Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang

My Thoughts

I pre-ordered the digital edition of this book several months ago when it was first announced, so I knew it would be arriving on my Kindle around 2:00 this morning. I was pleasantly surprised when it actually showed up at midnight, because I’m very nocturnal. Translation: by the time I went to bed around 2 AM, I’d read 81% of this novel.

The Light Fantastic is the sequel to Lang’s own Immortal Coil, which, I confess, left me conflicted when I first read it. The adult part of me, the part that is an improviser and a writer, really liked it, though I felt that Data and Rhea’s relationship was both too fast, and not believable (this despite the fact that I liked Rhea as a character). The part of me that was 16 or 17 when TNG premiered on TV and crushed on Data had other issues, but adult-me was able to ignore them.

But then David Mack gave us is Cold Equations trilogy, and those expanded upon Data 2.0’s mindset and choices, and gave us better insight into the Fellowship of AI, and left a door open for more with this beloved character.

And now Lang has wrapped up a truly amazing arc. We get to find out how Data’s been spending the last two years of his life. We get a glimpse into his life with the newly restored Lal, his daughter, who is in the midst of the android equivalent of adolescence, and then she’s abducted – by Moriarty – yes, the hologram – and we’re thrown into a story that is both a mystery and a story about what it means to grow up, grow old, raise children, and explore one’s identity.

Data as a father is both hilarious and heartbreaking – especially as he’s still acclimating to his new body and his permanently engaged emotions.
Lal as a teenager is also hilarious, and frustrating, and it gave me new respect for the way my own mother must’ve felt when I was a teenager myself.

Geordi, of course, is along for the ride, because no Sherlock can be without his Watson, and along the way we are introduced to a few favorite characters from both TNG and TOS.

Overall, The Light Fantastic is a truly satisfying read, and if Data doesn’t sound exactly the way we’re accustomed to him sounding, well, he himself states in the novel that he isn’t entirely certain how much of him is HIM, and how much is leftover Noonian Soong.

The tag, of course, teases a new mystery, and I have no idea if that will pan out, or if the soft canon of the novels will eventually merge with the soft canon of the STO game and the Countdown to Trek 2009 (in which Data was Captain of the Enterprise), but if it doesn’t, I would totally buy a series of intergalactic mysteries featuring Data and LaForge.

Goes well with French-pressed coffee and a chocolate croissant.

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane

My Thoughts

Thanks to the Amazon class action suit about ebook price fixing, and a lovely $60 payout, I’m catching up on many, many Star Trek novels that I missed during the years when I wasn’t reading them for whatever reason.

One such acquisition was the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane. It’s TNG’s chance to experience the “mirror universe” we got to see on-screen in both TOS and DS9, and, as I expected it to be, it was well written, with a few moments that really delighted me.

One was the introduction of the dolphin, Hwiii, a hyperstring researcher who ‘swims’ through the ship in a sort of water skin. Another was when Data, meeting Hwiii, tilts his head for a moment and then ‘speaks dolphin,’ because, of course he does.

I liked that Geordi and Deanna were the initial away team to the mirror Enterprise, and that they both got to use the knowledge they gleaned both from study and experience. Some of my favorite episodes were when Troi actually got to be a psychologist, and in this novel, she uses that training as much as she uses her innate empathetic abilities.

Similarly, Geordi’s incredible depth of knowledge is highlighted in this book, as he works, sometimes with colleagues, and sometimes alone, to figure out a way to save, not just the ship, but the universe itself.

I’m not sure when this was originally written but it felt like early TNG-fic. Data is very ‘sciency’ but doesn’t have as much depth as he does in later novels – even in later pre-emotion-chip ones. It’s obviously before the contemporary push for continuity within the novels, but it’s still an entertaining read.

Trek fiction is my crack. This was a delightful fix.

Goes well with Sashimi and tempura and Kirin beer.

