The third book about the adventures of Captain William Riker and USS Titan.
Publication year: 2006
Page count: 382
Publisher: Pocket Books
The science starship Titan is finally heading where humans have never been before. It heads towards Orion’s Arm in order to map it and investigate anything it encounters.
The ship’s telepaths are overwhelmed by a distress cry. Investigating, the Titan crew finds an amazing sight: a group of spacefaring, sentient, jelly-like creatures from the first Next Generation episode (Encounter at Farpoint) are hunted by a second group of the jellies. However, it turns out that the hunter group is in fact made of husks of dead jellies crewed by humanoids. Riker tries to stop the violence but the hunters aren’t interested in Federation ethics. After most of the space creatures flee, the bird-like aliens called Pa’haquel agree to a brief cultural exchange. It turns out that the Pa’haquel are a hunter society following the Spirit of Hunting. They live and fight inside the dead husks which their crews can control. They aren’t interested in changing their way of life.
Titan’s telepahts, Troi among them, form a strong rapport with the space creatures, dubbed space jellies, and want to find a way to stop the Pa’haquel from hunting them. However, there are things going on that the Titan crew don’t know about.
The book has several point-of-view characters. Some of the crew members, such as the security officer Keru and stellar cartographer Melora Pazlar who comes from a very low gravity planet, are given only brief POV were they work out their own personal problems. For example Keru has big problems working with a cyborg cadet. However, Riker, Troi, and Tuvok are the main POV characters. After the half-way point, we also get three alien POV characters who turn out to be different from the Starfleet people. The secondary plots are about how the diverse Titan crew has to learn to work together.
I felt that first officer Vale was underused here; she mostly argues with Riker that they can’t take a stand for or against an alien species’ habits and worries that Riker’s and Troi’s marriage is going to endanger the ship. Even when the Pa’haquel were onboard Titan, they didn’t interact with Vale. On the others hand, I enjoyed the large and strong part that Troi had. She was even in a fight! Tuvok is struggling with the telepathic space creatures’ influence and it makes sense to me that a Vulcan who is trying to suppress his emotions would have trouble with creatures who are mostly emotion and intuition.
This book has a lot of sentient and non-sentient creatures who can live and travel in space on their own. As a class they are called cosmozoans. I found myself fascinated by them but I can’t say that I’m convinced that this kind of creatures could really exist or evolve on their own, so the “exobiology babble” about them felt a bit ridiculous.
I really enjoyed the focus this book has with exploring new species and situations and I hope this continues with the next book. However, on the other hand I felt that in this book the crew spent too much time moralizing and not enough actually researching the situation and the new people. Many of the POV characters simply didn’t like the predatory way of life that the Pa’haquel had and they seemed to feel that the aliens had to change it which felt a bit odd to me.
The crew of Titan is large and still unfamiliar to me. So, even though the writer did his best trying to have little reminders of just what the unfamiliar species looked light, a glossary of characters and species would have been good.