They started releasing Star Trek Next Generation books almost simultaneously with the series on TV. The first book was a novelization of the pilot- `Encounter at Farpoint`. The second, listed as #1 on a roster that has now grown to over 70 books, was Ghost Ship by Diane Carey.
I read several of them when I was a kid and heavily into TNG. In the last few years I rewatched the whole of the TNG series run, and enjoyed it immensely. Now it`s time to read through the books, all of them, starting at #1.
Most of these books are out of print, so require (I thought) a bit of hunting down. In Tokyo that can be a little tricky- I know of only two second-hand book shops. I went to them both but found no TNG books. Apparently there are so many of them they`re typically in the 100yen boxes and come and go quite frequently.
I figured I`d give Amazon a try, and was very impressed by what I found. All the books I wanted were there second hand, could be ordered in one place, and remarkably cheaply too. As a result I`ve been getting a nice steady stream of Star Trek books in the mail, all wrapped up differently and covered in post stamps. Sweet. No further hunting down required.
So, Ghost Ship.
As #1 in the book series, it carries a special burden- of introducing all the characters one by one, introducing the ship, the mission, and the general ethos. I`ll go through them all in a minute, but first let`s talk about the plot.
Well, it`s a basic monster in the sky premise. Something has been sucking up consciousnesses from around the universe for millennia, and now it wants to eat the minds of the Enterprise too. As one might expect, both Data and Troi are able to communicate with the thing a bit differently from others, and turn out to both be key to understanding and destroying it- along with a little help from whizz kid Wesley Crusher.
I read on Wikipedia that Crusher was frequently a Deus ex Machina cure-all in season 1 of TNG. Was that true? I don`t recall it, but they definitely follow that path in this book. It feels a lot like it could have been a run-of-the-mill episode, but for the depth it goes into at times into each character.
OK, let`s talk characters. It felt like each one of them lined up for their moment of introspection, then we saw right into their core and all their vulnerabilities and complexities as though the author Diane Carey was quoting directly from the show`s bible, and even beyond. Characters receive life lessons in one book that they won`t receive for years in show time. Characters unburden themselves to each other in ways they never did on the show. It is forced but at the same time interesting, to get an idea what common character material the show writers and book authors were working from.
Riker– We open on Riker, and he`s fidgeting. He`s on the Bridge but awkward, he doesn`t know where to put himself, doesn`t really know the role of First Officer. This bit was actually quite funny. He`s calculating all the time if he should be standing here or here, how long he should look over someone`s shoulder, trying to anticipate what Picard wants him to do, what is expected. I liked this insight, which seems absent from the cocky Riker as we met him in Farpoint. Soon though it goes a bit overboard. He confesses to Troi how awkward he feels in a moment of mutual weakness, goes over the top telling Data he`s not human, and generally doubts himself and his abilities more than ever on the show.
Troi- Deanna plays as quite pathetic in this book, constantly overwhelmed by the force of the monster in the sky`s mental vibrations. She`s basically a perpetual damsel in distress, a little odd since the author is a woman. She`s unable to control herself, weepy, prone to fainting, and being followed around everywhere (back and forth to her quarters twice!) by Riker acting like a lovesick puppy. To make matters worse she is frequently described as having `lovely` or `luminous` eyes, like the only thing of note about her is how gorgeous she is. Ok, she`s hot. But make her tough! Weak characters are no fun.
She also is struggling with her race; half-Betazed and half-human, and her role on board ship; just what does a Counselor do?
Geordie- Pours out his heart to Beverley about how much using the visor hurts his mind and eyes. Basically a lot of whining, which got a bit too self-indulgent to take. Sure, it`s a hard lot, but suck it up! I could also do without the several moments where he looks at Data`s positronic brain and face with a kind of man-love. Just odd.
Wesley– A punk, doing court-martial worthy experiments on the anti-matter reserves. Geordie and Data just overlook it though. Wtf?
Picard– Good in his stand-offishness, good at reasserting order, perhaps a bit too mean though. Interesting to hear his thoughts about the mixed responsibility of being captain of a ship filled with civilians. I was wondering what the purpose of having civilians on the ship at all was, but he got into that too. It was to create unity within diversity, in the same way that after Earth joined the Federation of Planets, people no longer identified as `from the UK` or `from Sweden` but as `from Earth.` With humans spreading onto planets, humans moving between planets regularly on starships, they would no longer need to say even `I`m from Earth` or `I`m from Vulcan`, they could just say `I`m from the Federation`, and feel at home on any planet and on any ship.
Globalization gone galactic. Roddenberry was certainly a visionary. I wonder how far off we are of being able to say `I`m a citizen of Earth`? How long `til we can feel just as proud of African, Japanese, Russian accomplishments, culture, and heroes as we are of our own? Getting there, I guess. Me being here in Japan, my US-born mom living in the UK, we`re part of it.
Data- Feels emotion more keenly and more obviously than he ever did in the series. Is sensitive and a bit weak when Riker goes after him. By the end of the book, has it confirmed that he is truly `alive`, something he didn`t get in the series `til several seasons in, in that trial with Picard and Riker as lawyers. Amusingly uses idiomatic language at Geordies suggestion- `here`s looking at you, kid`, and `she`s a very competent broad` amongst others.
On the whole, a good introduction through a basic level TNG plot. Too much depth into each character for one book, but maybe that was just to make up the word count, and part of Carey`s remit as introducer of the characters in book-form. 3 stars.
I`m excited for the next one, which just arrived as I was writing this- #2 The Peacekeepers.