Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Best and the Brightest by Susan Wright

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Damian, May 17, 2021.

  1. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    This novel was originally released in 1998 and it takes place between 2368 and 2372. I believe it's supposed to be at least loosely tied to the young adult Starfleet Academy series (which other than the final book in the Day of Honor series I never read). It basically follows a group of cadets through their years at Starfleet Academy, interspersed with events going on in the Star Trek universe at the time, such as the beginnings of the Maquis, the events of Generations, the discovery of the Dominion, and the beginnings of the on again off again conflict with the Klingon Empire over Cardassia.

    In many ways it's what you'd expect of a story following cadets. a coming of age story, or group of stories really. There isn't really an overarching plot, other than we're following these cadets through their time at the Academy. Each chapter basically focuses on 2 or 3 of the cadets as they face some challenge they have to overcome. The most interesting part of the book is these cadets are not what you'd call the best of the best. They end up with reprimands and get into some trouble, though they each have their individual strengths that help them overcome some of those weaknesses.

    Overall, I'd rate the book as fair. It's not that it was poorly written or anything like that. It's just that it's not the type of story that I easily warm up to. I had a hard time getting through some of the chapters. There were a few 'mini-stories' that I liked better than others, like one where a former Bajoran vedek who joined Starfleet rescues some Orion slave women. He's a character that never realized he is braver than he thinks he is. On the flip side is a character who is called a Rex (whose name is Bobbie Rae which I thought was a bit odd for an alien character) who is on a survival quest of sorts with another character and they are ambushed by others of his kind, simply because they were confused by his actions. That was a slog to get through, despite the action, and it didn't make a lot of sense.

    I'd probably only recommend this book to people who like coming of age types of books. It carries TNG label, probably because it features more characters and story elements related to TNG than the other series, but it also carries some elements of DS9 and a few Voyager tidbits as well. But if you pick it up just thinking it's another TNG novel, you'll probably be disappointed.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, I don't think so. There was an initial plan to publish it under the Starfleet Academy banner and use the YA series's logo, but aside from that, I'm pretty sure the only connection is the choice of setting.


    Oh, I loved that part. Trek is usually so simplistic about aliens -- every Vulcan is from Vulcan and follows Surak, every Andorian is from Andor, etc. That makes no sense in a 200-year-old Federation. There would be immigrants. There would be children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants. There would be aliens born and raised on Earth, with Earth names and Earth roots going back generations. There would be humans born and raised on Vulcan or Andor with Vulcan or Andorian names and cultural values. An Earth-born non-human named Bobbie Ray Jefferson should not be odd. It's odd that there aren't more characters like him.


    I think it only carries the TNG label because it was the best-selling title of the various 24th-century series, so they figured it would sell better under that logo. It's a case of marketing over accuracy; it's about equally based on TNG, DS9, and VGR elements and storylines, as I recall. It really should've been under the Starfleet Academy banner, but Pocket at the time wasn't as willing to experiment with new spinoff series.
     
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  3. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The only thing I remember from this is feeling uncomfortable that an adult male was involved with a female who was of legal age but had the outward appearence of a tween.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's no reason to feel uncomfortable. There are a lot of adult women who can be visually mistaken for teenagers; I had a friend like that in college. Refusing to accept them as adults because of their appearance is unfair to them.

    Fear of pedophilia should be reserved for situations where actual children are involved. Our society has become unhealthily judgmental of perfectly harmless and legitimate things just because they remind us of pedophilia.
     
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  5. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Well, I guess I would say there's a bit more TNG in the novel than the other 2. Guinan and Captain Picard show up, as does Admiral Brand, who was only seen on TNG, and it depicts some of the scenes from Generations on the Enterprise from the book characters' point of view. So TNG has the most elements featured. In 2nd would be DS9. Jadzia makes an appearance, and some story elements featured on DS9 show up, and the station itself has a cameo appearance. As for Voyager no characters appear, though B'Elanna and Harry Kim are mentioned, and this ship being lost was noted.

    Obviously TNG being attached is like you said, pure marketing. It's why I noted that someone buying this hoping they are getting a TNG story would be quite disappointed. But if you're picking one of the 3 for most relevant, TNG would probably fit the best of the 3 from a story perspective. Plus the Academy does make an appearance in TNG, whereas it really doesn't in the other 2 shows.

    I tend to agree in this case. Starsa (the character undergoing their species version of puberty) obviously is not a child. She has to have a certain amount of maturity to get into the Academy. And even by the end of the book they are just starting their relationship, and honestly by the time they get together she has already undergone her 'change' so she's more or less her species equivalent of a young adult by the time they start dating anyway.

    He was also the one that rescued the Orion Slave women and he showed remarkable restraint around them (perhaps being a former Vedek helped him a bit in that regard). So you definitely don't get the feeling that he would in any way take advantage of Starsa. In a way they were the perfect couple. She is more likely to take risks and is the more adventurous one, while he is more careful and more reserved. So she would probably help him experience life a little more, have a little fun, while he might help her avoid taking dangerous risks and perhaps think a bit before acting.

    In some ways he was probably one of my favorite characters from the book. A guy who's trying to find himself. Also a guy who is better than he thinks he is. He thought of himself as a coward, yet he took a chance when it counted most and helped bring an end to the slave trade at an outpost, just because he tried to do the right thing. He could have sat back and did nothing, and no one would have thought anything of it. But he befriended one of the Orion women, who was probably actually the equivalent of a tween, and he couldn't just leave her there.

