22 January 2018

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Metamorphosis by Jean Lorrah

A little spurt of audio drama review catch-up at Unreality SF: the most recent series of Survivors (number seven!); Though Scoundrels Are Discovered, the "pilot" for the new range Cicero; the adventures of Derek Jacobi's Master in Only the Good; and two Short Trips featuring the eighth Doctor, "Flashpoint" and "A Heart on Both Sides." More to come, probably.

Mass market paperback, 371 pages
Published 1990

Reread January 2017
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Metamorphosis
by Jean Lorrah

You might argue that this book is pointless: its central premise is that Data becomes a human being for real, which of course he never did on the show, nor even alluded to, so the whole thing has to be wiped from both history and memory. But Jean Lorrah is such a good author as to overcome this. I said in my review of Survivors that she excelled at capturing Data and Yar; extend that here to the whole Enterprise-D crew. Picard's speeches sound like ones Patrick Stewart would give on the show, Riker doesn't do much but Lorrah captures his openness to all experiences, and even Wesley comes across as smart, naïve, and eager in a way that's not annoying.

It's not just dialogue, either; when Data is transformed into a human, the two people who recognize him without any prodding are Doctor Pulaski and Geordi La Forge, which feels exactly right to me. Best of all is how she captures ways of thinking. When we're inside Data's head as an android, it rings true as the interiority of the character we see the exteriority of on screen. Even better is what she pulls off in the second half of the book: if Data was a human being, this is how he would think, trying to be an android but with only human mental capacities. I'd have loved to have seen Brent Spiner do any of this on screen, but the book gets by just fine without it because it gives us Data's actual thoughts in a way the television never could. The whole book might not have "happened," but if it Data were to become human, this is how it would be.

The only thing not to like is the kind of cursory way it wraps up: Data's motivations for undoing his humanity come out of nowhere, and after the middle of the book drives home that Data has value as a person, not just from his android powers, it's a little disappointing that the end kind of revolves around his android powers saving the day. Though I guess Lorrah undercuts that with the cute last line (which fortuitously foreshadows Data getting Spot in "Data's Day" on screen).

Anyway, this is an enjoyable book, one of the best Next Generation novels. Rereading Lorrah's two Next Generation novels has made me regret that she never contributed to Star Trek again after this.

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