Star Trek


The first book in the Q-Continuum Star Trek: the Next Generation trilogy. Also number 47 in the ST:TNG book series.

Publication year: 1998
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 271

The book is set a couple of months after the movie First Contact so this isn’t quite the ST:TNG crew I’m used to: Data has an emotion chip, Geordi has eyes, Worf is on DS9, and the ship is the Enterprise-E which doesn’t have any families on board. The new chief of security is Lieutenant Baeta Leyoro who is quite aggressive for a Starfleet officer.

The book starts with a mysterious male being who wants to be let out from somewhere.

The Enterprise has been assigned to a mission to breach the galactic barrier which has only been done before by the original Enterprise. It’s an energy and psychic barrier which not only prevents ships from passing through but also makes the humanoids inside insane. However, a Betazoid scientist has come up with a way to breach it with a wormhole and Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise to try it. The experiment is a continuation of previous scientists’ work, as seen on DS9 episode “Rejoined”.

The scientist in question, Dr. Lem Faal, is suffering from fatal Iverson’s disease. Also, his wife died in a freak accident a few months ago and his two young children are with him on the Enterprise. Faal is focused on his research so much that he’s almost ignoring the kids. While the young one is too young to be a POV character, the older one, Milo, resents that his father is so focused on his work.

When the ship is only a few days from the barrier, Q shows up and orders them to stay away. To complicate matter even more, his mate Q and their young son q also show up. Also, the mysterious, gaseous beings called the Calamaraine attack the ship.

The story has lots of references to previous events, from Q’s very first appearance to his Voyager and DS9 episodes. Other past events are also mentioned, such as Troi’s pregnancy. The female Q and the child q are from the Voyager episodes. Picard even thinks that the female Q looks familiar. I’m pretty sure that it’s a reference to the actress Suzie Plakson who also played Doctor Selar and the Klingon ambassador K’Ehylar. Lieutenant Barclay is a significant secondary character.

If you like Q, like I do, you’re probably going to enjoy the book and the series. However, if you can’t stand Q, stay away. The second half of the book shows Q as a teenager billions of years ago.

The book ends in a cliffhanger and nothing is resolved.

Advertisements

A Star Trek: the Next Generation novel.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 262

Enterprise-D has been sent to the planet Thanet. It has only recently developed warp drive and it’s not a member of the Federation. Indeed, it’s dominant culture didn’t recognize species from different worlds until recently. That same culture “knows” that time is cyclical; every five thousand years the culture will be destroyed and then rise again, exactly the same. And a comet is speeding towards Thanet. The Enterprise can easily destroy it. The question is, should it? That will destroy the culture anyway. Starfleet has left the decision to Captain Picard. Things get even more complicated, when Troi senses someone is alive inside the comet.

Also, the holy book of Thanetians tells that false prophets will emerge right before the end of the world. So, the god-king of Thanet doesn’t go to the Enterprise himself but instead sends one of his undersecretaries as an ambassador. While the new ambassador has sometimes been less than pious, he thinks that the Enterprise’s crew are false prophets trying to lure him to heresy.

This is a story of cultures clashing. Federation’s culture is accommodating to others and their beliefs. Unfortunately, the Thanetians’ culture is the opposite. It’s very rigid with seventeen castes and hundreds of sub-castes, rigorous differences between genders and sub-castes. Each sub-caste can eat only specific foods and wear specific clothing. Each sub-caste has only specific vocations open to them. For example, some people are born as beggars or prostitutes and nothing can change that. Yet, all share the belief in the cyclical nature of time and almost everyone is looking forward to the end of the world because that’s how they’ve been brought up. They also have very strict heresy laws and execute people who break them by behavior or speech.

The book has many POV character. In addition to Picard, Troi, and Data, there are several Thanetians. Lieutenant Simon Tarses is another major POV character. He’s ¼ Romulan from the episode “The Drumhead” from the fourth season. He feels like an outsider on the Enterprise and when he meets the Thanetian ambassador’s teenaged daughter, he’s strongly attracted to her. Another new POV character is acting ensign Tormord Engvig who is aboard the Enterprise because he won an essay contest. He hero worships the crew which is rather fun.

The story is heavily focused on Thanetian culture and some of the characters from it. Unfortunately, their culture wasn’t very interesting to me. We find out the history of Thanet and their ancestors’ war. Unfortunately, it also left quite large questions unanswered. The dilemma of if Picard should allow the Thanetians to be destroyed because saving them would bring chaos to the planet, anyway, was actually pretty interesting. However, the population at large aren’t told about the choice; it rests on Picard’s shoulders.

This is a quick read for TNG fans.

The 45th Star Trek: TNG book.

