The 64th Star Trek: the Next Generation book set after the movie First Contact.

422939

Publisher: Pocket Books

Publishing year: 2002

Format: Print

Page count: 332

The book starts with an intriguing little scene seventy years previously where two young students Noonien Soong and Ira Graves are mountain climbing with their professor Emil Vaslovik. They stumble on a body… that turns out to be thousands of years old and an artificial being.

In the present, Data is returning to the Enterprise-E with the body of his ”mother”. His emotion chip is fully active and he’s struggling with grief and his emotional realization that he will outlive all of the people dear to him. However, then the Enterprise-E is summoned to Galor IV where Commander Maddox, Reginald Barcley, and professor Vaslovik are working on creating a sentient android, but with one that has a holomatrix brain. Just when they were going to active the android, there was an accident that left Maddox is in a coma, Vaslovik vaporized, and the new android destroyed. Of course, the Enterprise investigates.

This book is a delight to an old fan because it references a lot of Data-centric TNG episodes, such as “the Offspring”, “the Measure of a Man”, “the Schizoid Man”, and “Descent part II”. It also mentions many secondary characters, such as Soong and Lore, and even brings back characters we’ve only seen once, such as Admiral Haftel. It also uses as an inspiration three of the original Star Trek episodes and ties them to TNG.

The overall theme is sentience in artificial beings. While the episode the Measure of a Man establishes that Data is a sentient being, TNG has a surprising number of other sentient artificial intelligences whose right to choose hasn’t been so clear, such as the Exocomp and even a hologram Moriarty. While Picard is concerned with, and acknowledges, their sentience, not everyone feels the same way. Another theme is Data growing close to a new female crew member so the book also has a ”romance of the week” subplot (which I don’t really like. Since the new character doesn’t appear in the show or movies, we know that she’s going to leave or die, so it feels pointless. Doubly so if I like the romance character which I did this time. Such an interesting character wasted. Oh well).

The book has some elements I’m not sure would actually work, but for the most part, I enjoyed it, despite the inevitable downer ending. It does a wonderful job of tying together all the themed elements. Data has a working emotion chip almost the whole book so he’s a bit different than what I’m used to, but I think this was also done well.

Recommended for TNG fans. Will you be able to enjoy it without watching the show? I don’t know, but I recommend watching the integral episodes first.