TNG: Genesis Force, by John Vornholt

TNG Genesis Force, by John Vornholt coverGenre: Star Trek
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: half star
Book Review by Fraser Ronald

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To call this book a Star Trek book is a bit of a misnomer. The Federation certainly instigates the prime plot trigger, but this is done off stage. Work and his two sons, Alexander and adopted Jeremy Aster, are involved more than any other character from the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) TV series and movies, but even they play supporting roles rather than starring. Not even the Star Trek universe itself plays much of a role.

This book is part of a series, though I have not read the others in the series and, quite honestly, have no intention of doing so. Somehow, the Genesis Device has been resurrected, or re-developed, or something, and evil moss creatures–yes, that’s right, evil moss creatures–are trying to remake worlds in their own image. It’s never explained in this book, though maybe it is elsewhere, how these moss creatures were able to make the Genesis device create sentient life. In the movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, life forms evolved later, at a substantially accelerated rate, and since evolution is not fixed but rather has a large element of chance and chaos involved, one would not expect–or at least I did not expect–Genesis planets to end up with exactly the same flora and fauna, especially intelligent fauna.

In any case, this book focuses on one planet and a cast of characters based on that planet. The books opens with a scene of Worf evacuating another Genesis planet, and I assumed–given that this is marketed as a TNG novel–that Worf and his former crew mates on the Enterprise would command center stage. As it became more and more obvious that they would be relegated to secondary status–and in the case of the Enterprise, pretty much window dressing rather than actually affecting the plot in any way–I became more and more disenchanted.

If the characters had been engaging or the writing vibrant or the plot complex and arresting, I might have been less disappointed. Unfortunately, the characters were poorly developed and too stereotypical, the writing workmanlike at best and clumsy at worst and the plot pedestrian. I would have honestly given up on this book much sooner if I had not agreed to review it. As it is, I read two other books while slogging through this one.

This book is rife with problems; aspects that made me alternately shake my head and scratch it. Very important events happen off-stage. A main character has been affected by the dreaded brain-altering fungus, and I expected a certain amount of drama when this was discovered, possibly even some kind of conflict in which she does not believe this or struggles against the inoculation to cure her. Later, as her actions become less and less rational, or even characteristic, I expected that the cure had never been administered, why else would it be done off-stage? It turns out, it was just poor writing.

There is also a lot of hand-waving in this book. Inexplicable things happen that later need a character to explain it. The explanations are such that there is no clue previous that such a thing could or would happen. It seems, to me, to be just lazy writing. At the end–which I won’t spoil for you, though I honestly don’t recommend reading this book–there is a technical explanation for a particular sacrifice that makes no sense. It is glossed over without even the usual amount of techno-babble inherent in this genre.

Further, those characters I know from TNG acted in completely uncharacteristic fashions. I can’t explain too much without using spoilers for very late in the book, but Alexander Rozenkho, Worf’s son, is in charge of a murder investigation, and he allows the investigation to be suborned by local politics, without argument. Data allows an individual to knowingly commit suicide–granted, a noble sacrifice-type suicide–without any attempt to dissuade them or find another solution to the problem that leads to the sacrifice.

Also, as soon as power is lost on the Enterprise, it is abandoned. There have been plenty of instances in which the Enterprise has lost power for extended periods of time and there has been no call to abandon it. The explanation involves warp core containment, but again, the Enterprise has been in similar situations without the threat of containment failure. Further, the Klingon vessel also in the vicinity is unaffected as it had its shields up, meaning that the Federation’s containment equipment and processes are so lax that something shields could withstand utterly destroys the containment system. Apparently, the Federation has no redundant systems, no special protection, nothing that a simple power failure can’t circumvent. That seemed ridiculous.

So, basically, this book is not really a TNG novel (unless any appearance by the cast of TNG, whether they actually do anything or not, makes a book a TNG novel), it has a pedestrian plot filled with hand-waving and lazy characterization. I have not outlined all the problems I found with the book, and there were plenty. I cannot recommend this book, even to TNG fans. Who would want to read a book in which the supposed stars (TNG crew) are mere window-dressing while all the real action is taken by new characters? Think of an episode in which the Enterprise goes to a planet with a huge, global problem, but the crew are in the background and everything important is done by that episode’s ‘guest stars’ and you’ve got the basis for this novel.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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