Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
on March 5, 2003
I have read quite a few Star Trek books (almost all of them Next Gen) and I can quite honestly say that if this isn't the worst of them, it's pretty bloody close and the worst must have been so traumatically bad that I've blocked it out. I think the most frustrating part is that, as another couple of reviewers have pointed out, the general idea was really pretty interesting, both in terms of how the crew would deal with being split up and the concept of the mud entity, but neither aspect was carried through with any imagination or flair whatsoever.
I think a great deal of what bothered me in this one were little things which, like a housemate leaving dirty dishes in the sink once too often, just destroyed the entire experience. For instance, every time an as-yet unclassified or otherwise mysterious substance is encountered, it is referred to as "stuff", even in formal settings. I somehow doubt that this is the appropriate Starfleet terminology for unidentified materials, particularly by senior officers with scientific training, and even more particularly by characters like Data. On the topic of Data, the author has him using contractions, which may seem like a silly thing, but it has played a sufficiently significant role in Data's characterization during the course of the series (his inability to use contractions is one of the features that distinguishes him from his evil twin brother Lore) that it is something that should have been caught during the editing process. Speaking of the editing process, around the middle of the book, an ensign is referred to by his proper rank, then called "Lieutenant" in the next paragraph and then suddenly demoted back to Ensign in the immediately following paragraph. That's just plain sloppy and stupid.
In the middle of all this, there is an annoying subplot in which a formerly quasi-autistic patient of Troi's named Penelope is handed off to Data for therapeutic purposes (the idea being that he is an unthreatening male-ish presence and she has trouble communicating with men). During the course of the novel, the captain requests a Level One Diagnostic, requiring the participation of a large portion of the crew, and yet Data is granted a dispensation from working on the diagnostic by the captain so that he can escort the girl to a party. I'm sorry, but it is well established that Captain Picard doesn't even approve of having families on his ship, and given his suspicions that something is dreadfully wrong with the Enterprise, it doesn't sit well that he would let his Science Officer (to say nothing of his best analytically-minded crewmember) wander off to a dance just so the girl doesn't feel bad about not having a date. On top of this, during the course of the party, Troi approaches the two and makes what seems to be quite vocal comments pertaining to Penelope's psychosocial progress, which seems like a pretty big breach of patient confidentiality. While Troi has never been presented in the show as overly intellectual, she has always been portrayed as at least having a pretty strong commitment to her professional standards. Of course the girl ends up being central to wrapping up the story, but this is so clumsily handled as to be cringe-worthy.
I kept hoping this would get better, but it didn't, so the day after I finished reading it I took it several miles away from my house and left it sitting on a bench, and I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to whoever picked it up.