Reading through the Stargazer series for the first time

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

  1. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    Kelvans! That's exciting, so I'll have that to look forward to when I get to this book. I know not everyone likes that episode, and I totally understand the reasons...yet, I have a fondness for aspects of it.
     
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  2. historypeats

    historypeats Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    For what it's worth, there's also a Stargazer story in the Tales from the Dominion War anthology!
     
  3. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    STARGAZER: THREE is the third or fifth book in the Stargazer series depending on whether you count REUNION or THE VALIANT as part of the series. Captain Picard is on the first six months of his journey to becoming the man we know from "Encounter at Far Point" and running into all sorts of issues that come with a lack of experience mixed with a hostile environment. In this case, Picard is sent to examine a stellar anomaly by his obstructive bureaucrat archenemy Admiral McInteer and gets more than he bargained for when a parallel universe version of Gerda Asmund is sent through.

    The book makes a statement that she is "not" from the Mirror Universe but I suspected it was a form of misdirection from the beginning. Besides, there was a good deal of humor to be had from the fact the Asmund Twins are far more vicious and aggressive than their counterpart from this new universe. The crew ends up liking her a lot more than the somewhat prickly Twins and this leaves her with free access to the ship.

    Meanwhile, Lieutenant Vigo chooses to go visit a close friend of his own race during a Starfleet weapons test that quickly turns into a hostage situation. I really enjoyed this part of the book and kind of wish it had been the central focus. I wanted to know more about the Pandrilite political situation, whether the terrorists had cause to work against the Federation, and more details that weren't brought up.

    I actually liked this book because it showed Picard making some genuine mistakes with the fake Gerda. He doesn't suspect, until the very end, that she could be a security threat and puts the entire crew at risk for her benefit on simple trust. Its the quality of a Starfleet officer but not necessarily one of a more experienced Captain. Kirk would have had her guarded around the clock and also weighed his crew against returning her home.

    In conclusion, this is a pretty good book but I don't think the stories come together. I am always happy to have Asmund stories and this is a good installment that helps with their development. I do think that Gerda's relationship with Greyhorse is way too early for him to be mourning about it 20 years later and not to have developed much more across the entirety of their time together but maybe human-Klingon relationships are different. I also wish the book had gone into more about Vigo's homeworld.
     
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  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It makes sense to count The Valiant, as it was a pilot for the series, but it makes no sense to count Reunion, which is a TNG novel written many years before there was any intention of doing a Stargazer series or any conception that such a thing would even be possible.
     
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  5. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    True but it is the same crew and cast that have not only their stories that inspired the main series but their "final" fates in the TNG era. The A New Hope for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin in The Clone Wars so to speak.

    Fun fact: I actually re-read the opening to The Buried Age to see how you handled them today.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But it's a TNG novel guest starring those characters, not a Stargazer novel. By analogy, the Discovery episodes that featured Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One are still Discovery episodes, not Strange New Worlds episodes. They're connected to the series, but that does not make them part of the series.
     
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  7. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    True. I suppose I'm mostly thinking in the context that you'd be missing something major about the series from a fan perspective. If you want to get the full "Stargazer experience" then you should read Reunion is what I'm saying rather than whether it qualifies purely as a Stargazer novel.
     
  8. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    "But what of Lazarus...what of Lazarus...?" --The Alternative Factor. :D

    Sometimes security on board a starship just isn't up to the standard it should be. ;)
     
  9. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I probably wouldn't include Reunion as part of the Stargazer series either. The Valiant, definitely, despite carrying a TNG banner. It's really the start. Reunion might nowadays best be treated as a coda to the series. After you've read all the Stargazer books (and The Buried Age as well) then read Reunion to sort of see 'where are they now.' It's not necessary to the Stargazer series, but still connected to it.
     
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  10. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    STAR TREK: STARGAZER: OBLIVION is the story about how Picard met Guinan (from his temporal perspective). While never my favorite character, I admit to having always liked Whoopi Goldberg's performance as her and felt like their relationship was an entertaining one. Oblivion is primarily a spy story with Captain Picard going undercover in space station made of cobbled together other ships and trying to stay one step ahead of a Cardassian spy that DS9 fans will recognize. No, not Garak.

    I actually preferred the Stargazer section of the book that dealt with the crew's personal issues. Andreas Nikolas has suffered a catastrophic breakdown in his ability to do his job due to having his heart broken by Gerda Asmund. Television love is at work here since they only knew each other a few days before he decided he'd run away with her, only to find out that she was actually a member of the EVIL Mirror Universe's crew. He doesn't turn evil himself but he's standoffish, not sleeping, and resists any attempt to get himself help.

