Reading through the Stargazer series for the first time

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Charles Phipps, Sep 8, 2021.

  1. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    The STAR TREK novelverse thrives best whenever it is moving away from the classic series to do their own thing. STAR TREK: NEW FRONTIER, THE STARFLEET CORPS OF ENGINEERS, and the KLINGON EMPIRE series are good examples. Basically, if you can't exert your freedom on the characters then it's probably best to have ones in the same universe but where there's more room to develop them.

    So I was very excited about finally getting around to the Stargazer series, ten years later but still new to me. I thought I would share my thoughts about each book as I went through them.

    Stargazer reviews

    Gauntlet
    Progenitor
    Three
    Oblivion
    Enigmas
    Maker

    Related

    TNG: Reunion

    TNG: The Valiant
    TLE: The Buried Age

    Other WIR

    The New Frontier series
    The Stargazer series
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
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  2. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    STAR TREK: TNG: REUNION

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    "What do you mean, murder?" - Wadsworth

    REUNION is a TNG novel that deals with a time period that was only hinted at on the series. Basically, before Captain Picard was captain of the Enterprise he was the captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer. This is the ship where Wesley's father Jack served (and died) as well as Captain Picard facing down the Ferengi for the first time in "The Battle of Maxia."

    Reunion gathers the undeveloped crew of that event and introduces a "who dunnit" as one of the crew seems determined to polish the rest of them off when they all come to the Enterprise for a diplomatic event starring one of their former crew mates (but not Picard). It is also the basis for the STARGAZER series that would eventually be developed from these characters.

    I enjoyed the novel but I feel like the Stargazer crew lacks a bit of definition compared to some of my other favorite characters. This is something that changes with the series proper, though. Still, some of them are quite interesting and are dealing with problems you don't normally see among Roddenberry humans like depression and alcoholism. We also get a human raised among Klingons as sort of an inverse Worf. I thought it was interesting that they were heavily coded as Norwegian and I've always liked the "Vikings in Space" interpretation of the Klingon.

    I recommend this book but will state that the mystery drags along a bit too long with all of the Enterprise's bells and whistles. You'd think they'd have some CSI advantages that we don't. I was fully expecting some technobabble about why they couldn't determine who had done the various assaults and attacks. I actually was surprised to find that the solution was as mundane as it was, expecting a posthumous crew member to be possessing someone or other crazy twist.

    Still, this book sets up the rest of the STARGAZER series and I actually was very happy to follow the people involved here through further adventures.
     
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  3. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    STAR TREK: STARGAZER: GAUNTLET

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    Yay, more Stargazer!

    As mentioned, I really enjoy the more "off the beaten track" Star Trek novels that make use of side characters or extras versus the ones that are involved with the major characters. It's why one of my favorites is the DEPARTMENT OF TEMPORAL INVESTIGATIONS and the NEW FRONTIER books. So I very much liked that they decided to do the Stargazer series set on Captain Picard's first command.

    The STARGAZER series has one major returning character in Captain Jean Luc Picard, 28 years old and probably "played" by Tom Hardy with a full head of hair rather than Patrick Stewart. He is the newly promoted captain of the Stargazer, that is already a ship on the rickety side. Having broken Kirk's record as the youngest starship captain ever, he's getting the cold shoulder from his fellow captains. Even worse, he's attracted the almost comical hatred of an Admiral that loathes him just because he was an appointee by the guy who held his position before. Which means Starfleet functions like Fox television executives.

    The rest of the crew is almost entirely composed of original characters or the people who showed up in the novel, REUNION also by the same authors. Some of them we know will be doomed according to that novel but it actually adds a bit of drama here as we don't know how that will shake out. Either way, Picard needs to shake out a mostly underperforming and unwanted crew that he's been assigned by bureaucratic malice as they go after an infamous pirate called "The White Wolf." No, he's not Elric or Geralt.

    I think what appeals to me about this book series (and I'm only a few in) is the fact that is kind of does feel like a much more sedate Star Trek series. This book gets into a lot of the minutia of interpersonal relationships among the crew, screw ups, and what to do about bullying or stealing coworker's credit. It also is kind of a spiritual antithesis of New Frontier in the fact Picard is assigned a crew of bad apples and makes cider from some or tosses them. Which is how it works in the real world. I was kind of surprised at just how furious Picard was about the aforementioned "taking credit" but I suspect that was mostly due to the lying to him.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and am going to read the entirety of the Stargazer series as a result.
     
