REVIEW: “Star Trek: TNG — The Light Fantastic”

Star Trek: TNG
The Light Fantastic
By Jeffrey Lang
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Pocket Books

 

From the back cover:

He was perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form—self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and a body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming.

And then Data was destroyed.

Four years later, Data’s creator, Noonien Soong, sacrificed his life and resurrected his android son, who in turn revived the positronic brain of his own artificial daughter, Lal. Having resigned his commission, the former Starfleet officer now works to make his way on an alien world, while also coming to grips with the very human notion of wanting versus having a child.

But complicating Data’s new life is an unexpected nemesis from years ago on the U.S.S. Enterprise—the holographic master criminal Professor James Moriarty. Long believed to be imprisoned in a memory solid, Moriarty has created a siphon into the "real" world as a being of light and thought. Moriarty wants the solid form that he was once told he could never have, and seeks to manipulate Data into finding another android body for him to permanently inhabit . . . even if it means that is Data himself.

Returning to the story begun in the novel Immortal Coil and continuing in the bestselling Cold Equations trilogy, this is the next fascinating chapter in the artificial life of one of Star Trek’s most enduring characters.

My thoughts:

I had a great many thoughts while reading this novel. Regular followers of my reviews will remember than I very much enjoyed the books that preceded this one in the telling of Data's story: Jeffrey Lang's own Immortal Coil, as well as the Cold Equations trilogy by David Mack that finally returned Data to the land of the living.

Is it Data, though?

That's the question I kept asking myself while reading The Light Fantastic. And as troubling as this may be, the answer I was forced to come to was no... and yes. A lot of the elements that made Data who he is are there: the sometimes child-like innocence shows through occasionally, but it is definitely tempered by an "edge" that his character didn't have before.

soong

As user "Deranged Nasat" put it on TrekBBS's Trek Literature board, "Data 2.0 is both greatly familiar and alarmingly unpredictable." This is not exactly the Data we've come to know and love, but something new... but still someone who is familiar. And Jeffrey Lang is able to craft his voice perfectly.

The characters in this novel are a real treat to read about. The friendship between Data and LaForge has certainly changed, but still retains many of the elements of the close relationship they had in TNG. And kudos to Mr. Lang for addressing the minor discontinuity between David McIntee's novel Indistinguishable From Magic and the later TNG novels with regards to LaForge's relationship(s). Polyamory (or at least open relationships) seems to be a topic that is being explored lately.

Other characters in the novel such as Lal, Alice, Shakti, and Albert Lee were welcome additions, and each had unique moments that were a pleasure to read. The primary antagonist, Moriarty, and his consort, the Countess Regina Bartholomew, were likewise compelling. Moriarty has the potential to be a very cliched villain, and it is the character's seeming awareness of this that contributes to how well he works in the story.

moriarty

The continuity connections in this novel are nothing short of spectacular. As with his earlier entry, Immortal Coil, Lang mines the entirety of Trek history for ties to his story, drawing from the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

I particularly enjoyed the ending of this story. Both ambiguous and sowing the seeds for further adventures, the ending left me excited for further adventures with Data and even, perhaps, Moriarty.

Final thoughts:

In an interview on Trek.fm's Literary Treks podcast (an interview in which I had the privilege of taking part), Jeffrey Lang said that Margaret Clark -- editor of the Trek literature line at Pocket Books -- called Lang's story a "nice dessert" after the seriousness of The Fall and its political intrigue and machinations. I would have to agree.

While the threat in The Light Fantastic is quite real, the story felt like a much-needed bit of lighter fare, and one that I enjoyed immensely. In my opinion, The Light Fantastic is the top Trek novel of the year (so far... we still have Seekers on the way, not to mention another Voyager entry from the amazing Kirsten Beyer!)

Top marks for this one from me. I look forward to seeing many more Jeffrey Lang novels to come!

- Reviewed by Literature Editor Dan Gunther

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Order Star Trek TNG:
The Light Fantastic
  • Sykes

    Who doesn’t enjoy a caper?

  • mjdavid

    Excellent review TrekCore, now I’m going to have to pick this up. The quality of the “24th Century books” has, in my opinion, only improved since ‘Nemesis’ and it sounds like this story is a nice departure from all the political drama in “The Fall” and the “Typhon Pact” books.

  • Brian C. Bock

    So, for those of us who haven’t read the entirety of the Pocket Books continuation, but who did see the entire series all the movies, what books would I have to read to be up to speed on this particular story. Last I knew, Soong, Data and Lal were all dead. Apparently this has changed. What books lead from the last movie to this book?

    • http://www.treklit.com/ Dan Gunther

      Hi Brian! The Light Fantastic follows on from David Mack’s Cold Equations trilogy. Books one through three are “The Persistence of Memory,” “Silent Weapons,” and “The Body Electric.” There’s another bonus to be gained from reading these novels: if I’ve read into the publishers description properly, David Mack’s upcoming “Section 31: Disavowed” picks up on a plot point from these novels.

      Additionally, you might be interested in checking out Jeffrey Lang’s “Immortal Coil.” Cold Equations was a sequel to this story. It takes place before Nemesis, but reading it will make the experience of reading Cold Equations all the more interesting!

      • Brian C. Bock

        Thanks!