Review: STTNG: Cold Equations #3 – The Body Electric

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations – The Body Electric
by David Mack

Product Description (from

A planet-sized Machine of terrifying power and unfathomable purpose hurls entire star systems into a supermassive black hole. Wesley Crusher, now a full-fledged Traveler, knows the Machine must be stopped . . . but he has no idea how.

Wesley must enlist the aid of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew, who also fail to halt the unstoppable alien juggernaut’s destructive labors. But they soon divine the Machine’s true purpose—-a purpose that threatens to exterminate all life in the Milky Way Galaxy. With time running out, Picard realizes he knows of only one person who might be able to stop the Machine in time to avert a galactic catastrophe—-if only he had any idea how to find him. . . .

My Thoughts:
The conclusion of David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy was sort of TNG meets Doomsday Machine with Androids on the Side and a serious callback to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Humanesque!Data, still searching for a way to resurrect Lal, tracks down a splinter group of the group of Artificial Intelligence coalition and has to choose between the guy we originally knew as Flint and the android girlfriend who is “the only woman he ever loved” while saving the universe from a planet-eating monster-machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the return of Data, even if Mr. Mack did choose a book I disliked as his jumping-off point, but his whole relationship seemed so contrived, and Data as he is presented in this book seems so over-the-top with the melodrama that I had a hard time willfully suspending enough disbelief to truly enjoy this last entry in the trilogy.

On the one hand, Mack’s story was a good story, but on the other hand, I just couldn’t get invested in the new characters, which was my problem with the trilogy as a whole.

In fact, I find myself more interested in the story of rainbow-haired Ensign Scagliotti (so obviously an homage to the actress from Warehouse 13 than in Data, Flint, or the AIs.

And yet, if I hadn’t read this trilogy, I’d have missed the return of a beloved character, and I do agree with the choice to have Data NOT return to active duty.

So, overall? Glad I read these books, but kind of wanted something more satisfying.

Goes well with…lemon meringue pie…doesn’t everything?

Review: Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #2: Silent Weapons, by David Mack

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #2: Silent Weapons
David Mack

Product Description (from
The second book in a new trilogy by the national bestselling author of Star Trek: Destiny!

Three years after the disastrous final Borg Invasion, a bitter cold war against the Typhon Pact has pushed Starfleet’s resources to the breaking point. Now the rise of a dangerous new technology threatens to destroy the Federation from within. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew answer a distress call, only to become targets in a deadly game of deception. To protect a vital diplomatic mission, they must find a way to identify the spies hiding in their midst, before it’s too late. But Worf soon realizes the crew’s every move has been predicted: Someone is using them as pawns. And the closer they get to exposing their enemy, the deeper they spiral into its trap….

My Thoughts:
I don’t know how often the second book in a trilogy is stronger than the first. Certainly it’s more likely that second books (like second movies) suffer from “middle of the story” syndrome. In the case of David Mack’s STTNG series Cold Equations, however, did not have that problem in any form. Instead, it’s a rollicking adventure that mixes politics and action in a really satisfying blend of plot and character.

I love that the Orions, whom we are used to seeing mainly as slavers and generally disreputable types are also the galaxy’s strongest defenders of personal privacy (reading this in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook, CT, school shootings was rather eerie), and have the only security system strong enough to host a meeting that involves not just the Federation President, but the leaders of at least one of the factions involved in the Typhon Pact.

As well, I like that this novel acknowledged the Typhon Pact series, which spans all of the modern era Trek series and also combines political intrigue with really lovely action, whether it’s on land or sea, or in space.

Is Data’s presence a bit contrived? Maybe a bit, but after all, the trilogy is about his return, so it would be weird for him to NOT be in the novel. Still, his new appearance and abilities are used well, and this new FullyEmotional!Data is one I wish we could get to know a bit better in a slower, gentler story…just so that we (well, I) are a bit more invested in THIS incarnation of the character.