Publication year: 1997
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 239 plus an expert of Wrath of the Prophets (ST: DS9 book)

Marignano is a long-range exploration ship and captain Ileen Maisel loves to explore outside Federation’s borders. She’s used to being on her own, a long way from backup in the fringes of the Orion arm.
Now, however, she’s noticed colony ships and other starships disappearing more frequently than usual and when she realized that her one ship can’t stop it, she called for backup. Starfleet has sent the Enterprise and another starship, Oraidhe, captained by Gohod Clif, a joined Trill. Picard is in command of the operation but of course he’s very courteous to the other captains.

The captains plan to investigate together at first and then separate, if necessary. They run into interesting new (at least to me) cultures while evidence mounts that something really dangerous is stalking whole starships.

The new cultures include the Third Submission colony ship which doesn’t want anything to do with the Federation ships. They consider life an anathema and are just waiting to die quietly. Another new culture is the Lalairu, who are wandering traders. When they die, they regenerate again. They must have a fascinating society, but we saw them only in passing.

Picard is the major POV character while Dr. Crusher and Data get to shine, too. Ileen Maisel seems younger in her personality than her years: she’s very enthusiastic about her job. Clif is a more thoughtful person but of course the Trill has lived a couple of more lifetimes than the others.

This is another Trek book more focused on exploration than conflict or battles. Duane also uses the holodeck a lot with Picard and the other captains talking in a seafaring vessel. I enjoyed the book a lot but it’s not terribly fast-paced.

The 50th Star Trek: TNG book.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 235 including two afterwords, one about writing science fiction and another about the Trek technology and a selected bibliography.

In the sixth season episode “Relics” Enterprise-D encounters a Dyson sphere but they didn’t have the time to much explore it. Now, about a year later the Enterprise is back with another Federation ship, the Darwin, to explore it more thoroughly. The Darwin is crewed by the Horta.

However, when Enterprise draws near the sphere, the sensors pick up a small wormhole from which emerges a neutron star. The star is on a collision course with the sphere so suddenly, the starships have only about two weeks to explore the huge surface area of the sphere.

Captain Picard, LaForge, and Troi join the Horta ship inside the sphere. The Enterprise will stay outside, to monitor the star and the help the Darwin out, if necessary. Picard, of course, is very excited to be exploring the sphere. The officers speculate about which race could have built the sphere and they wonder if it could be the early Borg. However, the sphere has some surprises for them.

This story is focused on exploration and then trying to control a disaster. It’s also focused on science, which isn’t a surprise considering that Pellegrino is a professional engineer and archaeologist. However, it’s different from other ST:TNG books so if you’re looking for fast-paced and light-hearted adventure, this is the wrong book. It also doesn’t have Montgomery Scott who was in the original episode. But it does give the reader something to think about, not just what can be done with science but about how small we humans really are and what sorts of wonders might wait for us out there.

From some of the other reviews on Amazon I understand that just before printing the book, someone took out about 20% of it. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate and puzzling.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Borg described like this, and quite fittingly: “It was ironic, Picard thought, that after progressing beyond the abuses of market economies, Earth’s clever and humane Federation should find among the stars the ultimate corporate nightmare, the Borg, who literally incorporated anything that moved and had something to offer, and destroyed anything that did not. The Borg appreciated any good thing they encountered. Picard had to give them that.”

Part of the young adult Starfleet Academy series for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Publication year: 1996
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 104

This little book is aimed at younger readers. Geordi LaForge and William Riker are first-year cadets at the Starfleet Academy. Geordi is a roadie and mechanic for the Starfleet Academy Band. The Band’s trombonist has just quit the Academy without an explanation and the band’s frantically searching for another because in just a week, they’re going to participate in an intergalactic competition on Pacifica. Will Riker auditions and get the position. At first, he’s very happy but the older cadets start hazing him and he has hard time accepting that. Geordi is the only friend he makes in the band.

The Band heads to Pacifica but after the competition they’re kidnapped and plunged into a war zone.

This was a strange little story. The first half focuses on the Band and it’s very light, mostly about bullying Riker has to endure, but the second half is much darker because it’s set in the middle of a war zone. However, even their actions during the war are somewhat ridiculous. Geordi seems quite somber and focused on his work trying to find a way to make an alien musical instrument to work. Riker quickly picks up a grudge against the band members who do practical jokes on him and he tries to flirt with the female cadets.

Only for die-hard ST:TNG fans.

The final book in the Star Trek: TNG series which returns to the beginning. And to Stargazer.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 276
Publisher: Pocket Books

The cover is misleading: Beverly isn’t in the book much. (Now that I took a good look at the cover on GoodReads I realize that it’s not the same cover! My cover has Beverly and Tuvok. GR cover has Beverly and some unknown white guy, presumably Jack Crusher. So, if you took a mash-up of the covers, they’d be right: Jack Crusher and Tuvok are in the book.)

