Star Trek
The Next Generation
The Buried Age

Author: Christopher L. Bennet
Pocket Books
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 3739 7
ISBN-10: 1 4165 3739 2
Available 06 August 2007

The Battle of Maxia was a defining moment in Picard's life. With the loss of his ship Picard retreats into academia to study archaeology, but even archaeology can have its dangers. When Picard decides to explore the deepest past he opens up a Pandora's Box which could destroy the galaxy...

Star Trek the Next Generation: the Buried Age is the new novel by Christopher L. Bennett. For all my reservations about some of the plot, I will agree that the book is well written.

The book is broken up into four parts, almost four novellas, to denote four different time periods as the book covers the whole nine years between Picard's loss of the Stargazer and his taking command of the Enterprise. Bennett has used this device to reflect on different aspects of Picard's personality. In Part 1: The Quality of Mercy we see Picard, in full command mode prior to loosing the Stargazer; in Part II: Rounded With a Sleep, Picard has taken a temporary leave of absence from Starfleet to indulge his intellectual side and study archaeology; in Part III: Brave New World event start to force Picard back into taking command; and in the last section Part IV: Abysm of Time we see Picard as a man driven.

Generally I felt that part one, which deals with the loss of both Picard's ship and his subsequent loss of faith in his own abilities as a Starfleet Officer following a particularly harrowing Court Marshal, was one of the stronger parts of the novel. Bennett really knows how to write a good courtroom drama, so it was a bit of a shame that this section was relatively short. This and part two are the most successful sections in showing different aspects of Picard. Unfortunately the last two sections gain little in being separated as Picard's character development is much less so here.

I find I have little understanding of a series that has the whole of creation to play with and reduces this to a very small sand box. The more I read the more I'm convinced that Starfleet only has twenty ships manned by less than a few hundred people. I guess they must pull the same trick as the Graf Spee, slapping a few extra bits on the ships and changing the registry numbers to make it look like they have more. Although in the novel Picard travels enormous distances taking months to traverse, he still finds time to bump into Janeway, Data, Guinan, Troi and a plethora of other well known characters which only gives the impression of either a ludicrously small universe or a badly under manned Starfleet.

Bennett's masterpiece is his creation of Ariel, a Manraloth, who Picard frees from a stasis bubble. Her initial innocent persona soon changes as she becomes romantically attached to Picard, until she finally becomes his nemesis - sounds like most of my marriages. Bennett takes her through the full emotional maturation process, from the playful naiveté of childhood to burgeoning teenager sexuality and finally to adulthood with its associated knowledge of responsibility and consequences.

Overall a well written book that could have done with some trimming in the second half.

Charles Packer

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