Goes well with: espresso con panna and cinnamon rolls.

Review: Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #1 – The Persistence of Memory, by David Mack

Star Trek the Next Generation: Cold Equations #1 – The Persistence of Memory
David Mack

Product Description (from
A BRAZEN HEIST Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew race to find out who has stolen Data’s android brother B-4—and for what sinister purpose.

A BROKEN PROMISE One desperate father risks all for the son he abandoned forty years ago—but is he ready to pay the price for redemption?

A DARING MISSION Against overwhelming odds, and with time running out, Commander Worf has only one chance to avert a disaster. But how high a price will he pay for victory?

My Thoughts:
By now, more than ten years after his on-screen death in Star Trek: Nemesis, fans have accepted that we’re unlikely to see Brent Spiner portray Data ever again. Nevertheless, the character has a couple of different resurrection stories, one that bridges the alternate timeline established by the 2009 film Star Trek (which film, I might add, made me love Captain Kirk again), using the Star Trek Online RPG (and tie-in novel) and the Countdown comics to bring the character back, looking essentially like the Data we know and love.

With this, part one of David Mack’s new STTNG trilogy, the android is back in a different way, though both involve the copy of the Data-matrix that was uploaded into B-4 in that last NextGen movie. While this novel explains how that happens – and why – a healthy chunk of it is really the story of Data’s “father,” Noonien Soong, told in first person, and spanning the time from before the android’s creation, to what happened after Soong’s supposed death in the episode “Brothers.”

In truth, I had to force myself to read those chunks, not because Mack is a bad writer (he’s actually pretty amazing) but because I’m just not all that interested in Soong. As well, I gathered fairly early on that these books were an indirect sequel to Jeffrey Lang’s offering from 2002, Immortal Coil, which, some of you may remember, didn’t impress me much. (I actually stopped reading this book to re-read that book, and found that I liked it a little more upon a third reading.)

Still, the Soong story informs the rest of the novel, and sets up a lot of information that the reader needs to have.

And ultimately, it paid off. I mean, yes, I would rather have had more time with Picard, et al, but Mack’s writing is so good that he made characters I’d never really cared much about sing on the page, while managing to stay essentially true to both TNG and TOS canon, and Mack’s version of Data (yes, this is a spoiler, of sorts, but did anyone look at the cover art and NOT expect him to be somehow resurrected?) feels credible. I would buy his dialogue coming from Brent Spiner’s lips.

Bottom line: If you haven’t read Jeffrey Lang’s Immortal Coil, do so before this, and now that the two remaining parts of the trilogy are also available, buy all three and read them in order, back-to-back-to-back. You’ll be glad you did.

Goes well with: Iced tea. And trail mix. Lots of trail mix. The kind with m&ms in it.

Retro-reading: STTNG: A Time To…

It’s no secret that I revel in escapist reading from time to time. Between January of this year, and the beginning of July, I’ve been re-reading the Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Time To… series, a collection of nine novels, the first eight of which are in pairs, that span the time between the last two Next Gen movies (Insurrection and Nemesis).

The specific novels are:
STTNG: A Time to be Born, by John Vorholt
STTNG: A Time to Die, by John Vorholt
STTNG: A Time to Sow, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
STTNG: A Time to Harvest, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
STTNG: A Time to Love, by Robert Greenberger
STTNG: A Time to Hate, by Robert Greenberger
STTNG: A Time to Kill, by David Mack
STTNG: A Time to Heal, by David Mack
STTNG: A Time for War, A Time for Peace, by Keith R.A. DeCandido

You can read them individually, I suppose but they’re better savored as a whole collection, and while each of them have great moments, together they give a really plausible picture of how Starfleet reacted to the events of First Contact and Insurrection, explain why Data says in Nemesis that he has no feelings after two and a half films worth of emotion chip issues, and set-up the wedding of Will Riker and Deanna Troi, and their move to the U.S.S. Titan.

