the days of hauling out the Trek encyclopedia to look up some obscure bit of Star Trek technology or other minutia.

Star Trek: Prey, coming next year!

Exciting news from author John Jackson Miller today!



On his personal blog, Miller has announced that he is writing an epic Star Trek novel trilogy for release in the latter half of 2016: Star Trek: Prey! Described as "a star-spanning Next Generation epic of the Federation and the Klingon Empire," the trilogy is tentatively scheduled for consecutive months starting in October. Read more at Miller's blog by clicking here!

In the meantime, check out my reviews of Miller's previous Trek works below!

Titan: Absent Enemies


The Next Generation: Takedown

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Literary Treks 114: An Overabundance of Colons

Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Trill: Unjoined
by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels





The Deep Space Nine novel Unity left the Trill people shaken to their very core with the revelation that the parasites were actually somehow related the symbionts. With the planet in turmoil, Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax travel to Trill in hopes of unraveling the mystery of the parasites and bringing peace to a planet on the brink of civil war.

In this episode of Literary Treks, hosts Matthew Rushing and Dan Gunther navigate the deep philosophical waters of Trill: Unjoined. We discuss the world building, a society of secrets, Star Trek genetics gone wrong, the universe being grey, class warfare, history, Julian and Ezri's relationship, and wrap up with our ratings.

In the news, we remind everyone that David Mack's Seekers #3: Long Shot is now available.


Literary Treks 114: An Overabundance of Colons
Trill: Unjoined by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels





Previous episode: Literary Treks 113: The Dark Knight Deception

Next episode: Literary Treks 115: Maybe He's Not an 80s Fan


Monday, August 3, 2015

Release Day! New Frontier: The Returned, Part 2

Star Trek: New Frontier
The Returned, Part 2 by Peter David

The voyages of the U.S.S. Excalibur continue in part 2 of the e-book trilogy, The Returned!

Check out my review of Part 1, and look below for links to purchase Part 2 from Amazon.






Publisher's description:
The second installment in a brand-new three-part digital-first Star Trek: New Frontier e-novel from New York Times bestselling author Peter David!

Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur are back, picking up three months after the stunning events depicted in New Frontier: Blind Man’s Bluff. Calhoun's search of Xenex has failed to find any survivors, and now he is bound and determined to track down the race that killed them—the D'myurj and their associates, the Brethren—and exact vengeance upon them. His search will take the Excalibur crew into a pocket universe, where he discovers not only the homeworld of the D’myurj, but another race that shares Calhoun's determination to obliterate his opponents. But is this new race truly an ally…or an even greater threat?

Purchase New Frontier: The Returned, Part 2:

E-book (Kindle): Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk


Previous Release: Seekers #3: Long Shot
Next Release: Voyager: Atonement


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reunion

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman
First published November 1991
Read July 15th 2015


Previous book (TNG publishing order): #18: Q-in-Law

Next book (TNG publishing order): Unification

Previous book (TNG Unnumbered Hardcovers): Vendetta
Next book (TNG Unnumbered Hardcovers): Imzadi



Spoilers ahead for Reunion!

From the back cover:
Before he commanded the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard was the captain of the legendary deep space exploration vessel, the U.S.S. Stargazer, on an incredible twenty-two year voyage. Now, Picard's past and present collide on board the Enterprise as he is reunited with his former crew in a fantastic adventure that takes the Enterprise crew into the heart of the Romulan empire. 
Together, Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Lt. Commander Data and the rest of the Enterprise crew must join forces with the former crew of the Stargazer to solve the mystery of Picard's past before a ruthless assassin unleashes a terrible revenge that threatens the entire galaxy.

My thoughts:

For years, Reunion has sat on my shelf. As a kid, I absolutely fell in love with the Peter David novel Q-Squared, and later got Reunion in hardcover as well. I attempted to read it a few times, but I apparently grew bored each time and never finished it. Recently, I found it in a box of my old things and decided to give it another go with an adult sensibility. I'm glad I did, because I found the experience quite enjoyable.

Reunion is a solid story, and Michael Jan Friedman has done an excellent job with the original characters in it. Often, the "guest" characters feel unrealized and unrealistic, but all of Picard's Stargazer alumni were presented as interesting, well-rounded individuals with histories and personalities all their own. I especially enjoyed the interplay between Worf and the newly-crowned Daa'Vit leader, Morgen. Like the Romulans, the Daa'Vit have a sordid past with the Klingons, and Worf has an ingrained sense of mistrust of them. However, he and Morgen overcome this animosity to form an unorthodox friendship.

Members of Picard's old crew from the Stargazer come aboard the Enterprise to accompany Captain Morgan to his home planet of Daa'V to witness his ascendancy as its new ruler.

At its core, Reunion is a murder mystery. Someone is apparently trying to murder Morgen, and a number of the visiting crew from the Stargazer fall under suspicion. While it makes sense that one of the visiting dignitaries is the likely attempted murderer, I found it odd that not once is the possibly brought up that one of the crew of the Enterprise could be responsible. I mean, there are over 1000 people who make up the company and crew of the Enterprise; why is any involvement of an Enterprise crewmember or passenger discounted without any kind of investigation?

Of course, the would-be murderer is one of the former Stargazer crew (I won't reveal the guilty party in this review). There are a couple of other plots that make up this novel, including a peril to the Enterprise that I thought would be revealed as another machination by the suspect in the murder, but turns out to be a weird subspace anomaly of the week that just happened to wreak havoc on the Enterprise while the murder plot is going on. Throw in some small involvement with the Romulans towards the end of the story, and you have all of the elements of a mid-series TNG episode in novel form!

There were a couple of things in the novel that irked me somewhat, including the continued use of the com-badge as the one and only way of tracking a person on a starship. I don't understand why the computer of the Enterprise can't tell when someone has removed their communicator to elude detection. Heck, my phone can count my steps and track my sleep cycles, but a com-badge from over 300 years in the future can't tell when it's sitting on the floor versus being worn on a person's chest? Add to that the fact that someone evades capture by using this technique earlier in the novel, and the same tactic works again on Worf, and he doesn't even think of the possibility that the perpetrator might have done this again! Come on, Worf, you're smarter than that!

Once again, someone removes their com-badge to evade capture, and once again, it fools not only the Enterprise computer but Lieutenant Worf as well!

Final thoughts:

A fairly solid entry in the TNG novel universe, having the feel of a season 4 episode of TNG. Some great character work with the Stargazer crew makes me want to pick up the Stargazer series of novels by Michael Jan Friedman, a series that hadn't really interested me before. It would be interesting to see these people back in their heyday, before the events of this novel. Has anyone out there read the Stargazer series? What did you think? Let me know, and I may add them to my list to review in the future.

My next read:

The all-new Seekers novel by David Mack: #3: Long Shot. Look for that review next week!