“Promises are prisons, after all, and the breaking of a promise can poison.”
STAR TREK: PICARD is something of a broken base for me. It’s one of my all-time favorite time periods in the Star Trek chronology for the world-building set up in Season One: the Romulan supernova, the Synthetic Ban, the destruction of Mars, and the lawlessness of the former Neutral Zone. However, the simple fact is that Season Two had no interest in any of this and thus I must turn to secondary canon in order to get my fill. So far, I’ve very much enjoyed all of the books in the setting but just wish for more. MOAR.
The premise of this book is Raffi Musiker getting some much needed spotlight. I admit that I’ve already listened to PICARD: NO MAN’S LAND and enjoyed that exploration of her character as well as Seven’s relationship with her. It was too short but I very much enjoyed it, so this already started with a heavy hurdle to overcome. Another heavy hurdle is the fact that this is a bridge novel between Season 1 and Season 2 when so many changes were betwene the finale versus the season opener.
So how does Una McCormick handle this? Well, she doesn’t focus on a lot of the issues but does tackle one or two very well. Raffi has been offered a position back in Starfleet Intelligence due to the fact, well, she proved that THE DESTRUCTION OF MARS was a Romulan plot and that the head of Starfleet Intelligence was a double agent.
I’m going to come back to this but NO KIDDING she should be allowed back into Starfleet Intelligence. However, she’s not sure she wants the job and Elnor is feeling aimless because he succeeded in the doomed cause he was supposed to not succeed on (if I understand my Romulan truth nun religion). Maybe he’ll join Starfleet, maybe he’ll do something else. Raffi instead recruits him on a mission to hunt a Cardassian war criminal that is suspiciously unnamed for half of the novel.
I admit I guessed the identity of the “war criminal” fairly early and am glad for their appearance in the story, though they did kind of steal the story from Raffi. I really enjoyed the focus on a smaller Bajoran/Cardassian/Romulan/Cardassian world, though. It kind of neatly tied together the various fallen empires and their interrelationships with one another. I also liked the ending, which I was surprised the Star Trek editors allowed Una McCormick to do since it writes such an important character out.
On the positives, I definitely like this depiction of Raffi and its interesting to see her in her younger idealistic days before she had her spirit broken by the Romulan Crisis. We get to see her confused and angry about so many people getting hooked on Space OpiumTM to cope with the horrors of the Dominion War while another character confronts her later about her own addiction. Personally, I don’t think Raffi ever did anything harder than Space WeedTM and I don’t think we have to worry about her doing that. I’m pretty sure that’s considered a harmless treat in the 24th century. I’m with Seth MacFarlane there and I rarely am. I also loved Elnor’s use in the story and he got some much needed character development.
If I had a problem with the story, it’s that I really kind of feel like Raffi’s situation is unchanged for what should be dramatic revelations. Starfleet Intelligence acts like she made them look foolish and my response is, “Yes, that’s what being fools generally results in.” She made the biggest intelligence coup of all time and exposed the worst security breach in Starfleet since TNG’s “Conspiracy.” They should be falling over themselves to apologize because they antagonized and belittled their comrade for years before the truth was exposed. The fact they don’t is believable in the 21st century but marks them as complete scumbags by the 24th century. Hell, it marks them as such in this century too.
I also feel regretful we don’t get to see her have a conversation with her son, Gabriel, who at the very least should at least acknowlege that his mother wasn’t a crazy anti-Romulan bigot. No, I don’t think it would repair their relationship because he was upset with her for the fact she was saving refugees instead of spending time with him (which, honestly, is not a good look either). However, I really would have liked them to have had another conversation on-page because I think that would have been good. Really, these are some particularly scummy and selfish 24th century types as they’re way more concerned about their own feelings than the fate of millions.
One final bit of commentary is the book does something similar to James Luceno’s TARKIN novel in that it does actually bring the broad strokes of a now-defunct canon back into, well, semi-canon. I saw a lot of nods to the DS9 relaunch material and while we don’t mention specifics, I think it was all good to see. I hope the authors will continue to throw in such nods whenever possible. I love Una McCormack’s writing in general and while I didn’t care for this as much as THE LAST BEST HOPE, I still felt it was a great Raffi novel AND the guest character novel. A fitting send off for them even if it’s also sort of an ironic hell for him (I can think of no job he’s less suited for than the one he ends up spending his twilight years stuck with).
But what war crimes WAS he charged with?