    I also appreciate the somewhat surreal romantic relationship between Cole Paris and Jiterica the alien ionic cloud. It reminded me a bit of TOS: "Metamorphosis" which I imagine was deliberate as neither Kirk nor Spock seem too weirded out by romancing a cloud. Unlike that episode, though, she doesn't need to get a human body. Which, hey, whatever warps your starship. Who am I to judge? There's a third plot about a crew member who is apparently a traitor but I'm curious about how that's going to turn out as it's seemingly only set up here.

    I really think I enjoy the crew and their oddball ticks much more than I do the actual adventures of the Stargazer. I will say that I appreciated the nasty cynical ending to the story. After all the effort that Picard went to try to save his friend, well, I won't spoil the ending but it does show why he's an emotionally reserved man in the future. Not every time he goes to the bat for one of his friends or associates is warranted. He's learning a lot of lessons in pragmatism and caution in this series even if it's only the first six months of his command.

    One bit of this book I love, even if it makes him even more one-dimensional, is an entire chapter devoted to Admiral McInteer hating on Macbeth because he is rooting for the murderous traitor the entire time.
     
  11. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    ENIGMA is the fifth and penultimate book of the Stargazer series by Michael Jan Friedman, covering the first six months of Captain Jean Luc Picard as commanding officer of the Stargazer. I was a big fan of the concept and have been meaning to read the series for years. Now at the end of the series, I am saddened that it is coming to an end. I really would have read a twelve-book series about the crew and wished they had covered more of the 22-year period where Captain Picard was head honcho of the ship.

    I think the timeline is a bit off for the description, though, and sadly misses some of the things that would have been interesting to cover. Carter Greyhorse's romance with Gerda Asmund is something that plays a big role in the events of REUNION and yet it is something that happened decades earlier but never was discovered. It also seems to be the full focus of Carter and Gerda's characters, which undermines both. Also, we never got to meet characters like Jack Crusher and Morgen.

    Anyway, Enigma does get to pay off on the plotline of Ulelo the mole that has been examining the secrets of Starfleet's technology and transmitting them across the stars. He doesn't know he's a secret agent or at least much about it and is torn about his relationship to his crew. I think this plotline was very interesting (I loved a similar one in Discovery). I liked how they initially mistake his condition for schizophrenia but felt they should have done more technobabble since I presume they have treatments for that in the 24th century.

    Part of why I like this book is it does follow up on a lot of the emotional plotlines of various characters. The relationships among the crew, the trauma of the Mirror Universe Gerda's betrayal, and the (premature?) ending of Carter's relationship with Gerda. I especially liked following Nikolas' resignation from Starfleet. I admit, I do have some criticisms about it, though. I think he'd be feeling at least some anger over the woman who tricked him, betrayed his crew, and tried to steal his friend. I would have thought he'd also feel some guilt over how he was so utterly fooled than acting like she was a blameless innocent.

    We also get some serious progress on Admiral MacInteer's plot to remove Captain Picard from his position as head of the Stargazer. I would have liked a bit more evidence or reasoning for him to decide to hold a competency hearing but Picard actually did screw up a few times. The fact he had a spy onboard his ship that he only noticed after they transmitted valuable data, the danger he put his crew in trying to help the traitorous Mirror Gerda, and letting the White Wolf go in the first book are all serious offenses. However, it seems like McInteer is focusing on other much milder slights. I look forward to seeing the trial next book.

    In conclusion, this is a great book and I'm sad its wrapping up as a series. I feel like there was much more they could have done with the characters and setting.
     
  12. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    And finished the series!

    Now I'm going to have to gather my thoughts after the final book review.
     
  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    THE MAKER is the final installment of the Stargazer series for Star Trek, following the first command of Captain Jean Luc Picard during his late twenties. I really enjoy these kind of serialized offshoots of the main Star Trek universe in Trek Lit. Indeed, I am kind of sad that this is only a six book series (seven if you count Valiant). The book "Reunion" serves as a decent coda for it and should probably be read after rather than before the series.

    This installment deals with the fact Captain Picard has been called for a competence hearing. His archenemy, Admiral McAteer, wants to remove him from command for no other reason than petty spite. He specifically cites the events of the aforementioned Valiant as a sign of his incompetence. There's actually a few questionable acts that Picard made in the series up to this point like his trust of a Mirror Universe doppelganger, missing an infiltrator, and letting a pirate go but none of these are brought up at the trial.

