The first in a nine book series about Star Trek: TNG crew before the movie Nemesis.
Publication year: 2004
Page count: 284 plus an excerpt from the next book in the series
Publisher: Pocket Books
The book starts with Wesley. He will have to choose for the final time if he will be a Traveler who will witness things but not get involved or he can return to his mortal life. He chooses to be born again as a Traveler, but afterwards he sees a vision of Enterprise-E’s destruction.
Enterprise-E has been assigned to the Rashanar Battle Site which is a veritable graveyard of star ships and their crews. One of the most fiercest battles in the Dominion War was fought there and now some unexplained phenomena happen there. The starship Juno has been assigned there for the past year and her captain Jill Leeden warns Picard that the site is far more dangerous that he had been told. However, Picard is confident that his experienced crew can handle it and is looking forward to puzzling out what is really happening. Juno’s job is to retrieve the dead for proper burials and identification but the looters are a constant problem so they haven’t had time to research the strange gravity anomalies or floating antimatter which also make sensor readings unreliable.
However, Picard soon finds out that Captain Leeden was right. A whole race of human-like looters, called the Androssi, are determined to steal what they can get, in addition to the Pakleds and some other races. Picard chooses to investigate personally the husk of a Galaxy-glass starship. He takes Data and LaForge with him on his captain’s yacht. Unfortunately, the husk has been occupied by a pair of looters who manage to poison Picard and steal the yacht. Captain Leeden is not impressed and things only go downhill from there.
The second half of the book is a court room drama where Picard has to defend his actions. The book ends with the whole crew in dire straights but from their own Starfleet and not so much from an outside threat.
The book introduces a new non-humanoid race called the Ontailians. They have only recently joined the Federation and their world is closest to the Rashanar site. Four of their vessels are patrolling the site against the looters. They look and move like sloths which was an interesting idea but we don’t get to know much about them.
The main point-of-view character is Captain Picard but other Enterprise crew are also point-of-view characters, as is one of the looters. However, we don’t get a glimpse into the Ontailians.
The book is pretty grim for a canon Star Trek: TNG book with just a couple of Starfleet ships fighting desperately against a whole fleet of looters and other weird thing happening on the battle site. We’re also told that several worlds are withdrawing from the Federation because they’re unhappy about how badly the Dominion War went. The Admiralty is also shown in less than flattering light.
Unfortunately, I found some of the characterization to be a bit off. For example, I’m very surprised that Riker let his captain go to the unexplored husk in a clearly dangerous area, even with Data and LaForge. Also, Crusher should have insisted on seeing Picard immediately after he got back on board instead of meekly waiting until he came to see her. Both of these are plot points later which is unfortunate because now it felt that the writer had to resort of a plot which made the characters idiots.
For some reason Vornholt tried very hard to avoid repetition, including such standard repetition as characters’ names and the verb “said”. I also really didn’t care for the use of “skipper”.
The Rashanar site was pretty exciting and there was a constant feeling of danger when the crew can’t rely on their instruments as usual. We also get to see quite a few familiar secondary characters such as Admiral Nechayev, whom I like a lot, and Admirals Ross and Nakamura. I was also happy to see Wesley again.
Everything was left wide open in the end.