  4. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    STAR TREK: STARGAZER: PROGENITOR

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    STAR TREK: STARGAZER is a series that takes place twenty years before STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's first season. Captain Picard is a pretty young man eager to prove himself (and probably played by Tom Hardy) while his crew of oddballs and misfits struggle to exceed the low expectations Starfleet has for them. I really enjoyed the previous volume, GAUNTLET, even if I had some issues with the ending.

    This book remains somewhat low-stakes by Star Trek LIT standards as Captain Picard is going to help one of the crew members with one of those oddball alien rituals that popped up so often in TOS and get regularly homaged in LOWER DECKS. I thought it worked well, though I can't help but think that it was strange neither of the two Klingon raised women weren't invited to the party that they obviously would have kicked butt in.

    Meanwhile, Admiral McAteer continues to plot against Captain Picard in something that I am back and forth about because he's so comically petty that it's hard to take him seriously. He's basically declared himself Picard's archenemy just because. The thing is that I've known middle managers who are this utterly scummy and I figure that at least one or two must slip through the Starfleet psychological screenings.

    What I really enjoyed about this book was seeing Second Officer Wu step up for a rescue mission without Picard and working through the issues of crew members lacking confidence or belief in their future. I really enjoyed this part of the book and liked seeing her deal with Tom Paris' Uncle (who I assume in proper Trek fashion was also played by Robert Duncan MacNeil just like Worf's granddad was a lawyer).

    If I have one complaint, it is probably that Carter Greyhorse's obsession with Gerda Asmund is something that was established with by REUNION but isn't great to read about because, even in universe, he's dangerously obsessed with her and we know where it's going. Stalking isn't fun to read about for me.

    Either way, solid sequel.
     
  5. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Don't forget to read TNG novel, The Valiant. It was originally a hardcover like Reunion, but The Valiant is really the first novel of the series (despite carrying TNG logo). It tells the story of how Picard became Captain of the Stargazer in the first place.

    I read the Stargazer novels a few years ago and I enjoyed them. Also, when you are done I'd highly recommend the TNG novel The Buried Age by Christopher. It's considered a Lost Era novel, but it begins with the destruction of the Stargazer and then what happens after. Christopher's novel is intended to take place in the 'same' universe as the Stargazer novels, as he uses the same characters and so forth as Friedman (and he notes that in his acknowledgements).

    My only gripe is the Stargazer series basically just covers the first several months of Picard's command (maybe up to a year). I mean, there's no lingering cliffhangers at the end that Friedman leaves unresolved or anything. But I wish more novels had come out. Picard was in command of the Stargazer for well over 10 years. So far, very few novels have touched on that era, and usually when they do it's just a flashback of some sort. Jack Crusher had not yet joined the Stargazer during the book series, I think that was a few years later, and he died a few years before the Stargazer was lost so Christopher's novel starts too late to include Crusher.

    I'd love to see someone continue the Stargazer book series at some point to tell some stories of those missing years and I'd love to see some novels featuring both Picard and Crusher, how they became best friends, missions they had together and so forth. Star Trek: Picard may both help and hurt the chances of that. The show might spark some interest in exploring Picard's earlier years, yet right now we don't know if the show will dive into that history at all so it might be better to wait until the show concludes its run.

    Books can't control what might come up in a show in the future, but it might be best not to tempt fate until you know what the show might do.
     
  6. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I found out about THE VALIANT today but completely missed it was part of the series and I had just started book 3#. Now I'm wondering if should read it next or after I've finished the main series.

    Star Trek book continuity can be confusing.
     
  7. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I think at this point I would just continue on with the series and return to The Valiant when you are finished (but before reading Christopher's The Buried Age).

    It would be a bit confusing to go back to the beginning, then return to the series since the books are basically a continuing story, as opposed to more standalone books.

    I basically read them in order by happenstance. I read The Valiant, then found out about the Stargazer series and immediately got them and read them next.

    The same thing happened with the Gorkon series. I just happened to read the TNG novel Diplomatic Implausibility before starting the Gorkon series. I didn't realize that was considered the first book of the series when I read it at first.
     
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  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    The Wikipedia article on the Stargazer novel series also suggested that Requiem and The First Virtue have ties to the series, being written or co-written by Michael Jan Friedman, but I haven't read them myself. I got copies of those books and The Valiant and Reunion to go with the actual Stargazer series books. Good luck with your marathon!
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that's sort of looking at it the wrong way around. Mike created the Stargazer crew for Reunion, then referenced them or brought them back in various other books and comics he did over the years, and then he finally did The Valiant and the subsequent Stargazer series to fill in the backstory of the crew he'd been featuring in various things for years.

