The Peacekeepers is the second Next Generation book, written by Gene DeWeese, and feels much more like a run-of-the-mill episode than the previous one Ghost Ship. We occasionally dip in and out of characters heads, but never for extended periods.
Instead we are faced with a simple conundrum that must be unraveled- a high-tech but derelict space pod grabs Geordi and Data and teleports them out of sensor range, bringing them into contact with a man who reveres them as ‘The Builders’ and wants nothing more than their approval for his use of their ‘gifts’.
Interesting points of this book-
– The way transporters are used. First-off, the ancient alien tech has the power to send transporter signals via subspace, possibly over vast distances. Secondly, the pod itself has no airlock and no way in other than via direct beam-in or out. It is outfitted with a bunch of transporters itself, but they’re all set to beam only out, not to receive. It’s a take on the locked-room mystery. They turn out to be part of a vast network of pods left in orbit around habited or once-habited planets, and served as a means of watching over the planet’s inhabitants. If the native peoples became space-faring, the pods would zap them back to earth. They served as wardens essentially, keeping the population stuck on their planet.
The notion of using transporters as doors is very interesting. It really starts to break down our ideas of what space is, and what our bodies are. If you are disassembled in one place, then reassembled elsewhere, are you still the same person, even if every atom of your body is different? What would there be to stop you from being beamed into a body with a different shape or form?
– The ‘gifts’. Left behind by the aliens, the gifts are activated by a brain-computer interface (BCI) stored in a helmet. Back in 1988 (the book’s publication date) these things were already being researched. Since then there have been some giant leaps though, bringing us right up to the powers evinced in the book. In the book Geordi uses his mind to ‘see’ through the sensors, and uses a third hand to grab people and teleport them or tractor them away. He uses the eyes and the hand as though they are simply extensions of his own body. In the modern day people can control prosthetic limbs using only existing body-brain hardwiring, as well as control extra limbs or alternative functions- such as moving a mouse pointer on a screen. It’s amazing stuff. See more about BCI’s here.
Apart from these ideas, it’s a solid workmanlike effort by DeWeese. Picard is steely and impatient for answers, Troi is weakened by her emotional empathy (although in this case she sucks it up better than in Ghost Ship), Geordi and Data bicker about idiomatic language and ‘putting up a front’ (pretending to be the Builders). There’s a lot of time spent explaining the power struggle for control of the ‘gifts’ by the planet-folk, which is interesting in theory but wears in detail.
If you’d like to read the book yourself, click through on the image link above.
Solid effort, good SF ideas- 3 stars.