The book starts shortly after the Star Trek: the First Contact when Picard is looking at the casualty list from the fight with Borg after the ship returned back to the future. One of the names is Lieutenant Hawk’s and Picard is remembering a mission about six months before the movie. Unfortunately, he isn’t the only POV character, indeed there are quite a few POV characters, so the flashback-thing doesn’t really work.

The first POV character is Captain Blaylock whose ship the Slayton is going to the planet Chiaron IV who is having in a referendum about whether to join the Federation or the Romulan Star Empire. The planet’s current government is in favor of the Federation but there is a rebel faction which is against Federation and against any outside force, for that matter. However, the Slayton has noticed some weird subspace interference and goes to investigate. First, they send a shuttle full of people for the diplomatic mission to the planet. Soon, the Slayton is destroyed. However, because of the ionization of the Chiaron IV’s athmosphere the shuttle’s personnel doesn’t know it and they are soon kidnapped by the rebels who take them to their invisible base and keep them locked up. This part is seen from the POV of Commander Cortin Zweller who is one of Jean-Luc Picard’s oldest friends and Section 31’s agent with a mission to see that the Romulans get the planet.

So, the Slayton is missing and the Federation is sending a skilled diplomat to oversee the referendum and to unite the Chiarosan government and the rebels. The Enterprise is sent to ferry the telepathic Ullian Ambassador Aubin Tabor and Vice-Admiral Marta Batanides. Batanides is also a very old friend of Picard’s and they haven’t seen each other since they got separate assignments after the Academy. She’s also involved with the Ambassador. The Ambassador is also an agent of Section 31 who is there to see that the Romulans get the planet. The Ambassador wants an agent aboard the Enterprise so he approaches Lieutenant Hawk. Hawk listens his pitch but isn’t completely convinced.

The Ambassador, Picard, Troi, Riker, and Data go to the planet for a meeting set up between the government’s leaders and the rebels. However, things escalate to violence where the Ambassador is stabbed and Riker and Troi are kidnapped by the rebels. Shortly afterwards, the Enterprise notices the weird subspace readings and is rocked by a strong shockwave. It seems that the space around Chiaron IV isn’t as desolate as the Federation thinks.

The characters are rendered pretty well but unfortunately the story itself is pretty average. On top of that, the officers behave against known Starfleet regulations such as letting the Captain to actually do something ;).

Of yeah, there seemed to be a huge outcry over the fact the Lieutenant Hawk is gay. Yup, he’s in a stable relationship with a Trill who happens to be male. Some reviews seem to complain that the scenes between the pair were too explicit. Umm, what? They don’t even kiss on the mouth. There are just a few, very short scenes where they talk and even (gasp!) hug twice. Completely ordinary scenes for a pair bonded people. I would rather complain that they are too short and therefore too quick for real character development. Of course, because all of the major characters in every ST version have been work-a-holic singles (with the exception of the three DS9 pairs and even their family life was only shown when it was in trouble or when one of the pair was in trouble) it might just be that Trek readers just aren’t used reading about any kind of stable relationships. At all.

But otherwise, this book was fairly average with too many POV characters. In addition to Picard, Blaylock, and Zweller, there is Hawk, Batanides, a couple of Romulans, Data, and a couple of others.

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