These are the voyages of Captain William Riker and his crew aboard the U.S.S. Titan. The crew consists of many, many species and even has a few non-humanoid members. Long-time TNG fans are also treated with TNG minor character Alyssa Ogawa as the chief nurse and the Romulan Tomalak as one of the opponents. However, I was a bit distressed when I found out that apparently there are a quite a few TNG books which are set in the time before Nemesis. 1 Some of this book’s characters seem to be from these TNG books and so, unfortunately were unfamiliar to me, such as the First Officer Commander Christine Vale and Lieutenant Commander Ranul Keru.
Taking Wing is clearly a starting book in a series: it introduces the numerous crew, has back story for those who didn’t see Nemesis, and at the end it also sets up the coming conflict. And it does all of this competently. However, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone not already familiar with the TNG universe.
Captain Riker is getting ready to take his new ship out to explore the galaxy. He persuades Vale to become his first officer and gets introduced to the new chief medical officer who is basically a dinosaur and distresses quite a few crew members. However, Admiral Akaar gives him another assignment: to go to Romulus as the head of the Federation humanitarian envoy to the Romulan Star Empire who is near chaos after Shinzon killed the Senate and the got himself killed, too. Riker is not happy about this change of plans especially since he has picked his crew to be explorers and not diplomats but has no choice but to agree. However, Akaar has not told him everything about the envoy and reveals the rest only when he’s forced to do so: the Klingons have also sent three ships as an answer to the cry of help from the Remans. The Klingon ships are also part of the envoy.
Meanwhile in Romulus several factions are doing their best to wrest power for themselves. The current praetor is Tal’Aura, the former Senator who was the only one to survive Shinzon’s purge of the Senate. Her main ally is the proconsul and former military Commander Tomalak. The military leaders are Commanders Donatra and Suran who don’t trust even each other. Senator Pardek leads a faction which wants to attack Federation. The Tal’Shiar’s young, new commander Rehaek would rather have an easily controlled puppet ruler on the throne. The Remans want water, food, and a place to live without Romulan overlords. And while Ambassador Spock’s Unification movement has suffered under the unrest, Spock is determined to stop Romulan civil war at all costs. There’s also a Federation undercover agent on Romulus. Unfortunately, he was injured during the riots after Senate’s death and thrown into jail.
Riker and his crew are heading to a very volatile situation which is made even worse by the fact the Pardek is murdered a few days before the first peace conference with all sides and everyone is blaming all of the others. Even though Commander Donatra helped Captain Picard to defeat Shinzon, Riker isn’t sure how far he can count on her.
The book is pretty fast-paced even though its plot is centered on politics and intrigue, and I’m planning on reading the next one.
However, I did have three small complaints:
-A huge cast of characters. I wasn’t familiar with Riker’s crew except for Troi, Riker, and Alyssa and occasionally I wasn’t sure who the characters were. On the other hand, I’ve often wanted to know more about the crews of the Enterprise- D, Voyager, and even DS9, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
-A huge cast of species. Again, I’m often thought that the alien species aren’t used enough. The only ones which we have seen enough to really know something about are the Bajorans, Klingons, and the Ferengi. We know a little bit about the Vulcans, too. But what about the rest, even the ones that have been part of the crews: Trills 2, the Bolians, Romulans, Orions, Benzite, or even Betazoids. I’d love to see more about individual (and different from each other!) members of theses species and about their customs. On the other hand, I’m afraid that ST can’t do anything really radical with them so they will all turn out to be hierarchical (of course, a member of a non-hierarchical species might have a very hard time adjusting to Starfleet), patriarchal, have-Christmas-but-only-with-another-name “aliens” whose emotional make-up doesn’t really differ from modern Western humans. But maybe I’m too pessimistic. However, the vast majority of the species used here are ones that I’ve never even heard of and so it was difficult to get a mental picture of them.
-And third: “lifemate”? Keru and one of the crew members from Star Trek: First Contact were two men who were pair-bonded. And they couldn’t be called husbands because they weren’t hetero? They couldn’t even be called spouses but instead they had to be called “lifemates”?? Now, Keru is a Trill but I don’t recall that Jadzia had any difficulties calling her (hetero) “lifemate” a husband. If they weren’t married, the term you’re shying away from is boyfriend. Then again, maybe the writers just didn’t feel comfortable making him mourn a “mere” boyfriend for eight years.
Once again I see that I’ve stressed the bad thing more than the good ones. As a long-time TNG fan, I really enjoyed this book and the bad things are really just quibbles.
And I really like the cover art, for once.
1, Reading Steven Brust has been an antidote for my desire to read every series in the internal chronological order. But apparently not enough. I’m currently thinking if I should get the first of the Time to… series. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m going to get it eventually.
2, I play currently a Trill in the table-top RPG and it’s sometimes a source of some frustration to me because of how very little we actually know about Trill culture. Religion? (I know that the rule book claims that they are all atheists but that’s just very lazy writing) Arts? Courtship? Are there reviled professions? Or is everything just hunky-dory, equal, accepted, and happy? We know something about the customs related to the symbiots but what about the rest? Apparently the majority of the Trill doesn’t have symbiots after all.