It’s no secret that I’m a great fan of Keith DeCandido’s work, so it should come as no surprise that his book, the last in the series, is my favorite. His take on the canon characters is always spot-on, but he also adds a political background – think “The West Wing in Space” – that I maintain would be an awesome series in and of itself (he revists the political aspect of the United Federation of Planets in a subsequent novel, Articles of the Federation).

Star Trek novels are my comfort-books, and I often read them when my day job has me so exhausted that I don’t have the brain power for reading deeper fiction, or writing my own stuff. There’s a ten-year span of TrekFic that I think of as the “DeCandido Years” where continuity was followed and all of the writers used some of the same original characters. These are, in my opinion, the best of the genre, and the A Time To… books are the best of the era.

Star Trek Fiction Roundup

During October, when I wasn’t reading mysteries, I was reading Star Trek novels, because they’re quick and fun, and after writing all day I don’t always have enough brain power to read in unfamiliar worlds. Besides, just because something is a tv-tie-in doesn’t make it bad writing. The Pocket Books Star Trek fiction has let beloved characters expand beyond the limits of episodic television in wonderful and surprising ways.

So which ones did I read in October, 2011?

Some Assembly Required

I finished Some Assembly Required, the 3rd Starfleet Corps of Engineers Omnibus, which was, as always, really interesting. The SCE books were all ebooks originally, and reading them in clumps of a few seems to work incredibly well. I was a little concerned, when I first began to explore the series, that I wouldn’t like a tie-in that only had one (really) canon character, but these new additions to the Trekiverse are as three-dimensional as any that have ever graced our screens.

Maximum Warp: Book One

I also read Maximum Warp books one and two, which take place between First Contact and Nemesis, and involve dead zones in space, an uneasy trade agreement with the Romulans, and the return of Ambassador Spock. The dead zones are a great invention, as they create jeopardy without having to leave the ship, and have no real target. What was eerie was watching them affect Data, and seeing him described as “weak” and “tired” – words not usually associated with an android character.

Maximum Warp: Book Two

Book one, by necessity had a lot of the exposition, and setup, while book two had more of the political intrigue and action, but the pair of them kept me interested for two or three days (I read them during the work week, so it took me longer), and I was happy with my latest escape to the future.

These all go well with tomato soup and grilled cheese, or a toasted bagel and clam chowder.

Review: STTNG: A Sea of Troubles

A Sea of Troubles
STTNG: A Sea of Troubles
J. Steven York & Christina F. York
Simon & Schuster Digital, 200 KB
October, 2007
Buy it from Amazon >>

Description (from
A new six-part epic covering the first year of service of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E, leading up to the events of the hit movie Star Trek: First Contact.

The U.S.S. Enterprise-E has launched, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard in command. In addition to many familiar faces, the new ship also has some new crew members — among them, conn officer Sean Hawk and security chief Linda Addison.

But soon Picard is devastated to learn that there’s a saboteur on board — in the form of a changeling infiltrator from the Dominion! Picard and his crew must learn who the changeling replaced and stop it before it destroys the fleet’s finest ship…

Late last year, I read book three in this six-part Star Trek: The Next Generation series “Slings and Arrows” because sometimes I want the comfort of familiar characters having new adventures. I was not disappointed. So when I bought books one and two at the beginning of the year, I expected to be equally pleased. The thing is, sometimes you forget that buying books is not like buying custom laptops. Sometimes books are different than what you expect. This book was.

I was expecting plot. I was expecting political machinations. I was not expecting the level of darkness and intrigue that was evident in this novel, and frankly, I thought the Dominion storyline was overdone in TNG and DS9, as it was. Odd, I know, considering that I’ve really enjoyed it when OTHER TNG novels have departed from the sanitized fluffy view of the future that Star Trek tends to be.

What I am enjoying in this book, and in the second one, which I’ll talk about another day, is Data’s ongoing process of learning to deal with his new emotions. I never felt that this was ever handled well in the movies, and I like that he isn’t just perfectly assimilating all those feelings.