    And really, most of the previous Stargazer stuff Mike wrote is set much, much later in that ship's history than the novel series itself, which only covers the first 6 months of Picard's 22 years in command. So I wouldn't say those other books have ties to the Stargazer book series specifically, more just to the broader MJF Stargazer crew and continuity.
     
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  10. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I would even argue it's probably not even really all that necessary to read Reunion before the Stargazer series, since it mostly takes place years later.

    The Valiant is probably the only novel that I'd recommend reading before reading the Stargazer series since it's basically the beginning of the series (even though it carries a TNG banner). That novel also includes another appearance of the Galactic Barrier (though in this story Starfleet ships are able to traverse the barrier now since they are more advanced).
     
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  11. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    @Christopher

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on the books, do you think Requiem and The First Virtue are beneficial or not relevant to the Stargazer books? I take your meaning that some characters were created for Reunion first, and then the Stargazer books come afterward. To answer an assertion in post #6 that continuity can be confusing, if I'm ever uncertain I'll default to publication order.

    Are there other books that you think would compliment the Stargazer books, just out of curiosity? It's a series I would like to get to eventually as well, and happy for any feedback.
     
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  12. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I can't speak for Christopher, but I would say those are still decent books that I recall (I usually enjoy most of Friedman's books--he was usually a good Star Trek writer--a pity he doesn't write Star Trek novels anymore). They're just not necessary to read for the Stargazer series.

    And I noted before, I would throw in Christopher's The Buried Age as well. It's in the same continuity as the Stargazer series and is a worthwhile novel to read for any fan of the Stargazer series.

    I don't personally recall any other novels, other than maybe Death in Winter that has a flashback to the Stargazer days.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The only connection is that they make use of the same Stargazer crew characters created for Reunion. They have no more to do with each other than any two random installments of a series with continuing characters. Like I said, the SGZ series is set way, way earlier in the timeline than all the other stuff that includes or references those characters. The Valiant and the six Stargazer novels are set in 2333; the prologue of Requiem is in 2345; and The First Virtue is in 2349 per the Pocket Timeline, 2350 per Memory Alpha & Beta.

    As far as stories featuring Mike's Stargazer characters go, they also appear in the prologue of "Children of Chaos, Part 1," issue 59 of DC's ST:TNG comic which Mike wrote. Memory Alpha puts that prologue in 2354, which can't be right, since it's before Jack Crusher's death in 2353.


    As I recall, it's pretty standalone, since it's so isolated in the timeline.



    Rather, it uses the Stargazer crew MJF created for Reunion and reused in various other places. I made no references to anything specific to the Stargazer novel series, since that entire series takes place 22 years before the start of The Buried Age. Aside from using his characters, the only story of Mike's that I specifically referenced was "Darkness" from Tales from the Captain's Table, since that takes place shortly after the loss of the Stargazer and thus falls within the timeframe of TBA.
     
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  14. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Sadly, or not, I've already read THE BURIED AGE and did so before the Stargazer series was on my radar. I'm a huge fan of the Bennettverse and thus all of the Stargazer references probably went over my head. I still enjoyed the book tremendously and its explanation for how Picard's court martial went and why so many energy-based beings are jerks.
     
  15. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Well, it's makes for a nice bookend to the Stargazer series. The Stargazer books cover the beginning and you had the end and beyond covered.

    And it's a very good book to read overall. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to read more about Picard's earlier career. It's a bonus that you made it compatible with Friedman's earlier novels so you at least get a consistent feel. Plus I always thought you and Friedman had a similar writing style when it comes to Star Trek books. Both of you also always seemed to like to do a good bit of continuity building, and the Stargazer novels and The Buried Age are no exception.

    It's probably a lost hope, but I'd love it if someone someday filled in the missing years using what Friedman started with his novels. Of course Christopher comes to mind since he's already written one covering the end, and what I noted before about his style of writing reminding me a bit a Friedman's style (hopefully Christopher takes that as a complement ;) --I already noted I always liked Friedman's Star Trek books so that's a positive for me). But I'm sure any number of authors would do just fine.

