Star Trek: TNG--Vendetta (Peter David)
Read again: I don't know.
The Borg. The Ferengi. A planet-killer bent on destroying the Borg. Riker's beard. Foreshadowing via Picard flashback to his Academy days, foreshadowing via Geordi LaForge tilting at Holodeck windmills.
Ever wish you could wipe out the entire race of soulless Borg who eradicated your planet? All you need is a planet-killer--the enormous cornucopia of destruction from the Original Series' "The Doomsday Machine." It's indestructible, chops up planets for fuel, and someone bent on revenge has gotten ahold of one. Picard's foreshadowing has him studying the original Doomsday Machine in Starfleet Academy, hoping to find out where the mysterious ship came from.
Then there are the Penzatti, the latest victims of the Borg. Their planet gets wasted on their equivalent of Thanksgiving, the day where all Penzatti thank their gods for making them sooo much better than any other race. Apparently their gods are irrelevant.
Nitpick: The Penzatti planet is almost utterly demolished by the Borg; yet there's still enough of an atmosphere for the few survivors of the attack--and their rescuers--to survive. "Chunks" of atmosphere scooped away like so much ice cream. I'd like a bit better "sci" with my "fi."
On the Borg side, there's a woman, completely assimilated, playing Dulcinea or windmill for LaForge. He's sure she can be "saved" from Borgdom. Can she? David hits the reader over the head with her condition. After the first couple of times of reminding us that there's no "there" there with her, she's a blank slate, a zero, a cipher, an empty cup...all right, all right, I get it, dude. Just tell the story! That's the first point off. If I want hand-holding, I'll watch a George Lucas movie.
The rub for me is that this and so many other stories have something introduced at the beginning that gets echoed everywhere in the story. In this case, it's the tale of Don Quixote echoed in each of the main characters--Picard's Dulcinea (and his windmill?) is the woman who seeks to destroy the Borg. We have an unimaginative captain (an Academy rival of Picard's) who must be Sancho, yet he's obsessed with Picard, so he's got some Quixote, as well. The major moral is obvious: we all have our Dulcinea to be obsessed with, our own windmills at which to tilt, and our own Sancho moments. The Borg are, in this case, the ultimate unimaginative Sanchos. The rub is that the whole parallel to Don Quixote is forced to the point of numbness. A few threads, subtle references to the original, would have sufficed.
As with most of the other Star Trek books I've got, I haven't read this one in maybe 10 years. It's one of a few I've read 5 times or more. It's not as good as I remembered, and that's a shame, because Peter David was my favorite Trek author. If his stuff hasn't weathered well, I shudder to think of how bad the worst books will be. His style feels a bit clunky, or clumsy. Heavy-handed, and that's the second point off--which is a shame, because the story is a good basic concept. It could be so much _better._
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