Science Fiction - Shastrix Books

Science Fiction

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Jean Lorrah

3rd December 2023

The first of the giant novels, this long TNG novel set in season two is focussed on Data, dealing with his emotions following the episode The Measure of a Man and dealing with his feelings for Tasha Yar.

Lorrah begins with a passionate foreword about how fans should accept TNG, and explaining that you don’t have to read her first TNG book before this one, despite her re-use of a set of guest characters.

The book is fairly neatly constructed out of distinct acts, which depict parts of the action. It has some science fiction tropes, which do help with neatness of fitting into this shared universe but feel like a more recent author might have tried to avoid.

But it’s a good piece of science fiction that expands on the world seen on TV in the way that only printed storytelling could back then, and really helps to explore the character of Data in several new situations.

But it feels like it’s been made giant by making the chapters longer, rather than by having more of them. It felt like quite a slog sometimes just to get to a convenient break point, and I think that’s what made it take so long for me to get through.

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A Rock and a Hard Place

A Rock and a Hard Place

Peter David

9th September 2023

Back to the early 90s with the tenth Next Generation novel.

Some of the edges still feel a bit raw, with elements of characterisation feeling enhanced upon what’s in the TV show. But then it’s Peter David, who is one of the great authors of this era of Trek, and who has definitely earned the right to expand the canon. I really liked the dynamic he adds between Troi and Riker - definitely feels like it’s leading up towards his later Imzadi novels.

There are some notable guest characters, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about them. They frustrated me a little, but I think that’s the point, especially when I have such an established relationship with the main characters.

All in all, a good book, particularly standing out against others of the early 90s. Definitely maintains its readability.

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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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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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Mission to Horatius
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Night of the Wolves
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Objective: Bajor
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Once Burned
Pack Animals
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Prophecy and Change
Q's Guide to the Continuum
Red Dwarf
Red Sector
Rising Son
Section 31: Abyss
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Seven of Nine
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What You Leave Behind
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