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TrekMovie continues catching up on recently released Star Trek novels to help with your summer reading list. Today we take a look at "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Indistinguishable from Magic," a new standalone novel from David A. McIntee which reunites engineers LaForge and Scott and brings back some of the concepts (and cast) of the former Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook series.
REVIEW: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Indistinguishable From Magic
Pocketbooks – March 2011
Mass-market Paperback – $7.99
When the starship Intrepid, a contemporary of the NX-01, appears to have been destroyed in the aftermath of the Earth/Romulan War, little more consideration is given to the history of the ill-fated ship until its hulk is found drifting hundreds of light years from its point of disappearance by the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701 E). With more urgent matters at hand, and the need for specialized techniques to assist in providing an honorable homecoming for the Intrepid, Starfleet dispatches the USS Challenger under the command of Captain Montgomery Scott to take hold of the situation. Commander LaForge stays on the scene with the Challenger, and the real genesis of the first story is set up. So if you were wondering, that is the USS Challenger on the cover, and this book is (mostly) set after the recent Typhon Pact 24th century novel series.
One of the most outstanding elements of McIntee’s outing, is the fact that it is really two novels in one. After the first storyline resolves itself (and leaves a tantalizing tidbit of its own behind), a new story picks up the evidence and moves into an even more ambitious storyline; one which results in deeply personal discoveries for LaForge, and decisions of great consequence for Scotty. However, as both stories focus around mysteriously located Federation starships, the break between the two makes up a paltry portion of the overall book, and it is hard to divorce the feeling that flows from both stories from one another.
McIntee is quite ambitious in the scope of characters, with a cavalcade of guest stars including: Leah Brahms, Reginald Barclay, Sela, Berlinghoff Rasmussen, Sonya Gomez, even Spock. However, while both stories have very interesting concepts, both scientifically and dramatically, the story is unable to escape from the small-universe syndrome brought about by so many significant names that work their way into the story from other sources. For the most part, they all have some reason to be present, though, I would argue, not reasons that couldn’t have been handled by new character.
Berlinghoff Rasmussen, Leah Brahms, Spock, and Sela – just some of the many familiar characters who show up in "Indistinguishable From Magic"
As far as characterizations, McIntee is hit and miss. At times Scotty seems far more wistful than he should be, given his current situation. LaForge is spot-on, as is Reg Barclay. Rasmussen’s background is credibly expanded upon, but Nog feels a bit off. By far the worst treatment from McIntee’s keyboard is reserved for Sela, whose constant bitterness towards her mother takes (at least in this reviewer’s opinion) a single line in one episode and makes far too much out of it. It is hard to imagine how the Sela portrayed in “Indistinguishable From Magic” could rise to any kind of seniority in the Romulan military, political, or intelligence communities.
“Indistinguishable From Magic”, for all its flaws, is a highly imaginative and creative tale. The execution falls a bit flat, but the concepts McIntee explores will stimulate some thinking on the reader’s part. There are some wonderfully profound moments in the story, but it’s just hard to shake out the small-universe scope of the overall tale.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation: Indistinguishable from Magic," is available now at Amazon.
More Star Trek fiction for summer reading
There are more new and recent Star Trek novels to keep you going for this summer, including Christopher L. Bennett’s "Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching The Clock" (see TrekMovie review). There is also the just-released "Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified" collection with stories by Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Marco Palmieri and David Mack. And if you long for the Delta Qudrant, there is Kirsten Beyer’s "Star Trek: Voyager: Children of the Storm." TrekMovie will have reviews
of the Vanguard and Voyager books in the coming weeks.
And if you are looking for adventures in the new Star Trek universe, and are a younger reader (or young at heart), there is the young adult "Starfleet Academy" series. The third book in the series, "Starfleet Academy: Gemini Agent," by Rick Barba should is just arriving in book stores. It joins "Starfleet Academy: The Delta Anomaly" (also by Barba) and "Starfleet Academy: The Edge" (by Rudy Josephs) released late last year.
Pocket Books provided TrekMovie with a copy of this book for review.