    I was kind of hoping that the trial would play a bigger role in this book than it did. Instead, it is only the last part of the book. The majority of the book is devoted to chasing down an insanely powerful psychic that has been imbued with Gary Mitchell-esque powers. Said psychic has also taken former crew member Andreas Nikolas hostage.

    I can't say this is my favorite of the Stargazer plots as the villain is fairly one-dimensional and a kind of supervillain that wants to engage in conquest as well as genocide. I feel it's a far less interesting sort of villain compared to, say, Tain from Oblivion or even the White Wolf. I also love "Where No Man Has Gone Before" but I feel like that particular well was already emptied by Valiant. I also didn't feel much progress was made with Picard's relationship with Serenity Santana. I really wish we'd gotten a Betazoid on the crew to deal with her duplicity.

    Despite this, I will say the scenes with Nikolas dealing with the insane god that he is forced to placate while under the power of are really well-written. Brakmaktin resurrects his love interest, the Mirror Universe Gerda, and plays with Nikolas' emotions as a display of power. These scenes are quite interesting and show why Nikolas might cooperate with an obvious lunatic demigod like his captor.

    In conclusion, we all know how Picard's trial is going to end. There's no way he's going to lose command of the Stargazer or be kicked out of Starfleet. Still, I would have liked to see more legal twists and turns as well as call backs to previous books. The Stargazer series could have been a dozen more books and not worn out its welcome with me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2021
  14. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    Stargazer Series Review

    + Overall, I really enjoyed the adventures of the U.S.S Stargazer and their serialized adventures. They felt sufficiently "low key" that I didn't think they were out of bounds for a busted up old Constellation-class vessel and I liked the idea of dealing with Picard when he's a newly-promoted captain over an experienced leader. Indeed, one of the things that I did like is that Picard does make a lot of questionable choices and some outright mistakes.

    +The younger Picard is shown to be far too trusting and it's interesting to see betrayal as a constant theme of the book. Picard gives his crew all of the confidance and support they could ever need but repeatedly we see a lot of them fail to live up to his standards or outright betray him. The fact that he has an admiral out for his command for no reason other than petty spite (not even his age) is another interesting factor.

    + I like Admiral McAteer even if he is a cartoon of a petty obstructive bureaucrat. It may have been completely over the top to have Boothby hate him and the man loathe Shakespeare because he was mean to his villains but they're hilarious scenes. Maybe its the Lower Decks fan in me but I find something amusing about the idea of a Starfleet admiral who thinks Macbeth got a raw deal. My headcanon is Lou Eisner or JK Simmons for him.

    + I like a large part of the books deal with the kind of soap opera and lower dceks level day-to-day on a starship. Michael Jan Friedman makes a good decision showing the crew is a collection of very flawed individuals but does the un-Star Trek-like thing that not everyone rises above their flaws. It adds a surprising amount of tension to know that one guy is a racist jerk and another a cheater that are just going to end up fired in the end.

    + I really liked the Cole Paris and Jiterica romance, though I had some confusing elements about whether she ever had a humanoid shape inside her suit or outside it. The implications I got was that she was a woman in a suit and by identification but a cloud whenever out of it but other times the books act like she has a female form with, well, "parts." Cole being upset about her being "naked" at one point, which is just weird if she's a cloud. As a Mass Effect fan, Tali helped me envision her look anyway.

    + One thing I do appreciate is the series isn't afraid to make up new alien races and empires rather than just using the same-old, same old. The Federation is threatened by three or four powers we've never heard of and I find that perfectly believable.

    + I wasn't a fan of Andreas Nikolas and Gerda Asmund's Mirror Universe doppelganger, though. Bluntly, because she was a lying traitor who lied. Andreas continuing to moon over her, especially given her doppelgangers were right aboard the ship, just didn't feel appropriate. Everything about her was a lie and she was going to kidnap a crew member.

    + Speaking of the Asmund Twins, I will say I felt they were criminally underutilized and easily my favorite of the characters in the book. Gerda sadly doesn't get any story arc other than her romance with Carter Greyhorse who, bluntly, is a one-note obsessive stalker of her. I was hoping they'd get more action too as Klingon warrior women. I was surprised they didn't accompany Simenon on his athletic mating spree. Maybe it was a male-only thing but they would have kicked ass on it.

    + Overall, a very good series. I wonder which series I'll (re)read next. Maybe NEW FRONTIER?
     
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  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Commodore Commodore

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    CODA:

    The Buried Age


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    Synopsis: Jean-Luc Picard. His name has gone down in legend as the captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer and two starships Enterprise. But the nine years of his life leading up to the inaugural mission of the U.S.S. EnterpriseTM to Farpoint Station have remained a mystery -- until now, as Picard's lost era is finally unearthed.

