on 6 January 2006
The Lost Era series of Star Trek books has been interesting, giving us insights into the time period between Generations (and Kirk's death) and the Next Generation series. The stories within the books, however, have been hit or miss, with two outstanding ones, one good, and one simply average. With Deny Thy Father, Jeff Mariotte gives us the fifth book, with William Riker's time at Starfleet Academy and the truth behind the Tholian attack on a starbase that horribly injured his father, Kyle. As the series indicated that they had not seen each other in many years when they finally do meet, Mariotte has to take great pains to make sure that they don't see each other in the book, and he does a pretty effective job of it. Unfortunately, what he doesn't give us is an interesting story.
Kyle Riker, after a couple of years of recuperation from the Tholian attack on Starbase 311, is working his normal job at Starfleet headquarters. Late one night, he's attacked in his apartment by a Starfleet officer, who ends up dying in the attempt. Meanwhile, anonymous accusations about Riker's survival of the starbase attack have brought him under suspicion of colluding with the Tholians. Another attack happens, and with somebody in Starfleet Security supposedly looking for him, Kyle has to get off Earth as soon as possible. Meanwhile, William Riker is just ending his second year at the Academy, and the final project for his Survival class goes fishily awry. He goes through plenty of adolescent angst as well, trying to balance a social life and his studies, when his first two years weren't that successful and he's really ambitious. Will Kyle ever figure out who's trying to kill him? And what happens when Will finally gets out there among the stars? And how do they mesh without them meeting? You'll find out.
The book starts off with a bang, with the first assassination attempt on Kyle, and then gets a little more interesting with Will's last assignment in Admiral Paris' survival class: trying to survive clandestinely, without any of Starfleet's technology, in San Francisco for a week, along with finding the clues that will lead them to their goal. However, after that, it grinds to a halt. Kyle goes off planet and gets involved in the politics of the planet he's hiding on (after a long trip that also seems to last for 400 pages, despite the book itself only being slightly over 300). The entire planetary plot bored me to tears and seemed superfluous. Yes, it builds Kyle into the man who must go back to face his tormentors instead of running, but Mariotte spent a lot of time spinning the wheels before he gets there. And what causes the tragedy that sparks Kyle's return had to be one of the stupidest maneuvers by a character that I've seen in a long time, but I don't want to spoil anything.
Meanwhile, Will goes through stereotypical "career or love" decisions during his last two years at the Academy. I did really like the character of Felicia, so these sequences were a lot more pleasant, but I didn't really buy her reaction to what ultimately happens between them, which made the pay-off very unsatisfying. One problem is that Will is never that recognizable as the Will Riker we know and love. Sure, the events in the novel begin to lead him to the path of the man he will become, but he never even gets close in this book. He shuts himself off from everybody because he's too dedicated to his studies. I guess the future romance with Deanna Troi is what makes him finally become a ladies' man, but those events take place years from now.
Getting back to Kyle, the resolution to his story was seen miles away, as it's the only logical solution from a dramatic standpoint. Yes, the identity of the traitor is left in the dark, but that's mainly because we get no information about any of the Starfleet characters except Admiral Paris (who we know is a good guy, as he's Tom Paris' dad), and what information we do get about the others comes right before the final revelation. It's almost anti-climactic, and having trudged through the story on the planet to get here, it was also a bit annoying.
My final problem with the book is the gratuitous continuity. I can take Ensign Janeway showing up, as she's well-known as being a protégé of Admiral Paris. I can even take the mention of Geordi LaForge (at least we didn't meet him), though if they went to the Academy at the same time, I feel sorry for him, as Riker's three ranks ahead of him at the beginning of the television series. But what really killed it for me was the Ben Sisko scenes. There was absolutely no reason for them. The part that Sisko played could have been played by somebody else, as the fact that it was Sisko brought nothing to the scenes other than the "wow, it's Ben Sisko!" factor. It really griped me.
There were some good things about the book, however. The book moved very quickly and held my interest just enough to not make me put it down (though there were a couple of close calls). I do have to question the existence of two separate mass-murderers in a book like this. That seemed to be overkill (pardon the pun).
The best thing I can say about the book is that it is bland. Nothing too annoying (though there are parts), but nothing that intriguing either. If you're reading the series and you want to see Riker when he's young, give it a try. Otherwise, forget it.