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After “All Good Things” — Josh continues his review of The Sky’s the Limit!

July 10th, 2009
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Yesterday I began reviewing a collection of short-stories entitled The Sky’s the Limit, which was part of Pocket Books’ 20th anniversary salute to Star Trek: The Next Generation.   In my last post, I reviewed the stories set during the run of the Next Gen TV show.  Today I’ll turn my attention to the stories set after “All Good Things,” Next Gen‘s series finale.

‘Twould Ring the Bells of Heaven, by Amy Sisson — Set soon after the events of “All Good Things,” this tale finds Deanna Troi leading an away team assigned to help a group of scientists studying the ring system of a planet nicknamed Heaven.  There are some interesting scientific notions mixed into the story, which I enjoyed, and a nice sci-fi mystery.  It was a good idea to focus on Counselor Troi at this point in Next Gen‘s history, as she began stepping into more of a leadership role among the Enterprise’s command structure.

Friends with the Sparrows, by Christopher L. Bennett — The classic Next Gen episode “Darmok” introduced us to the Children of Tama, a race of aliens who speak only in metaphor.  With this story, Mr. Bennett really dives into many of the fascinating questions that a consideration of that episode would bring: How do the Tamarians teach their vocabulary to their children?  How do they communicate technical information?  How do they convey to one another the full stories behind their myths in the first place?  It’s hard to avoid asking those questions after having watched “Darmok” a few times, and I was tickled by Mr. Bennett’s attempts to provide answers and flesh out Tamarian culture.  This story also focuses on Data’s struggles with his emotion chip (from Star Trek: Generations).  That aspect of the story is a quite a leap beyond what we saw of Data in that film, but nonetheless works when you consider how many more challenges Data must have had to struggle with (beyond what we saw in Generations) in terms of adjusting to his newfound emotions.  (I should also mention that this story contains the best line in the entire collection: “Mirab-his-sails-unfurled factor what, sir?”  Brilliant.)

Suicide Note, by Geoff Trowbridge — After the Federation’s alliance with the Romulan Empire (to fight against the Dominion, as depicted in the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Captain Picard is finally in a position to fulfill a promise made long before.  In the excellent third-season episode “The Defector” (one of the first scripts by Ronald D. Moore), Romulan Admiral Jarok defects to the Federation in an effort to prevent the outbreak of war.  When he discovers that he has been deceived (the evidence he thought he had discovered of Romulan war plans was just an elaborate test of his loyalty), the Admiral kills himself, leaving a message to his wife that Picard promises to one day deliver.  This is a wonderful, emotional story, and a great follow-up to a classic episode.  Just terrific.

Four Lights, by Keith R.A. DeCandido — Another great follow up to a classic Next Gen episode.  In the waning days of the Dominion War, Captain Picard and the U.S.S. Enterprise-E rescue a Cardassian survivor from a Dominion attack — Gul Madred, the Cardassian who brutally tortured Picard in the two-part episode “Chains of Command.”  Major credit to Mr. DeCandido for choosing to follow up on such a fascinating dangling story-line.  I was enjoyably surprised at the unexpected ways that Picard’s interactions with Madred unfolded.  I also loved the glimpse into just what the crew of the Enterprise was up to during the tumultuous years of the Dominion conflict.  This is a fertile ground for stories, and while a few novels have given us glimpses of some of the Enterprise’s adventures during this time period, I still feel that there are still a lot more stories to be told…

‘Til Death, by Bob Ingersoll & Thomas F. Zahler — When a terrible attack on an away mission leaves Will Riker near death just a few weeks before his marriage to Deanna Troi, he must contemplate what his final message to his imzadi could possibly be.  This is a sweet story with some fascinating connections to an episode of the Original Series.  But I must confess to some disappointment.  When I saw that there was a Riker story in this collection set before Star Trek: Nemesis, I had hoped that it would shed some light on something the films glossed over: what really prompted Riker and Troi, after years of friendship on board the Enterprise, to finally decide to resume their romantic relationship and then get married?  Yes, I know they hooked up under the sort-of-influence of the youthful properties of the Briar Patch in Star Trek: Insurrection, but was that really the only reason?  I’ve always felt there was more to that story.  This is nothing against ‘Til Death — it’s a lovely tale.  Just not the story I was hoping for.

On the Spot, by David A. McIntee — Worf deals with adopting Spot after Data’s demise in Star Trek: Nemesis, and a bizarre alien creature causes trouble on board the Enterprise.  Portions of this story are told from Spot’s perspective.  That’s an interesting choice, but not one that appealed to me.

Trust Yourself When All Men Doubt You, by Michael Schuster & Steve Mollmann — At a crossroads after the traumatic events of Star Trek: Nemesis, Jean-Luc Picard must decide whether he his truly ready to resume command of the Enterprise.  He finds some comfort in a letter to him written years earlier by Captain Thomas Halloway.  This final story is a nice bookend to the first story, also by Mr. Schuster and Mr. Mollmann, and the revelation of Captain Halloway’s ultimate fate is a powerful one.  If I have a complaint, it’s that the resolution of Picard’s emotional turmoil is a little too easy.  I think Picard’s mental state following the events of Nemesis probably warranted a longer story.

So there you have it.  The Sky’s the Limit is a terrifically entertaining collection of stories from some of Pocket Books’ most talented authors.  I really enjoyed the variety of the stories — they cover the entire time-period of the Next Generation and spread the focus amongst all of the characters.  While some stories spoke to me more than others, the over-all quality was very high.  In the end, it’s a worthy salute to The Next Generation, and reading this book made me want to go back and watch many of the episodes referenced within.  What more could I ask?

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