This is one of the previous untold adventures of Picard’s Stargazer years. (So, still not a Next Gen book…) About a decade before Enterprise-D, (Wesley is just a little boy at this point.) Picard and his crew are about to investigate some very exciting, nearly unexplored ruins. But instead they’re ordered to stop a war between two species who aren’t Federation members. The Melacronites and Cordracites races have hated each other for generations but a Benniari diplomat, Cabrid Culunnh, has managed to avert a war before by creating a neutral place where their diplomats can discuss things. But now a wave of terrorism has swept over both species and they are blaming each other for it. As the nearest starship, the Stargazer is ordered to support the Benniari. Also, they are picking up a person who is familiar with the species and this sector of space. That person is Ensign Tuvok, who resigned from Starfleet decades ago but has recently rejoined.

The diplomat Culunnh suspects that a third party is responsible for the terrorism. Picard sends Ensign Tuvok and Lieutenant Commander Jack Crusher undercover to find the culprit.

The book actually starts with the machinations of the guilty party so we readers know who is responsible. We also know because that same person was behind the plagues in the previous books and was revealed in “Double or Nothing”. So, this is a “how he’s going to get caught” rather than a “who did it” mystery.

We follow Picard’s efforts in diplomacy and he’s fully in character. But the more fun (and funnier) part of the book is Tuvok and Jack Crusher undercover. Tuvok is very formal and cold but he seems to reach a little common ground with Jack through their families. Both have wife and children at home. But Jack’s style rubs Tuvok the wrong way very quickly.

Because this tale isn’t set in Federation space, we also get to experience bars and brothels which aren’t usual in a Trek novel. I can get those in almost any book, so it took away that Trek-feeling.

A decent read but not really necessary to the series, unless you’re interested in Picard’s Stargazer years.

The penultimate book in the Double Helix Star Trek: the Next Generation series. Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the crew of Excalibur take over the book.

Publication year: 1999
Format: print
Page count: 276
Publisher: Pocket Books

Like previous books in this series, “Double or Nothing” doesn’t have much TNG content. It starts seven years in the past where a fierce Orion dancing girl named Vandelia has been kidnapped by a thug of a man, Zolon Darg, who wants her for himself. She’s rescued by Mackenzie Calhoun who is, in fact, undercover doing something quite else. Darg confronts them but when his base explodes around him, Calhoun and Vandelia leave him for dead. But he’s not. Instead he has a burning desire for revenge.

Seven years later, researches at Daystrom institute have found a way to use nanites to make a computer interface directly to the human brain. Unfortunately, the outpost is attacked by Darg’s forces and the prototype computer stolen. The USS Independence is taking Riker to a fancy celebration. It notices the distress call and comes to help the outpost but is too late – it can only chase the villains to Thallonian space. There the starship is surrounded by many Romulan warships led by Sela, Tasha Yar’s half-Romulan daughter. They attack and destroy the Federation starship. Riker and a some of the crew are rescued by Captain Calhoun and USS Excalibur.

Admiral Nechayev decides to keep Excalibur in Thallonian space, looking for a secret Romulan base. However, she has another assignment for Calhoun and Riker is appointed Excalibur’s temporary captain, much to the annoyance of Excalibur’s first mate, Commander Shelby (from the episode “Best of Both Worlds”). Calhoun is sent into an undercover mission.

This book reveals the big bad guy behind the virus plagues in the previous books. It starts as an action, or even a spy, movie and Calhoun’s plotline does feel like a spy movie. Calhoun even gets some specific spy equipment from a mysterious Professor character before he’s sent off. Riker’s half of the book is mostly comic relief when he gapes at the strange crew and their relationships. We also follow Zolon Darg and a mystery man named Kwint.

This was great fun but I had some trouble believing some of the happenings. For example, Nechayev knows that it’s quite possible that Calhoun will be recognized. That would most likely kill him. So why not send someone else? I had the same gripe about the other undercover agent. Also, the main bad guy came out of the blue. I had no idea who he was. Also, I rather liked Vandelia and she would have made a terrific recurring character. So, I was angry with what happened to her. Also, Sela’s fate was left open. She’s captured, mind raped (which was a horrific decision), and left comatose.

On the other hand, it was great to see a crew which is very different from our familiar crews and to see familiar faces from previous episodes.

The book has several alien races who I’ve never seen and they have apparently only been used in books. Thallonians, who are the main antagonists, seem to be from David’s New Frontier books. Some scenes are set outside Federation space which reminded me more of “hive of scum and villainy” than anything seen on TV.

Still, this was a good read and probably would have been better if I had read New Frontier books before. The next book will return us to the roots of the conflict with the main bad guy and to Picard’s previous command: Stargazer.

Next Page »