Star Trek: The Next Generation
Death in Winter

Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Pocket Books
RRP 6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 0 7434 9722 0
ISBN-10: 0 7434 9722 8
Available 01 October 2007

Beverly Crusher's past comes back to haunt her; a plague that had ravaged the Kevrata when she was a teenager reappears. Having survived the incursion of Praetor Shizon, Beverly is sent back to the Kevratas on a secret mission to save the planet. But things go wrong from the start and she is captured by the Romulans. Picard is sent with another team to deal with the plague but cannot help but think of Beverly. The woman he has loved for too many years. On a cold and inhospitable world they must both fight for survival...

Death in Winter is written by Michael Jan Friedman, who has written so many successful Trek novels that I hope it's at least bought him a new house by now. So now we know we're in the hands of an author who knows his stuff.

Death in Winter is set not long after the end of the last Star Trek film Nemesis. Romulas is in turmoil, the political vacuum left by the death of Shizon has been filled by a new Praetor, Senator Tal'aura, but with little success. There is unrest at home and the Empire is starting to loose control over the outer rim worlds. On the Homeworld unrest is being whipped up by an admiral turned argent provocateur, turning the city mob against the Praetor.

I have to say that for the most part I enjoyed this novel. There were a number of minor quibbles with it though, mostly with the use of the minor characters. I can understand that you need to blanket bomb your book with as many characters that have appeared in the show, but this leads to a number of problems. In a novel of this length these minor characters rarely have enough space to have any meaningful development. In truth, you could have cut out the sections with Worf, Geordie and Janeway and not lost a single plot thread in the book; their inclusion really served no purpose.

This leads to another problem, with the continual use of the same characters, the trend in Trek novels seems to give the impression that Starfleet consists of about twenty players with a few other minor characters thrown in for good luck - or bad if you happen to be wearing a red shirt at the time. The same really happens with the characters that go with Picard on his rescue mission - we could have lost them without missing them one iota.

That's not to say that this is a bad book, in actual fact it's a real page turner. Friedman's prose style is so well honed now that he most probably writes these in his sleep. But, in the end, it kinda feels like a Big Mac: filling at the time, but leaving a bit of a void in the end. I would have liked to have read more about the political machinations on the Romulan home world. Here was a good chance to write the first seriously good political thriller set in the Trek universe. The characters of Greyhorse, the reformed mental patient (wonder how long he held out for Crazy Horse, before he gave into an editor with no sense of humour) and Pug don't really add anything to the plot either.

So dear readers a good book, but not a great one. I loved the bits on Romulas, but hated the inclusion of references to the show. You would think that everyone in a genre book has a real personality problem as none of them seem to be able to move on from their pasts, spending great chunks of their days going over and over what has happened to them in the past.

Well, at least there wasn't a shuttle crash in it.

Charles Packer

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