    Following the loss of the Stargazer and the brutal court-martial that resulted, Picard no longer sees a future for himself in Starfleet. Turning to his other love, archaeology, he embarks on a quest to rediscover a buried age of ancient galactic history...and awakens a living survivor of that era: a striking, mysterious woman frozen in time since before the rise of Earth's dinosaurs.

    But this powerful immortal has a secret of cataclysmic proportions, and her plans will take Picard -- aided along the way by a brilliant but naive android, an insightful Betazoid, and an enigmatic El-Aurian -- to the heights of passion, the depths of betrayal, and the farthest reaches of explored space.

    THE BURIED AGE is a decent Star Trek novel about Captain Picard's life between his time as captain of the U.S.S Stargazer and becoming captain of the U.S.S. Enterpriser. During this time, he works as an archaeologist and befriends a beautiful but amnesiac alien woman. As with most Christopher L. Bennett novels set in the Trekverse, it is a cavalcade of continuity porn. We get references to huge numbers of episodes as well as answers to questions which you might not even have asked (like why are there so many immature godlike aliens in Star Trek).

    The big question it purports to answer is "What did Captain Picard do in the nine years between losing the Stargazer at the Battle of Maxia [against the Ferengi] and receiving command of the Enterprise?" If that's not a question you ask yourself then you may not be who this book is directed at. Thankfully, I am such a beast and doubly appreciate it as a coda to the Stargazer series by Michael Jan Friedman.

    The author doesn't waste much time getting the Stargazer destroyed or reminisce much about the crew lost (including at least one important named character) but does establish how the events leave Picard wrecked. He's essentially lost his home for the past two decades and has to deal with the compound humiliation of having his own lover tear into him over it.

    I feel like this section of the book is the strongest part as we can see Picard's old life being torn apart and honestly wish we had gotten more of that. One of the things I don't recall ever being covered in the novels was Picard's love of Beverly Crusher as well as the death of Jack Crusher. While it would have moved the timeline a bit forward, I wish that Christopher Bennett had also managed to cover that event as part of the farewell to the Stargazer and perhaps used more of the characters. Then again, that sort of "playing with other toys" would have to be done delicately even if I'm sure he could have done a great job.

    I like Picard's romance as well, especially since we know its going to end disastrously. It takes awhile for the captain to open up and knowing that he has someone (two someones really) that will put him off emotional entanglements in the future fits the man we know from the Next Generation. I really like the way Phillipa Louvois is portrayed and wish we'd gotten more of her. Basically, there was more to mine there or I just like the author's style too much.

    One of the best "Lost Era" novels.
     
  16. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    MJF gave an exploration of Jack Crusher’s death in Reunion, and the fact that we know that Picard brought the body home always seemed to indicate it had no relation to the loss of the Stargazer (because surely The Battle would have brought it up), so that seems like it would have been what kept Jack from appearing. Likewise, I believe Reunion also made it clear that Vigo (the only Stargazer crew member named in The Batttle beside Picard himself) had been killed there. Since the intent was clearly to keep The Buried Age more or less compatible with the Stargazer novels, that put a few restrictions there right off.

    Though, back to Jack Crusher, there was The First Virtue from the Double Helix series, which is the only major focus Jack Crusher has gotten, aside from Q-Squared’s alternate timeline version. He is a central character in that novel.
     
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  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I wasn't "restricted" in addressing Jack's death -- it just wasn't relevant. My brief was to tell the story of what Picard did between the Stargazer and the Enterprise, and Jack died a year or so before the ship was lost, since it was when Wesley was five (per "True Q"). So the only Stargazer-related thing that was relevant to my book was its actual loss.

    Really, though, Reunion's version of Jack's death is hard to reconcile with TNG canon, because canon says he died on an away mission while the novel says it was during a spacewalk to repair the ship.
     
  18. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I loved AU Jack Crusher from Q-Squared. The show spent years hyping this guy up, and when we finally meet him...
    He's unstable, a bit of a psycho and gets pushed RIGHT over the edge by Q and seeing the other realities. Although that was a life where he lost his son, and IIRC Jean-Luc and Beverly were having an affair behind his back.
     
  19. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Jack Crusher puts in a significant appearance in the IDW one-shot Star Trek: The Next Generation 20/20.
     
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  20. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There's also the MJF/Kevin Ryan TNG novel Requiem which has a Stargazer element.

    And I don't recall the issue number, but there's an issue of DC's TNG comic which features the Stargazer crew as seen in MJF's work over the years.