Surveying a nebula as part of their continuing exploration of the previously uncharted “Odyssean Pass,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise encounter a rogue planet. Life signs are detected on the barren world’s surface, and then a garbled message is received: a partial warning to stay away at all costs.

Determined to render assistance, Picard dispatches Commander Worf and an away team to investigate, but their shuttlecraft is forced to make an emergency landing on the surface—moments before all contact is lost and the planet completely disappears.

Worf and his team learn that this mysterious world is locked into an unending succession of random jumps between dimensions, the result of an ambitious experiment gone awry. The Enterprise crewmembers and the alien scientists who created the technology behind this astonishing feat find themselves trapped, powerless to break the cycle.

Meanwhile, as the planet continues to fade in and out of various planes of existence, other parties have now taken notice….

Entertaining and engaging, Dayton Ward’s latest Star Trek novel Headlong Flight is the author’s best to date.

Ward presents an irresistible puzzle for Picard and company in this Next Generation tale, the kind they used to encounter during their seven-season syndicated run aboard the Enterprise-D. Speaking of that starship, Ward was not content to just write a straight-forward story, but added a tried a few true Star Trek elements – both time and inter-dimensional travel.

Headlong Flight opens on a familiar scene, as Geordi and Data prepare for the duo’s recurring poker night with their crewmates – yet something is different as readers soon learn this scene is set aboard the Enterprise-D, about a year after Wolf 359. That’s not all that’s different from what we know, however, as it’s revealed that this Enterprise is also from a alternate dimension where events unfolded quite differently than what we watched in “The Best of Both Worlds.”

Comfortable and reassuring, Ward allows readers to sink into a time of nostalgia when The Next Generation‘s adventures unfolded in weekly installments. There is something unmistakably soothing as experiencing the Enterprise-D crew back in action, even if the personnel involved have changed.

“They’re dealing with this just like you are. It’s strange for all of us.”

Portraying the characters of both Enterprise-D (and Enterprise-E) crews with such an intimate and personal knowledge, it is hard to imagine another author capturing the characters as well as Ward. He injects a natural humor and writes with an apparent ease that brings the characters to life, allowing readers to instantly recognize them.

Ward admittedly prefers to write for the classic Original Series characters when afforded the chance, but as a reader it seems that his best fit really is with the Next Generation crew.

Clever labels ‘Here’ and ‘Elsewhere’ help delineate the dual crews — and dimensions — so readers always understand where and when events are occurring. And as if two Enterprises from different dimensions and times were not enough, Ward also introduces a third ship – a Romulan Bird-of-Prey, from yet one more alternate dimension, one set a century earlier. Events spiral out of control quickly as both Enterprise crews must act instead of satiating their instinctually curiosity about the rogue planet. Meanwhile, the Romulan subcommander, Sarith, injects another obstacle in which both crews must contend.

All three ships encounter the rogue planet in each of its own dimension, but the real mystery is not in the planet fading in and out of each plane of existence – but rather, who or what is causing it to shift between realms. Eventually, each of the separate crews team up together in one location – and allows readers to experience a fascinating interaction between the two Enterprise crews. There is an understandable hesitancy between them as not to reveal too much.

While regular Star Trek fiction readers are familiar with the Enterprise-E‘s current crew roster, they’ll quickly discover a compelling portrayal of an alternate William Riker from the Enterprise-D dimension – and Ward spends a lot of time with him, which makes Headlong Flight all the more enjoyable.

“Play the hand you’re dealt.”

Ward bookends the story with the ritualistic poker game back aboard the Enterprise-D. The senior staff tradition is a favorite interaction among fans, and he utilizes it to great effect when it comes to Riker’s personal journey. The irreverent author even finds a natural moment to apparently throw in a blink-and-you-missed-it nod to his 2016 Vulcan travel guide, an in-universe tourist’s handbook to that logical alien planet.

Headlong Flight is an enjoyable read, and while some of what ensues might be predictable, Dayton Ward also delivers an unexpected twist which could have serious consequences for all involved.

Hopefully, the tale of this alternate Enterprise-D does not end here, as it would be exciting to see what impact each Enterprise has on the other.