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Enjoyable, solid Star Trek book, but could have gone more boldly....
on 4 June 2009
In chronology terms this book comes after the events of the film Nemesis and the books Death In Winter and Resistance. It is advisable to read these first, but by no means essential. Watching Nemesis is certainly a neccesity.
It is easy to miss this book - the excerpt of Before Dishonour at the end of the Resistance paperback leaving you in little doubt as to what comes next, this led me to read this book out of chronological order.
But I encourage you not to miss this. This is a good book, because it is written by an author who can write characters, who knows his Star Trek and respects the efforts of all those people who have shaped what has come before.
So now we have the return of Q. Q is clearly the best antagonist of The Next Generation series, this is in part due to the terrific onscreen performances by John de Lancie, the quality of the storylines, but primarily because he teases out the best of Jean Luc Picard - an intellectual adversary that Picard can square off against.
We are treated to a brief history of Q that the author neatly packages as a series of interludes, these are short and quirky, not unlike Q's repeated interference with the Enterprise during the course of its five year mission. This gets your tongue wagging whilst the author prepares and positions the story. You are well into the book before the Omnipotent being turns up, but it is classic Q when he does: needling all the characters perfectly.
The characterization is the real strength of this book. The cathartic release of the characters talking about Data in the bar is important, delicately handled and deserving of its page space. The off-duty behaviour and interaction of the crew is often as important as the on-duty action in shaping a good Star Trek story. Existing and new characters are permitted room to breathe and develop here. Worf is building nicely in the first officer role, the new Head of Security is interesting, believable and not inclined to go chasing round a Borg cube to find a love interest. One of the characters who is frequently overlooked in Star Trek fiction is the Enterprise itself. Not so here - the scenes are well written. Indeed things we take for granted like the selection of an away team, the preparation for away missions, the security procedures around away missions are handled nicely. There is almost an "Original Series" feel about it at times with the elevation of importance of the away mission. How few Trek books these days contain the word tricorder.
The main criticism I would level here is that the story is not serving up anything new. It does not take any chances, it plays it safe. All Q appearances to date culminating in this one "save the universe" moment? It doesn't quite pull off for me. The expectation of a Q story fulfilled but no wow factor.
Whilst the events of Resistance and Before Dishonour will be more memorable than this storyline, the poor job the authors did with the characterization in these books will also be just as memorable.
Sometimes you have to experience the bad to appreciate the good, the post-Nemesis story arc needed this book.