Bottom line: Not a bad e-read, but not all I hoped.

Goes well with: hot chocolate and butter cookies.

Review: STTNG: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment

ST:TNG Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Keith R. A. DeCandido
Simon and Schuster, 320 pages
March, 2008
Buy this book from >>

Product Description (from Amazon):
A new Federation President has been elected, and his first order of business is to attempt to restore the alliance with the Klingon Empire. To that end, he sends Captain Picard to Deep Space 9, in the hopes that Picard’s relationship with Chancellor Gowron might lead to a normalization of relations.

At first, things go well, as Gowron agrees to meet with Picard and Captain Sisko of DS9 on a neutral planet — but when their runabout is shot down, it’s up to Commanders Worf and Data to find out the truth before their captains are killed!

I hadn’t read a new Star Trek book in a while but I always enjoy Keith DeCandido’s additions to the franchise, and I’d been wanting something that took place post-series but pre-Nemesis, that all my favorite characters. I wasn’t disappointed at all – even though some of those characters were off-screen, their presence was still felt, and while this was essentially a DS9 crossover, it was a legitimate one. Picard and Sisko must team up to fix the Federation-Klingon Empire alliance (I maintain that the best way to lose weight fast is to try and out-fox the Klingons) and of course Data and Worf, working from the Enterprise and the Defiant have to help.

The thing about Star Trek novels is that they’re best when they expand the Trekiverse, giving us glimpses of parts of future life that the shows don’t. This novel was a bit short on that, but still a satisfying read.

Goes well with tea, Earl Grey, hot.

STTNG: Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang

by: Jeffry Lang
published by: Pocket Books
published: February 2002

* * * * *

I originally read Immortal Coil in eBook format on my laptop, sometime last year (I think), but somehow that format just doesn’t do it for me, so when I saw a copy of the actual paperback at Half Price Books, I had to grab it. After all, it’s an EmotionChip!Data story, and there aren’t many of those outside of fanfic.

While I’m not old enough to have watched the ORIGINAL Star Trek in first run, the re-runs were the only show that was allowed to routinely break the “no television before 5 PM” rule in my house, and since my mother was anti-television, I used to watch them on our old black-and-white after school when I was nine and ten. As I write this, I am suddenly remembering an add for a convention in 1979 or 80, in Denver. I was too young, at the time, to know what a con was, or I’m sure I’d have pestered my mother to take me.

I mention this because while, on the surface, this is a TNG story, Immortal Coil is also a sort of quasi-sequel to the TOS episodes “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Requiem for Methuselah,” and while familiarity with them is not totally required in order to enjoy this story, it definitely helps. A lot.

This novel is all about android rights and the definition of sentience, and, more specifically, the distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness. It opens with Data returning to the Enterprise with the body of his deceased “mother,” Julianna Tainer, whom we know to be an android. He is dealing with overwhelming emotions, and Picard’s suggestion that turning off the chip would be a bad idea, when a call is received from Admiral Haftel – there’s been an issue at Galor IV, and the ship, and specifically Data, are needed.

What follows is part murder mystery (who tried to kill Maddox, who caused the disappearance of another, legendary and somewhat hermit-ish, cyberneticist?) and part romance (new Enterprise security officer Rhea McAdams has the hots for our Mr. Data, it seems) with a good bit of space epic thrown in.

At times cheesy, at other times sweet, it’s a satisfying romp through the Trekiverse, which wraps up several loose ends in Data’s life.

The first time I read this, I went into it with some skepticism, because a Data romance is a very tricky thing – fanfic authors I respect have argued that he cannot have a plausible relationship. I disagree, but as much as I enjoyed this book for entertainment value, I find that the relationship between Rhea and Data was contrived, and the way Data was written didn’t…fee right.

Goes well with a glass of milk and thin mint cookies.