The post-Nemesis Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures continue in the latest excellent novel from Pocket Books, Losing the Peace, by William Leisner.
Following the calamitous destruction that the Borg have wrought throughout the Federation in David Mack’s terrific Destiny trilogy (see my review here), Starfleet’s exploration programs are all put on hold as every surviving starship is called upon to help pick up the pieces. Whole planets have been destroyed, leaving countless displaced survivors stranded across space. The surviving Federation worlds quickly find themselves overwhelmed by an enormous flood of refugees who have lost everything, and dramatic shortages of food and materiel strike everywhere.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise bounce about the quadrant, attempting to help where they can and put out whatever “fires” they might come across, but the enormous problems facing the Federation seem much larger than anything that can be addressed by one lone starship. Meanwhile, Picard’s command crew (many of whom are new faces who have been introduced in Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis novels) each must face personal struggles as they try to come to grips with the tragedies they have survived.
Losing the Peace may be a unique Star Trek novel in that there is no villain. There is no alien threat to be overcome, no unique science-fiction mystery to be solved. Rather, the problems that beset Picard & co. this time are of a much more mundane — though no less perilous — nature. It would have been easy for Mr. Leisner to have added in some sort of more traditional antagonist — an alien race trying to take advantage of the chaos in the Federation, or something like that — and he is to be commended for avoiding that somewhat obvious way to add drama to the story. Instead, Mr. Leisner takes the time to draw the reader into a variety of much smaller-scale dramas taking place amongst Picard’s crew and all around the devastated Alpha Quadrant. These aren’t “fate of the universe” stories of a galactic scale — they’re very “human” tales. One might think that could make for a rather dull Star Trek novel. Quite the contrary — I thoroughly enjoyed this very realistic take on what the Federation would logically be facing following the galactic upheavals that took place in Destiny, and all of the “small” stories to be found in Losing the Peace accumulate into a tense novel in which the Federation seems to be in far greater peril than it ever has been before.
I was also pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to characterize both the familiar Next Gen characters who appear (Picard, Beverly, Worf, and Geordi) as well as the new characters who have originated in the novels (Miranda Kadohata, T’Ryssa Chen, Jasminder Choudhury). Being able to create new characters who have just as much depth of characterization as the familiar ones was one of the reasons that I found Pocket Books’ post-finale series of Deep Space Nine novels to be so successful. (You can read my thoughts on the stellar DS9 re-launch here.) The post-Nemesis Next Gen novels, at first, had some trouble in this area (with inconsistent characterizations of some of these new faces from novel to novel), but I am thrilled to see how the latest batch of novels (including David Mack’s Destiny as well as Greater Than the Sum, by Christopher L. Bennett) have moved well beyond those early mis-steps. Here in Losing the Peace, these new characters feel like real, interesting people to me, and I never find myself resenting time spent with them as opposed to with our familiar characters. Luckily, those familiar characters, too, have some great material in Losing the Peace. I am delighted that the current crop of Trek authors are allowing Picard, Beverly, Worf, and Geordi to grow and change as the novels continue and more and more years pass from their early days together (during the seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation). Picard and Beverly are married, Worf is the first officer… I love that the characters’ storylines are moving forward, rather than being stuck in the necessary status quo of a weekly television series. Now, if only Geordi could get himself a girlfriend!!
As I have written before, these types of stories are what I always wished we’d gotten from the aborted series of Next Gen movies: tense, exciting tales with real dramatic stakes for our characters and for the Federation. Can’t wait for the “Typhon Pact” series of Next Gen novels coming in 2010!