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A Call to Darkness

A Call to Darkness

Michael Jan Friedman

10th May 2020

A Call To Darkness, set in the second season of The Next Generation, sees the crew of the Enterprise seeking a missing Starfleet vessel - and following its trail to a world which read as if I was meant to know more about its history that I do. Four of the senior officers beam down - and immediately are cut off from the ship.

For this era of novels, Michael Jan Friedman has done a remarkable job of getting the characters pretty much spot on - Data perhaps being the only one who felt off, but possibly he does better match the Data of the early seasons than the later ones I am more familiar with. The author's world-building also feels strong, with very few elements that feel out of place in Star Trek.

The secondary plot deals with a new deadly contagion spreading through the crew, which was coincidentally timely as I read the novel while the world was in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. The primary plot meanwhile felt incredibly reminiscent of the Hunger Games (written some eighteen years later) which amused me.

I wouldn't go so far as to call this a great novel - the narrative feels dated now and of its era, possibly just in the choice of phrasing - but compared to other Star Trek novels from the late eighties that I've recently read it's at the top of its class.

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The Captain's Honour

The Captain's Honour

David Dvorkin & Daniel Dvorkin

9th February 2020

This Next Generation original tie-in novel is set toward the end of season one, and published in the late 1980s. It’s fairly typical of the sort of planet-of-the-week adventures common in novels of the time, but the content feels dated.

The Enterprise is called to help another Starfleet vessel which is defending a new member planet from invasion by an aggressive neighbour, but it soon becomes clear that their colleagues have some differences from Captain Picard and his crew.

There’s a lot of focus on a never-before-seen member of the Enterprise crew, and the text has the feeling of having been written (in the first half) as if this role was intended to be filled by Tasha Yar (who the TV series had already killed off) and then rewritten to work by substituting a random.

There’s also a lot that doesn’t gel with a later understanding of the Star Trek universe. The way that Federation membership works, the way that Starfleet crews work, and the backstory of Captain Picard all feel quite off - in some cases they are more Original Series-esque, which I suppose makes sense given the lack of TNG materiel the authors would have had to work with.

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Power Hungry

Power Hungry

Howard Weinstein

19th April 2016

A fairly run of the mill Next Generation novel set during the second season, in which Picard and his crew find themselves in a tricky prime directive situation when escorting aid to a planet suffering from extreme climate change.

It's clearly an epistle from the author on the threat that the world faces from a changing climate as a result of human activity, and though this fits with the traditional Trek ethos of pointing a mirror in the direction of the twentieth century, it's delivered with such a lack of grace that it feels like the message is being hammered home at the expense of a thrilling plot.

The author makes some attempt to introduce some new elements of characterisation amongst the crew, but largely this falls flat by virtue of it not being able to be picked up on in any later stories, instead feeling like it's just been dropped in because he felt he had to use all the characters even if they weren't necessary to his plot.

It's not an awful book, but it certainly didn't grip me or excite me about where the story was going, and rather than inspire me to think more about the issues brought up, it's kind of saddening that we still haven't done anything to rectify our own situation some 25 years later.

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Survivors

Survivors

Jean Lorrah

5th April 2015

Survivors is novel number four in the original Star Trek: The Next Generation line, and is set somewhere in the middle of the first season, between 'The Arsenal of Freedom' (which it references) and before 'Skin of Evil' (which is also referenced and foreshadowed). The author having had the benefit of knowing what happens in 'Skin of Evil' has made this into a fantastic character exploration and backstory reveal for one of the least served main characters of TNG - Tasha Yar.

In fact it also deals with Data very well too - getting his character much more accurately representing the one in the first season than some of the earlier books, which would have been drafted before the series aired. This makes the novel feel an authentic part of TNG storyline rather than a side tale in a parallel universe and I really enjoyed getting to read it.

The plot is also a strong one, though one that since has become something of a template for science fiction and Star Trek's prime directive stories. It makes good use of the characters to inform the story though, and uses quality science fiction fare to create a tale to put the characters in. The story flows well, and although its clear what some of the twists are going to be, it's so obvious as to be clear that you're meant to be expecting it and so doesn't feel like bad foreshadowing.

A really great early novel that's pleasantly surprised me again - when I started this re-read I was expecting the early novels to be dire and I have been proved wrong again and again. This should be one for any fan of the early years of TNG, and Tasha Yar in particular, to read.

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The Children of Hamlin

The Children of Hamlin

Carmen Carter

9th June 2014

The third numbered book in the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel series sees the crew on a pair of missions - transporting a group of agricultural colonists to a new home and answering a distress call from another Federation vessel.

