Spoilers PIC: Second Self by Una McCormack Review Thread

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Avro Arrow, Sep 15, 2022.


Rate PIC: Second Self

  1. Outstanding

    13 vote(s)
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  3. Average

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  1. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 17, 2011
    Here's my review of the book: https://booknest.eu/reviews/charles/2479-startrekpicardsecondself

    STAR TREK: PICARD is something of a broken base for me. It's one of my all-time favorite time periods in the Star Trek chronology for the world-building set up in Season One: the Romulan supernova, the Synthetic Ban, the destruction of Mars, and the lawlessness of the former Neutral Zone. However, the simple fact is that Season Two had no interest in any of this and thus I must turn to secondary canon in order to get my fill. So far, I've very much enjoyed all of the books in the setting but just wish for more. MOAR.

    The premise of this book is Raffi Musiker getting some much needed spotlight. I admit that I've already listened to PICARD: NO MAN'S LAND and enjoyed that exploration of her character as well as Seven's relationship with her. It was too short but I very much enjoyed it, so this already started with a heavy hurdle to overcome. Another heavy hurdle is the fact that this is a bridge novel between Season 1 and Season 2 when so many changes were betwene the finale versus the season opener.

    So how does Una McCormick handle this? Well, she doesn't focus on a lot of the issues but does tackle one or two very well. Raffi has been offered a position back in Starfleet Intelligence due to the fact, well, she proved that THE DESTRUCTION OF MARS was a Romulan plot and that the head of Starfleet Intelligence was a double agent.

    I'm going to come back to this but NO KIDDING she should be allowed back into Starfleet Intelligence. However, she's not sure she wants the job and Elnor is feeling aimless because he succeeded in the doomed cause he was supposed to not succeed on (if I understand my Romulan truth nun religion). Maybe he'll join Starfleet, maybe he'll do something else. Raffi instead recruits him on a mission to hunt a Cardassian war criminal that is suspiciously unnamed for half of the novel.

    I admit I guessed the identity of the "war criminal" fairly early and am glad for their appearance in the story, though they did kind of steal the story from Raffi. I really enjoyed the focus on a smaller Bajoran/Cardassian/Romulan/Cardassian world, though. It kind of neatly tied together the various fallen empires and their interrelationships with one another. I also liked the ending, which I was surprised the Star Trek editors allowed Una McCormick to do since it writes such an important character out.

    On the positives, I definitely like this depiction of Raffi and its interesting to see her in her younger idealistic days before she had her spirit broken by the Romulan Crisis. We get to see her confused and angry about so many people getting hooked on Space OpiumTM to cope with the horrors of the Dominion War while another character confronts her later about her own addiction. Personally, I don't think Raffi ever did anything harder than Space WeedTM and I don't think we have to worry about her doing that. I'm pretty sure that's considered a harmless treat in the 24th century. I'm with Seth MacFarlane there and I rarely am. I also loved Elnor's use in the story and he got some much needed character development.

    If I had a problem with the story, it's that I really kind of feel like Raffi's situation is unchanged for what should be dramatic revelations. Starfleet Intelligence acts like she made them look foolish and my response is, "Yes, that's what being fools generally results in." She made the biggest intelligence coup of all time and exposed the worst security breach in Starfleet since TNG's "Conspiracy." They should be falling over themselves to apologize because they antagonized and belittled their comrade for years before the truth was exposed. The fact they don't is believable in the 21st century but marks them as complete scumbags by the 24th century. Hell, it marks them as such in this century too.

    I also feel regretful we don't get to see her have a conversation with her son, Gabriel, who at the very least should at least acknowledge that his mother wasn't a crazy anti-Romulan bigot. No, I don't think it would repair their relationship because he was upset with her for the fact she was saving refugees instead of spending time with him (which, honestly, is not a good look either). However, I really would have liked them to have had another conversation on-page because I think that would have been good. Really, these are some particularly scummy and selfish 24th century types as they're way more concerned about their own feelings than the fate of millions.

    One final bit of commentary is the book does something similar to James Luceno's TARKIN novel in that it does actually bring the broad strokes of a now-defunct canon back into, well, semi-canon. I saw a lot of nods to the DS9 relaunch material and while we don't mention specifics, I think it was all good to see. I hope the authors will continue to throw in such nods whenever possible.

    I love Una McCormack's writing in general and while I didn't care for this as much as THE LAST BEST HOPE, I still felt it was a great Raffi novel AND the guest character novel. A fitting send off for them even if it's also sort of an ironic hell for him (I can think of no job he's less suited for than the one he ends up spending his twilight years stuck with). But what war crimes WAS he charged with?

    100Pic, Jedi Ben and Reanok like this.
  2. Cake Is Eternal

    Cake Is Eternal Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 18, 2021
    Sorry about that! Thank you for fixing it for me! I was posting in a hurry and missed this thread.
    100Pic, Charles Phipps and Avro Arrow like this.
  3. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 2001
    I zipped through like half of this novel yesterday, staying up late to finish. Wow, great stuff! The bit in Part Three where we briefly jump forward to
    Garak looking up the officer who he almost had a relationship with
    was very poignant, really got me. Glad I chanced this novel. Raffi feels like a real person here in a way she never quite does for me on the show, and Elnor is such a great character if you give him even the tiniest amount of focus.
  4. OverlordSpock

    OverlordSpock Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 4, 2009
    The Depths of the Murky Platte River...
    This is my favorite of the Star Trek: Picard novels. I was completely enthralled through the entire thing—It has been quite some time since I've felt the need to not put down a Star Trek book.

    I enjoyed, as others have mentioned, seeing the younger and more idealistic version of Raffi. I also enjoyed some of the focus on Elnor and the struggles he's having with his place. Elnor definitely got the short end of the stick in Season Two of Picard, so the focus on him here was appreciated.

    I also enjoyed seeing the relationship between Raffi and her Romulan counterpart (whose name escapes me at the moment). Seeing the mutual respect they held for each other (while still very much being adversaries) was refreshing vs. simply seeing a "mustache-twirling" villain. I did feel that the ticking clock of the eventual Romulan takeover was a bit forced, but that is but a minor quibble.

    I will admit though that Garek's story was a mixed bag for me. Although I did figure out who the Cardassian war criminal was early on, I did enjoy seeing a glimpse into what he was doing early in his career during the Bajoran Occupation. I also enjoyed seeing that he had some conflict going on in his head even then. But, I struggled with the resolution of his story. Yes, part of my struggle is because of his death (and I had always hoped he would pop up again on TV), but it was also about how Garak became so singularly focused on this group of Bajorans. I can't really put my finger on what about that bugged me, but it did leave me a bit unsettled.

    But, overall, I loved this book. Thank you Una McCormack for this beautiful story.
    100Pic and Jedi Ben like this.
  5. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 17, 2011
    It is, indeed, a great book.

    But yes, I did find it a bit weird that Garak spent the rest of his life among Bajorans. He was always one of the Carsassians least associated with the Occupation and his mind was always focused on what had happened to the Cardassian race over what had happened to them. It's not a bad ending for him but I admit it's not what I would have expected him to view as his "atonement."
    100Pic and Jedi Ben like this.
  6. Elwro

    Elwro Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 14, 2020
    Krakow, Poland
    Do we know what it was that Garak did to Zhaban?