Death In WinterBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at September 7, 2005 - 5:01 PM GMT
Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Death in Winter
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Release Date: September 2005
Many Star Trek fans have long hoped for some type of resolution to the relationship between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher. The new novel Death In Winter by Michael Jan Friedman aims to resolve their relationship once and for all and it succeeds in doing so in a way that I suspect will leave most fans feeling quite satisfied.
The remainder of this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Death In Winter, so if you don't want details, stop reading right now.
Jean-Luc Picard has been in love with Beverly Crusher for over thirty years. Remorseful about harboring such strong feelings for the wife of a close friend and reluctant to jeopardize their own friendship, Picard learned to bury his feelings for Beverly long ago. But when Beverly transfers off the Enterprise-E to accept the job of head of Starfleet Medical (at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis), Picard is left feeling lost and alone. Notified by Starfleet Command that Crusher has been declared MIA and is presumed dead, Picard refuses to believe that she has been killed.
Crusher's covert mission to the Romulan subject world of Kevratas is considered by Starfleet to be of the utmost importance. Picard agrees to lead another team to Kevratas to finish what Beverly had begun, finding a cure to a plague that is ravaging that planets native population, with the hope that when the mission has been completed he will be able to find and rescue the woman he now realizes he loves as deeply as ever.
Starfleet's interest in helping the Kevrata is more than humanitarian. The Romulan Empire is at a critical juncture. The death of Shinzon, following his assassination of most of Romulus's political leadership, has left the Empire in chaos as various factions via for control and the Empire's subject worlds grow restless. The backdrop of the Romulan machinations is what saves Death In Winter and prevents the novel from completely falling flat and being a major disappointment.
Despite the stories shortcomings I did enjoy Death In Winter. The main job of the storyline is to resolve the relationship between Jean-Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher. Death In Winter certainly does that very satisfactorily but it's not a particularly exciting or compelling read.
The implied death of Beverly Crusher at the end of the first chapter fails to generate any real suspense or tension in part because we discover much too quickly that Beverly is very much alive. From that point forward it is as if a balloon has deflated and you feel fairly certain that the author, having already resorted to one overused plot device, won't harm a hair on Beverly's head, which leaves the expectation of Romulan scheming as the only major plot thread to hold your interest and it does.
One of the book's main weaknesses is the lopsided characterizations. Several characters, most notably Picard's former Stargazer colleagues, fulfill their roles but they don't add to the story. The Romulan characters, however, particularly the power hunger Eborion, enhance the story.
Some of the scenes felt as if they were included as an afterthought and at times even detract from the story. It's almost as if after reading the first draft of the story someone said, hey what's going on with Geordi and Worf during all of this, we need to include them somehow and while we're at it lets see who else we can throw in too.
The upshot is that while Death In Winter's happy ending is what most fans have been waiting for, the story that gets Picard and Crusher to that happy ending is a bit patchy.
Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.