I’m one of those odd balls. I love paranormal books, I love vampire novels. But I do not like the Anita Blake series and other such works by Laurell K. Hamilton. That said, I do love Star Trek. So when I came across a Star Trek: the Next Generation novel that was written by Hamilton I still read it.
In Nightshade we meet two new alien races. The Orianians and the Milgians. The Orianians have been at war with each other for over 200 years and they have been destroying their planet. They’ve asked the Federation to step in and send Captain Picard as an ambassador to help establish peace talks and save their planet. There are three factions on Oriana, the Torlicks, the Venturies, and the Greens. The Torlicks and Venturies are war-like while the Greens are peaceful (no stretch there, considering American politics). Picard beams down with a limited party of Lt. Worf and Counselor Troi and soon finds himself at the center of a murder investigation. The leader of the Venturi has been assassinated right in front of him and both the Venturies and the Torlicks have singled out Picard and the representatives from the Greens as the only possible suspects. Worf finds himself acting as ambassador and investigator on behalf of the Federation while Troi finds herself trying to tackle the empathic overflow from the Orianians and their wild empathic talents.
Meanwhile Riker and the Enterprise answer the distress call from a Milgian ship whose engines are threatening to explode any minute. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge and Dr. Beverly Crusher beam over with an away team to see what they can do, both for the crew and the ship. The Milgians are a stubborn lot and most refuse to beam off their vessel, preferring instead to go down with their ship. Geordi’s VISoR shows that the Milgians and their ship are constructed in much the same manner, Crusher discovers something similar on board the Enterprise as she administers aid. Crusher and Geordi agree that they might be able to repair the engines if they work together.
You’ll have to read the book to find out how things work out. I was pleasantly surprised by the story. Hamilton’s not as adept at the science as most of the other authors for Star Trek, but the hard science doesn’t matter in this story. The human aspect, if you will, is what matters. A centuries long civil war, children dying, a planet dying. We stuff like that all the time in our own lives. The almost constant state of war that we are in someone on this Earth, starving people, children born with birth defects due to environmental pollution – all these things that the Orianians experience are mirrored in our own world. Originally published in 1992, Nightshade could easily be making an allusion to the first Gulf War, but its content is valid even for today.