Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Collateral Damage: Picard’s Judgement Day

The Section 31 collapse has taken its toll on the Federation with many a secret now out in the open. One in particular is causing concerns for the captain of Starfleet’s flagship. 

Continuing the deeply woven narrative from Heart and Soul, Available Light and the galaxy altering Section 31: Control, Collateral Damage feels like the end of an era. Coming as the final The Next Generation novel to be published before Picard, David Mack definitely has his work cut out and truth be told, he delivers. 

Lets split this book up into its two distinct sections and look at the events aboard the Enterprise. Now under the temporary command of Worf, the E is dispatched to deal with news of a deadly Husnock (The Survivors) weapon which lead them into confrontation with the remnants of the Nausicaan people.  Where we can clearly see the divide between the Literary and the Prime Universes of Star Trek is in the point there has been no Borg mass invasion previous to Picard allowing the galaxy to evolve somewhat differently. 

In Collateral Damage we are seeing more of the results of that destruction with the embers of Nausicaa uninhabitable and its people holding the Federation responsible for leaving them high and dry. Mack also pulls in a surprise addition to the story with the return of the ‘Outrageous’ Thadiun Okona and frankly on the page he comes off as a much better and more bearable rogue than he did 30 years ago on screen. Given the timescale, his progression to work with Starfleet Intelligence is every bit believable and there are certainly signs that Mack hasn't forgotten the smooth charm of the TV original. 

What makes this section of the story more compelling for me is the choice to not only write it from the third person but to dip more intimately into the thoughts and actions of both Okona and the leader-apparent of the Nausicaans, Kinogar. Their motivations and understanding of events feel much closer and relatable however at times you have to catch up for a few lines just to make sure you know which of the two characters we are riding with. With this half playing as the beating pace of the story, the recalling of Jean-Luc Picard to Earth plays at a different tempo. Tying into the Section 31 revelations freed from Control (Section 31: Control), the events here focus on the removal from power and subsequent elimination of Federation President Min Zife. 

Picard’s involvement and to what level is at question and while the outcome may be a (nearly) forgone conclusion, the journey there is enthralling.  In the prosecuting chair we have Phillipa Louvois (The Measure of a Man) once more gunning for Picard and dredging up every incident possible to bring him down.  

The courtroom scenes are outstanding to read and although I'm not exactly a legal professional, the arguments hang together to a point although it does seem to a very unlikely anything is going to stick to the good captain’s name. The choice to return the narrative to Earth ties in well with events on screen, allowing readers to revisit Chateau Picard and places Jean-Luc and his family out of their usual spacefaring context. 

Mack’s writing makes it feel as though the weight of the world is hanging on Picard’s shoulders however there is a slight tug of a cliche with a star witness making a ‘last minute’ appearance to effectively save the day. 

Collateral Damage has to be one of my favourite Star Trek reads for the last year or so. The decision to tie up loose ends ahead of the inevitable Picard novel and upcoming Kelvin tales suggests we may not be seeing much from this line for the foreseeable future with Simon and Schuster potentially focusing more on current products airing on CBS All Access and of which there is much demand. 

There is the occasional colloquialism slipped in although with the 'f' bomb dropping into Picard and Discovery not exactly expletive-free, this doesn't seem as glaring as it did only a year or so ago. I well and truly expect future novels to push even further and as long as they're not used for a literary dalliance and actually because it helps relay a character trait then I'm ok with that all the way. 

Collateral Damage gives the Enterprise's literary crew the chance for a stretch too especially in terms of Smrhova acting at one point as the ship's acting acting first officer, leading a not so successful infiltration mission and having to balance her duties with not trying to cause harm to Thadiun Okona. It also feels that we are on the verge of setting up Captain Worf and if it's not going to be on screen (let's be realistic about it now shall we) then this is the next best thing. Who says we can't have a Klingon starship captain if Picard means Jean-Luc will be sidelined from this strand for a while?

The new format of the books is refreshing too with a much more tactile cover and larger pages. Thee's probably not a fraction more story or higher word count in here but it's just easier to handle and I'm a big fan straight away. Collateral Damage is an outstanding read from start to finish and one which demonstrates that there are always long-reaching effects while echoing the notion that we're seeing on TV that the Federation and Starfleet aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Collateral Damage is available now from Simon and Schuster priced £10.99

Why not comment below!

Enjoyed this article? Why not like and share to spread the word!

Like our page on Facebook 
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Tumblr 

No comments:

Post a comment