The focus seems to be mostly on the guest characters rather than the regulars - in fact, it meets the Original Series cliché of having a visiting Starfleet dignitary take over in a useless manner. I liked some of the aspects of the colonists' culture, which was presented in a way that enabled the reader to learn without feeling like exposition was being poured down your throat. By contrast however, some aspects of that culture feel tired and overused.

The plot was interesting, and generally fit the series well, although there are aspects that are totally predictable far in advance, which rather than seeming like good foreshadowing make the main characters feel stupid for not seeing what's happening.

Most of the story seems to fit well the TNG season one mould, although a couple of aspects were jarring - the relationship between Picard and Crusher wasn't quite how it was realised on TV, and there's an early mention of Romulans which is contradicted by the end of the first season.

Overall, I didn't feel that the book was anything special, but it's not lacking in quality as I feared when starting my re-read of the series.

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Only Superhuman

Only Superhuman

Christopher L Bennett

31st March 2014

I've read a number of Christopher L Bennett's Star Trek tie-in novels, and have been reading online for a long time about this book, an original work looking at the 22nd Century life of a group of genetically-engineered superheroes.

I found the book really interesting, although in places hard going. The narrative gets a bit bogged down with technical details, then flips into fast-paced action scenes. These were actually what interested me least, and several times I found my attention drifting and had to turn back a page or two to work out what was going on.

The plot gets quite complex, and does well to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end, although it gets to the point of ridiculousness in trying to tie your thinking up in knots. The main character is strong, and I really liked the way that the backstory was given interspersed throughout the narrative in 'origin story' chapters. In fact, I found these sequences the best in the novel.

The book does have a similar overall feel to it as Bennett's Trek novels, though I didn't find it had quite the power to grip me. Certainly an interesting novel, but a little too much toward hard science fiction for my tastes.

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The Peacekeepers

The Peacekeepers

Gene DeWeese

9th February 2014

The second regular novel based on Star Trek: The Next Generation has surprised me, reading it 25+ years after publication, by being really good. I started re-reading the series in order, with the feeling that I was going to be disappointed by everything in the early numbered stories, but both book one and this are really good.

It's a story mostly about Geordi, a surprisingly under-served character really, when he and Data are mysteriously transported away while investigating a drifting derelict. The characters, certainly in the first half of the novel, are very recognisable from the portrayal in the early episodes of the TV show, and it feels like the author has got a really good grip on how they were envisioned at that time.

As a sci-fi plot, it's strong - there's mystery, suspense, twists, a deep back-story that might not be all it seems, and the narrative flows well throughout, focussing on Geordi and Data but giving a good outing to many of the other main characters (though Wesley Crusher is curiously unmentioned).

I actually really enjoyed reading this, and am looking forward to reading DeWeese's later TNG novels.

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Other reviewed books

Peaceable Kingdoms
The Poisoned Chalice
A Ceremony of Losses
The Crimson Shadow
Revelation and Dust
Ghost Ship
Redshirts
Not Dead Enough
Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures
The Long War
The Never-Ending Sacrifice
Star Trek Into Darkness
Encounter at Farpoint
Bedlam
The Body Electric
Silent Weapons
The Persistence of Memory
Brinkmanship
Exodus Code
The Eternal Tide
Fallen Gods
Raise the Dawn
Plagues of Night
Forgotten History
Bill the Galactic Hero
To Brave the Storm
The Struggle Within
The Men Who Sold the World
Long Time Dead
First Born
Children of the Storm
The Gemini Agent
Watching the Clock
Blind Man's Bluff
Indistinguishable from Magic
The Coming of the Terraphiles
Paths of Disharmony
Rough Beasts of Empire
The Edge
Seize the Fire
The Delta Anomaly
Zero Sum Game
Daedalus's Children
Daedalus
Articles of the Federation
Consequences
A Time for War, A Time for Peace
The Undertaker's Gift
A Time to Heal
A Time to Kill
Risk Assessment
A Time to Hate
A Time to Love
A Time to Harvest
A Time to Sow
The Romulan War
Synthesis
And Another Thing
Unworthy
Mostly Harmless
The House That Jack Built
So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
A Time to Die
Life, The Universe and Everything
A Time to be Born
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Bay of the Dead
The Soul Key
Into the Silence
Losing the Peace
Harbinger
Treason
Star Trek
Full Circle
Over A Torrent Sea
A Singular Destiny
Lost Souls
Mere Mortals
Gods of Night
Sword of Damocles
Orion's Hounds
Missing in Action
The Red King
Kobayashi Maru
The Pirate Loop
Day of the Vipers

