Saturday, June 17, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds

This week I decided to review Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds by Dayton Ward.

The novel has two main plotlines. One is set in 2386 and focuses on the Enterprise as she explores the Odyssean Pass. As the Enterprise approaches a newly discovered world, Taurik, one of her engineers begins receiving orders and information directly from Admiral Akaar, Starfleet's commanding admiral. The information concerns an incident from Earth's distant pass and the orders are to relay information on the planet and its people to the admiral. As the Enterprise approaches, they are intercepted by craft of the Eizand, natives of the planet Sralanya. The Enterprise detects signs of a nuclear war fought on the planet in the twenty-first century. When Captain Picard is invited to bring a team to the planet Taurik tries to convince Picard to let him join the mission, but Picard, angered by Akaar withholding information and issuing orders directly to one of his subordinates, has Taurik relieved of duty and confined to quarters. 

At first the mission goes well, but then Picard and the away team are arrested, except for one member killed while trying to protect Picard. The Presider of the nation they were in explains that centuries ago her people had known that Sralanya would someday have to be abandoned and sent a number of long-range low warp stasis ships to search for a new world. Earth was considered a likely candidate but soon after arrival contact was lost with the ship sent there which eventually returned with a human crew. The Presider charges that the humans launched a nuclear strike on Sralanya, triggering automated systems which caused the planets three superpowers to unleash their nuclear arsenals on each other and that Picard must now stand trial for humanity's crimes against the Eizand.

Commander Worf and the Enterprise attempt a rescue but the ship is forced to withdraw because the focused EMP weapons used by the Eizand are overwhelming the ship's defenses and degrading a number of systems, including destabilizing the warp core. Taurik covertly approaches Chief Engineer Laforge offering to help in efforts to find a way to counter the weapons. Laforge must decide if he is willing to defy Picard's orders while the captain is unable to countermand them.

Meanwhile, a group of Eizand dissidents, who believe that humanity actually had no role in triggering the war and that the captured human crew of the formerly Eizand vessel were executed as scapegoats, liberate Picard and the survivors of the away team. They take them to a hidden base where they hope the Starfleet personnel can access a computer recovered from the scout craft which can reveal the truth of what happened long ago one way or another...

The other plotline is set on Earth in the 2030s with aspects continuing into the 2060s. The United States detects an alien ship, the Eizand scout craft, and sends a pair of fighters to investigate. The scout ship brings down one of the fighters with its focused EMP weapon but then is shot down by the remaining jet, with two of the crew dying. Majestic-12, the branch of the United States government which deals with extraterrestrial affairs is called in. Aegis, an alien group with human agents on Earth that has been trying to steer humanity away from self-destruction since the dawn of human nuclear weapons, also responds. This soon leads to an Aegis agent who is also a high ranking officer in Majestic-12 being compromised and Majestic-12 increasing efforts to locate Aegis' agents and bases on Earth even as it struggles to learn as much as it can from the Eizand craft while struggling to decide how to respond to concerns that the Eizand might decide to seize Earth by force in order to turn it into a new home, and a number of other incidents that might also be signs of hostile extraterrestrial life...

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. While the twenty-first century portions of the story introduced some interesting new characters and situations, I found the twenty-fourth century parts fairly bland. Also I feel that Picard's extreme reaction to Taurik's effort to convince him to allow the engineer to join the away mission didn't really fit Picard's character and happened just to give an excuse for the minor plot thread where Laforge (and later Worf) have to decide whether or not to override Picard's standing order regarding Taurik. Finally, I see potential for the very end, which had nothing to do with the novel's main plots, leading the stories of future Next Generation novels in very bad directions.

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