Friday, July 17, 2009

Losing the Peace

Spoilers ahead.

William Leisner's first full length novel, the post-Destiny Next Generation novel Losing the Peace, is out now. And it's a good, satisfying read.

I found Leisner's "A Less Perfect Union" one of the highlights of the very good Myriad Universes books, and Losing the Peace has some thematic similarities to that story. "A Less Perfect Union" showed the classic Star Trek values beginning to assert themselves in a timeline much less utopian than the one we're used to. Something similar happens in Losing the Peace. The Borg invasion has caused a lot of destruction and displacement in the Federation, and the strains are beginning to show. Certain member worlds are unhappy about the numbers of displaced survivors they've had to take in; conditions aren't good, and tensions are rising. But by the end of the book there are promising signs that the Federation will once more pull together, thanks to some unconventional tactics from Jean-Luc Picard and his crew.

Losing the Peace has a lot of good character moments. Newer characters T'Ryssa Chen, Jasminder Choudhury, and Miranda Kadohata share the spotlight with Jean-Luc Picard, Beverly Crusher, and Worf, each of them getting good scenes and development. There are good continuity touches with TV Trek and recent novels, as well, with the appearance of Pacifica and its native sentient species, the Selkies, the latter also explored in Christopher Bennett's Over a Torrent Sea by way of the character Aili Lavena, and the use of Arandis, played on Deep Space Nine by Vanessa Williams, as a viewpoint character among the displaced Risans.

The story moves quickly and is always engaging; Leisner's prose is clean and clear, and his ear for dialogue is good. There are some much needed lighter moments in what could have been an overwhelmingly dark book; that balance is appreciated.

Some minor notes: Leisner, a resident of Minnesota, names an alien after the Minnesota town of Bemidji, a place where, coincidentally, I once got drunk. And two quibbles: first, while I appreciate the thematic importance of the scenes with a beautiful and peaceful Mogadishu at the beginning of the book, the idea that Geordi is from there jarred a little at first, because LeVar Burton doesn't look Somali. But it's a few hundred years from now, so there's no reason to assume Geordi's Mogadishu isn't as cosmopolitan and diverse as some other cities in the world are now. Second, shouldn't Starfleet have done something about the restrictive DRM on its software by now, so holodocs can be copied rather than just transferred?

But those quibbles don't change the fact that this is a thoughtful, solidly entertaining novel and a strong novel-length debut for Bill Leisner.


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