Saturday, June 5, 2010

Death in Winter

Death in Winter
© 2007 Michael Jan Friedman
368 pages

I've been meaning to dive back into contemporary Trek lit for some time now, but have been somewhat daunted by a shift in the literature: instead of new releases being published as self-contained novels, Star Trek books today tend to fit into a newly-created extended universe canon that roared into existence following the end of Deep Space Nine and the rise of the "Deep Space Nine Relaunch",  a collection of individual books and series set in the post-"What You Leave Behind" era and which gave the show an eighth season in book form.  The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise soon experienced their own "relaunches", all of these relaunches tied to one another creating the type of expanded universe that Star Wars readers have so long enjoyed. The downside of this is that it increases the amount of background needed to be absorbed to enjoy a given book fully dramatically. I thus posted on TrekBBS and asked for a map of sorts to prepare me to read the newly released Star Trek: Destiny series, and the information I compiled suggested that Michael Jan Friedman's Death in Winter was the place to start.

I could think of no matter, for Friedman is my favorite Trek author: I enjoyed his Stargazer series depicting Captain Picard's first command immensely, falling in love with the characters and eagerly waiting more. Now Friedman tackles Picard in the days following Nemesis: the Romulan empire is in turmoil after the assassination of most of its senate, and most of Picard's command crew has left him. Riker is now the captain of the USS Titan (and has his own book series, along with Troi):  Data is dead, and Dr. Crusher has decided to become the head of Starfleet medical once more, leaving Picard with only LaForge and Worf to help him oversee the Enterprise's extensive repair and retrofitting following its fight in Nemesis.

Of those lost crewmembers, Picard misses Crusher the most:  one of the first season's opening episodes established romantic tension between the two, and they enjoyed a special relationship throughout the series.  Recent events have made their mutual love for each other more acute, making Crusher's departure hard to bear.  While Picard sees to his ship, Crusher is sent on a secret mission to the outskirts of Romulan territory to prepare a vaccine on a plague planet.  Her mission goes awry when the half-human, half-Romulan Commander Sela learns of a Federation officer's presence on her planet, and Picard is tasked with escorting another doctor to the planet and -- if he can -- finding the newly-imprisoned and possibly dead Dr. Crusher. Picard, along with old comrades from the Stargazer, steal into Romulan territory and try to find allies while a political battle for control of Romulus wages. If Picard is not careful -- and if he cannot keep his emotions concerning the doctor from interfering with the mission -- he, Crusher, and their comrades may be used as political pawns by the various senators and admirals who want their voice to guide the battered Star Empire.

Friedman lives up to expectations, doing justice to the TNG crew and handling Romulan politics well enough that I did not tire of it.  I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Stargazer officers given my fondness for that series. The four threads of the book -- Picard's efforts to find Crusher, political espionage and maneuverering between Romulan factions, Beverly's role in those maneuverers, and Worf and Geordi's struggle to do  their duty -- mesh neatly together to make for a compelling read.

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