    That being said I'm not holding my breath for that. But then, I never expected the relaunches to get any sort of conclusion so there's always hope :techman:

    Yeah, me too. I had missed out on reading a lot of Star Trek books in the mid 1990s through early 2000s. College set me back, then getting my career on track so I didn't read many Star Trek books between 1993 and about 2005. Compounding the problem is that during several of those years Pocketbooks was releasing 2, sometimes even 3 books in a month. So I got seriously behind. I've managed to pick up almost all the novels that were released in that period but obviously it took me years to catch up (in fact, I still have a few stragglers I have yet to read). But once I started reading again I was reading current books as they came out and older books when I had extra time. So I ended up reading The Buried Age when it came out, but had not yet gotten to the Stargazer novels. Not a huge deal, since, as Christopher noted he uses the same characters, but since his book was over 15 years later it didn't really reference those stories from those books.

    Just if I were starting over with the Stargazer series, I'd start with The Valiant, read the Stargazer series and close it out with The Buried Age...and maybe throw in Reunion after all that as well.
     
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  16. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Thank you for that helpful overview of events, @Christopher.

    And thank you for reading suggestions and guidance @Damian .

    It looks like I'm in good shape for planned future reading material. The Buried Age is one I have several different possible plans for when to read.
     
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  17. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It would probably be a good idea to read it first - the last book in the Stargazer series calls back directly to the events in Valiant, and features a returning character you'll likely want the extra back story and awareness of for their appearance there.
     
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  18. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I'd highly recommend that one regardless as I thought it was an excellent book. It fills in some of what Picard was doing between commands of the Stargazer and Enterprise.
     
  19. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I remember being quite frustrsted and put-off the Stargazer series when MJF wasn't getting basic details of the ship correct. One small shuttlebay? That thing was enourmous, and the saucer was ringed with 4-deck high shuttle or cargo bays. The small half-bridge seen in TNG? More characters were on the bridge than would have fitted at the stations.

    I loved the cramped Constellation-class, and felt the books missed an opportunity to capitalise on what was established in the show.

    In the end I think I quit after Valiant, but one day I'd like to go back and give the series another go.
     
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  20. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    ST:TNG: THE VALIANT

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    For those who want to enjoy the entire story of the U.S.S Stargazer. my recommended reading order is STAR TREK: TNG: REUNION, STAR TREK: TNG: THE VALIANT, and then the Stargazer series proper. Either that or reading Valiant first then the Stargazer series then Reunion as a grand finale of the series. I actually read Reunion first then some of the Stargazer series before realizing The Valiant was set before it. Confused yet? Well, that's just Trek Lit continuity for ya.

    The premise of the book is a sequel to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" where Kirk fought Gary Mitchell with the power of a big giant rock. Apparently, the U.S.S Valiant, which had it's own omnipotent psychic problems, had survivors and some of them come to Starfleet with news of a dangerous threat to the Federation. Lt. Commander Picard, 2nd officer on the Stargazer, is thrust into a position where he must make a number of hard decisions to determine how to deal with this.

    Essentially, the premise of the book is a long-standing fan analysis of the original episode that I've thought about myself. Basically, was Gary Mitchell driven mad and made evil by his powers or was it because he could sense that his fellow crew members were plotting against him? The Enterprise crew react with uncharacteristic fear, suspicion, and hatred at the evolution of a crewmate. Was it the power that made him mad or knowledge that they were turning against him? How much was the character flaws of Both? Neither?

    It's interesting to tackle that question in the context of TNG with a psychic on the bridge and a being with incredible learning capacities like Data. Picard is far more accepting of the psychics in their midst than the others but they're also not as terrifyingly powerful as Mitchell either. They're also not entirely on the level either. It also has the aliens from "By Any Other Name" (the one who turns people into dice-like objects and crush them) but I wasn't a big fan of their presence, Galactic Barrier reference or not.

    The book is really about the power of trust and how its lack can be a toxic force. Its interesting to examine this in the context of the book because, really, the Valiant descendants and others give ample reason not to be trusted. We also have the crew refusing to trust their acting captain, even to the point of mutiny (which would make them the second mutineers in Starfleet timeline-wise unless we count Kirk stealing the Enterprise in STIII according to the DISCO revelations).

    I felt the villains of the book were underdone because we never get to speak with them and they are about as nuanced as Space Orcs from what we know of them. There's more than enough intrigue on the ship, though, and really enjoyed that. I did think that the author overused "The 2nd Officer" to describe Picard, though, when most people would have just used his name. Either way, I enjoyed watching Picard rise to the occasion as acting captain.