Monday, March 25, 2013

March 2013: "The Stuff of Dreams"

When the course of the Nexus becomes unpredictable, Starfleet sends a science mission to investigate... but the consequences go far beyond a simple inconvenience and offers the potential to serve as a destabilizing force among the Kinshaya.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
“The Stuff of Dreams”
by James Swallow

When is the last time you read a book in a single sitting? Admittedly, coming in at 88 pages on my iPad, “The Stuff of Dreams” was a shorty, so reading it in an hour or two isn’t much of a feat… but James Swallow certainly pulled one off, creating one of the most entertaining and engrossing Next Generation tales I have ever read.

Building on one of the major unanswered questions of the film “Generations”, Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise join the science vessel Newton in a mission to understand the Nexus, that mysterious energy ribbon which threatened to permanently liberate the Enterprise’s skipper from space-time as he knew it.

Swallow wastes no time delving into the astro-political realities of the Nexus’s current trajectory, and immediately places Picard and the Newton’s commander, Thom Bryant,  into what becomes a protracted tension over how to handle the phenomenon’s impending travels into Kinshaya territory.

Intrigue follows, as a series of unlikely events thrust Jean-Luc Picard into a race against time and a chase against all logic as he attempts to honor his duty to the Federation, and to the wonder and majesty of the universe.

Swallow deftly weaves through particle tendrils, verteron radiation, and the recesses of the mind and heart as he creates a compelling tale that will thrill any fan of the exploration and action that make Star Trek such an engrossing experience. The story never lets up… it’s pace is consistent from start to finish.

Initially, I was experiencing “The Stuff of Dreams” as an episode of a hypothetical TNG revival… but it quickly went beyond those simplistic envisionments. As I was sitting at dinner, reading page after page in rapid succession, I was sitting in front of a movie screen, beholding with crystal clarity a pitch perfect Star Trek story told with amazing fidelity to the source matter. This was, in my mind, the fifth TNG feature film… and it was spectacular.

Don’t let the eBook format deceive you into treating this story as a throwaway, or as a lightweight. While not carrying the tone of the Cold Equations trilogy, Swallow’s jaunt has just as much – perhaps more! – depth than our last visit to the TNG universe. We delve deeply into Picard’s mind – but also into the minds of others who have been wooed by the siren song (or even the elusive promise) that is represented by the Nexus.

This is a Next Generation lover’s feast… and it stands tall as a superior story, meticulously executed, with a smooth, flavorful finish. It is everything a Star Trek story should be… and you should be reading it. Right now. 

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