Star Trek: The Next Generation Armageddon's Arrow, Dayton Ward. 2015 Pocket Books 390 pages, paperback. (6 out of 10)
For Captain Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, it's been seven years since the events of "Star Trek: Nemesis." With the Pocket Books series of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager books, it's been an eventful time. Will Riker and Deanna Troi have their own starship, the U.S.S. Titan, and they're out exploring space and stuff. Space station Deep Space 9 was destroyed and rebuilt, the Borg gutted the Federation, Admiral Janeway gave her life to wipe out the Borg threat once and for all. For Picard and his own crew--he and Doctor Crusher got married, they have a four year old son Rene, Commander Worf is his Number One, and Geordi La Forge still his chief engineer. Over the course of more than a dozen novels, a new crew has emerged that's nearly as rich as the one we all came to know during the seven years the show was on the air. Central to this story are Vulcan engineer Taurik (who we met in the seventh season TNG episode "Lower Decks") and the half-Vulcan, but very human T'Ryssa Chen. Others like the security chief Aneta Smrhova, a Cardassian helmsman Glinn Dygan, and a Betazoid security officer Rennan Konya make this a more diverse crew than any televised Enterprise has ever had. It's a good crew, and I've read enough of the other books in the series that reading this new adventure is enjoyable, but almost lazy. As with most tie-in novels, there's only so much that can happen to the characters while keeping the status quo.
This ends up being a pretty average adventure for the Enterprise crew. The ship is finally out of Federation space, actually exploring again. Most of the previous novels have been involving Federation survival, war, assassinations, cover-ups...it's nice to be free of that baggage and meeting some new races. The part of space they come into is called "the Odyssean Pass," which has hundreds of inhabited worlds, but has only been explored by probes. They come across an alien ship that dwarfs the Enterprise, but has been drifting for decades. There are two survivors on the ship, but they're in suspended animation. As the crew learns more about the ship, they see that it's actually a superweapon--big enough to destroy entire planets. Turns out it belongs to the Raquilan, a race at war with the Golvonek for centuries. They occupy two planets in the same star system, and this superweapon was built by the Raquilan as their final solution. At some point in the future, they built the planet-killer, then sent it back in time to destroy the Golvonek homeworld before the war started. Except they missed their target time, so when Picard and crew intercept it, it's been dormant and drifting for 120 years.
As the Enterprise crew learns what's been happening, and realizing they're caught in the middle of what will be not only a violation of the Prime Directive, but also a bloodbath, it's up to Picard to find a resolution to the conflict.Sound familiar? It should. There's always a challenge to these books--how do you tell a story that has enough Trek DNA to make it appealing to someone looking for their Trek fix (just make another TV series already -- a limited run on Netflix, something), but a unique enough story that you're selling the reader a new experience? Author Dayton Ward succeeds in telling a nice Star Trek story, but I felt like I've seen it play out on television or read it already. Not just once, either. Both Kirk and Picard have mediated similar conflicts before, with similar solutions. The planet killer is right from the classic episode "The Doomsday Machine," which even the characters in the book comment on. It just felt like it was well-worn territory, and although Ward does do some good things with characterization, and he makes it an enjoyable tale, it was interchangeable with about a dozen other books or episodes.
If you're a die-hard fan of TNG, or you've kept up on Pocket Books' Star Trek publishing universe, this was fine. It was a fix. But after a few years of books where big things really did happen, this one felt like an episode of the week. If I'm only getting a few Star Trek books per year, I expect more.