    I know I myself am bad at judging women's ages. And some women have this amazing ability to look younger than they are, sometimes by years. I have a friend who is going to be 40 this year and she doesn't look a day over 25. I've known her for 10 years now and I swear she hasn't aged a day, and it's not like she wears a lot of make up (how do women do that anyway???). I'm 46 and look like I'm 50 :wtf:
     
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  6. Desert Kris

    Desert Kris Captain Captain

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    This book reminds me of general talk about TOS novel The Kobayashi Maru, I've heard many comments that it's easier to go in expecting the characters during their academy days and not fixate on each character taking that test.

    I haven't read either yet, but they sound like they have a similar appeal for their academy focus, but work better when a reader has their expectations calibrated. I look forward to reading them for their exploration of life at Starfleet Academy.
     
  7. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I couldn't dissuade myself of the notion the whole idea was invented as a kind of wish fulfillment fantasy. It's okay, she only looks like a child.:barf2:

    I think I read it shortly after the Voyager Homecoming duology, which infuriated me with it's treatment of sexual abuse victims.
     
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  8. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I guess I saw it a bit differently, I suppose because Starsa is an alien. I think it helped because Zak Kebron underwent the Brikar version of puberty in the New Frontier novels--and no one would mistaken Zak's 'pre-pubescent' stage as that of a child or even a teen.

    Also her family already thought, based on his attentiveness, that they were a couple, so there was no issue with the family disapproving.

    I mean, I can see your point. But I think the fact that she was an alien, that I read a similar transition previously with Kebron in NF, the family's approval, and add in that based on how Reoh was written (as a character that would never take advantage of Starsa, or anyone for that matter) never gave me the feeling that anything was inappropriate.

    I was actually kind of happy for Reoh. He was what you would call 'the nice guy.' He just wants to do the right thing, and I liked that the nice guy found someone to fall in love with. Sometimes the nice guy does get the girl ;)

    Though thinking about Zak now I realize if you read this novel when it came out, Zak's transition wasn't featured until a few years later so you wouldn't have that as a comparison.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's damned unfair to assume the worst about other people's motives, especially to accuse someone of something that hideous. "Guilty until proven innocent" is never a justifiable way to view other people.

    I think if you bothered to find out more about Susan Wright and her advocacy work, you'd hopefully recognize how ludicrous it would be to suspect her of approving of any kind of nonconsensual or predatory sex.
     
  10. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It made me uncomfortable and seemed like a really unnecessary way to get across the idea of cultural differences and not to make assumptions. It read like trying to normalise something that should under no circumstances be normalised. You may disagree but it's my opinion.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    And it's a deeply insulting and unfair opinion. "It's my opinion" is never an excuse to attack another person's morality.

    And again, it's shallow, superficial, and wrong to mistake resembling a child for being one. It's insulting and discriminatory against adults who are childlike in appearance or stature. Judge people for who they are, not what they superficially look like to you.
     
  12. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    To be fair, it would be different if she was, in fact, under age chronologically. Like if she were human and she was 16 and he was 22, yeah, in that case that would probably be an issue.

    But in fairness to the author I don't think that was the case here. I never got the impression Starsa was under age. Just that her species experienced physical developmental changes at a different rate that Reoh's (it was noted Bajoran puberty lasts several years). And again, I want to point out Reoh was always the 'perfect gentleman' and was written in such a way that he would never take advantage of Starsa. So it never 'felt' inappropriate in any way to me.

    In fact, he even offered to leave her because he thought she might have been uncomfortable with her family seeing him as her boyfriend. It was only after she assured him that she would like him to remain with her that he did.

    It felt rather natural to me. And like I said, their personalities would probably complement one another, with her getting him to enjoy life a bit more and live in the moment more, and him helping her to think before leaping.

    And it was good to see the nice guy have a chance at romance. Reoh was one of my favorite characters in the book for the reasons I noted previously. Someone trying to find himself. He's not going to be the next Captain Picard or anything, but he's found something he's good at, something he's comfortable doing, and he's found someone that maybe he could have a life with that helps him realize his full potential.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Ummm... it's been a while, but doesn't the human kind last several years too?
     
  14. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As someone who grew up in a conservative Catholic community in suburban Ohio in the 1990s, I think this book was my first real exposure to the concept of homosexuality. I kept checking to make sure I hadn't misread, and that one of the two women wasn't actually a man.
     
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  15. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, it sounded similar to human puberty. I just noted that it was a contrast to what was going on with Starsa and how you couldn't say they were the same.

    It was probably an early example of homosexuality showing up in Star Trek as well. I'm sure there were probably earlier examples but this was probably one of the first times it was a significant plot point (though Wright didn't make a big deal of it in the sense that people weren't 'shocked' they were in a relationship as 2 women).
     
  16. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I am fairly certain there is no earlier example of a same-sex relationship in prose Star Trek fiction, and the only preceding screen appearance would be "Rejoined." IIRC Wright talks about it a little bit in Voyages of Imagination.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, it was the first time anyone managed to get a same-sex relationship into a Trek novel, although Wright had to keep it so vague that you could barely tell they were more than friends.
     
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  18. Damian

    Damian Commodore Commodore

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    I thought it was pretty overt. Early on she admitted to herself she was madly in love with Moll, than she pursued her for a while before Moll finally admitted she shared those feelings. Then they started dating and said "I love you" a couple times to one another.

    Now, early on there might have been some doubt about whether Moll shared her feelings, but by the end there was no doubt they were a couple.
     
  19. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    And that is an acceptable reaction. That discomfort can lead to new thinking. The novel has served a purpose and led to discussions about the issue(s).
     
  20. Shamrock Holmes

    Shamrock Holmes Commodore Commodore

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    My favourite part of the Moll-Jayme thing was how utterly unbothered about it being a homosexual relationship everyone was. Many people tried to say things against it (usually to dissuade Jayme) but it was always the same kind of "she's out of league", "she doesn't date" type stuff that a guy would get in a similar situation.
     
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