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Star Trek The Next Generation: Ship of the Line
Diane Carey
Pocket Books, 320 pages

Star Trek The Next Generation: Ship of the Line
Diane Carey
Diane Carey has written many Star Trek books. They include classic Star Trek novels like The Great Starship Race (1993) and for Star Trek Next Generation [Ghost Ship (1988)], for Star Trek Deep Space Nine [Station Rage (1995)] and for Star Trek Voyager [Flashback (1996)].

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A review by Jim Greer

Ship of the Line is a good, though slightly flawed, novel that is worth reading.

The book sets out to explain what happened to the crew of the Enterprise-D between that ship's crash landing (chronicled Star Trek: Generations) and the Borg invasion shown in Star Trek: First Contact.

The answer to that lies in a three-fold plot line that involves Captain Morgan Bateman (the character portrayed by Kelsey Grammar in a cameo role), Montgomery Scott, a holodeck image of James Kirk, and Gul Madred, Picard's Cardassian torturer. It all gets very complicated but novelist Diane Carey makes it work.

The story centers around the first voyage, the shakedown cruise, of the Enterprise-E. The senior bridge officers from NextGen (sans Picard) are assigned to assist Bateman and his crew (time-travel refugees from 93 years previous, as you may recall) work the kinks out of the new ship. However, a Klingon captain whom Bateman shamed just before being caught in the temporal loop sets out to exact revenge on Bateman and hijacks the Enterprise-E. Meanwhile, Starfleet sends Picard to Cardassia to try to free Federation personnel that are being held there unlawfully. On the way there, Picard tries to work through his malaise at the loss of the Enterprise-D by studying some of Kirk's more famous adventures as recreated on the holodeck.

One of the more pleasant aspects of the book, for me, is that Carey tries to look at some of the emotions and relations for the major characters that arise from the situations depicted in the novel. Bateman and his crew have been thrown forward in time, essentially ripped out of the lives that they had. Carey examines, albeit briefly, what this must be like for them and asks, what must they do to adjust to their new lives?

In greater depth, Carey explores what the loss of his ship must mean for Picard. Carey asks what is the relationship between a captain and his ship? What does it mean to be a ship's captain? What emotions, strengths and understandings does a starship captain need?

Carey even touches on what it would be like to be a dishonoured Klingon warrior in a society where honour is revered about all. Her answer, unfortunately, is limited to "unpredictable." Which hints at the major flaw of the book. Carey has a tendency to take the easy way out, stylistically, in her writing. While Carey does an excellent job of plausibly tying the three plot lines together at the end of the book, the resolution for one of the minor characters is trite and smacks of a need for an artificial happy ending.

Also, Carey falls into the habit of explaining her characters feelings rather than showing them to us. Too often a character:

"[beams] with warmth and satisfaction, though under the circumstances he apparently couldn't bring himself to smile. Yet there was eminent pride in the decision they had made to ignore caution. This just wasn't the time for that."
I would much rather have Carey describe the characters actions in such a way that lets me fill in my own interpretation of their emotions.

Overall, Carey succeeds in delivering a ripping good yarn. The novel strikes a nice balance between the many actions scenes and its more introspective moments. Most of the characters are well developed and three-dimensional (except for Bateman's first officer and Gul Madred's daughter). And the contemplative discussions are well thought out and well presented.

Most Star Trek readers will enjoy this book.

Copyright © 1997 by Jim Greer

Jim Greer has been a journalist for 12 years. He is currently doing free-lance work so he can spend more quality time chasing his 2 year old around.

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