Unreviewed books

A Good Day to Die
A Rock and a Hard Place
A Stitch in Time
Across the Universe
After the Fall
All Good Things
Almost Perfect
Another Life
Avatar (Book 1)
Avatar (Book Two)
Backwards
Before Dishonour
Being Human
Betrayal
Better Than Life
Blaze of Glory
Bloodletter
Boogeymen
Border Princes
Broken Bow
By The Book
Captain's Blood
Captain's Peril
Cast No Shadow
Catalyst of Sorrows
Cathedral
Chains of Command
Cold Wars
Colony
Contamination
Crossover
Dark Allies
Dark Matters: Cloak and Dagger
Dark Passions book one
Dark Passions book two
Dark Victory
Dawn of the Eagles
Death in Winter
Deny Thy Father
Doctor's Orders
Doors into Chaos
Double or Nothing
Echoes
Emissary
Endgame
Enemy of My Enemy
Enterprise Logs
Equinox
Exiles
Far Beyond the Stars
Fearful Symmetry
Fire on High
Fire Ship
Foreign Foes
Gateways: Chainmail
Gateways: Demons of Air and Darkness
Gateways: One Small Step
Gauntlet
Gods Above
Greater Than the Sum
Guises of the Mind
Gulliver's Fugatives
Here There Be Dragons
Homecoming
Honor Bound
I, Q
Imbalance
Imzadi
Infection
Inferno
Infiltrator
Intellivore
Last Human
Lesser Evil
Martha in the Mirror
Martyr
Maximum Warp book one
Maximum Warp book two
Metamorphasis
Mind Meld
Miracle Workers
Mission to Horatius
Mosaic
New Earth: Rough Trails
New Earth: The Flaming Arrow
New Earth: Wagon Train to the Stars
New Frontier
Night of the Wolves
Nightshade
No Limits
Objective: Bajor
Oblivion
Old Wounds
Once Burned
Pack Animals
Pathways
Peacemaker
Perchance to Dream
Preserver
Progenitor
Prophecy and Change
Q&A
Q's Guide to the Continuum
Q-in-Law
Q-Space
Q-Strike
Q-Zone
Quarantine
Red Dwarf
Red Sector
Renaissance
Requiem
Requiem
Resistance
Restoration
Reunion
Rising Son
Rosetta
Section 31: Abyss
Section 31: Cloak
Section 31: Rogue
Section 31: Shadow
Serpents Among the Ruins
Seven of Nine
Ship of the Line
Shockwave
Skypoint
Slow Decay
Snowglobe 7
Something in the Water
Spartacus
Spectre
Star Trek: Adventures in Time and Space
Star Trek: Day of Honour
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Invasion
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek: Odyssey
Star Trek: The Classic Episodes 2
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek: The Voyage Home
Starfleet Year One
Stargazer: Three
Stone and Anvil
Strange New Worlds II
Strange New Worlds III
Surak's Soul
Taking Wing
Tales of the Dominion War
The 34th Rule
The Art of the Impossible
The Badlands (book two)
The Battle of Betazed
The Best and the Brightest
The Big Game
The Brave and the Bold book one
The Brave and the Bold book two
The Death of Princes
The Dominion War book four
The Dominion War book one
The Dominion War book three
The Dominion War book two
The Escape
The Eugenics War volume two
The Eugenics Wars volume one
The Expanse
The Eyes of the Beholders
The Fall of Terok Nor
The Farther Shore
The Final Frontier
The First Virtue
The Genesis Wave book one
The Good That Men Do
The Heart of the Warrior
The Laertian Gamble
The Left Hand of Destiny (Book 1)
The Left Hand of Destiny (Book Two)
The Lives of Dax
The Many Hands
The Mist
The Quiet Place
The Romulan Prize
The Romulan Stratagem
The Search
The Siege
The Sky's The Limit
The Star Trek Encyclopedia
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual
The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual
The Sundered
The Twilight Streets
The Undiscovered Country
The Valiant
The War of the Prophets
This Gray Spirit
To Storm Heaven
Trace Memory
Triangle: Imzadi II
Twilight
Unity
Vectors
Vendetta
Vulcan's Heart
War Drums
Warpath
Well of Souls
Wetworld
What Lay Beyond
What Price Honour?
What You Leave Behind
Wooden Heart
Worlds of DS9 Volume 1
Worlds of DS9 Volume 2
Worlds of DS9 Volume 3

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