Monday, May 18, 2015

A Weary Life

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Slings and Arrows, Book V
A Weary Life by Robert Greenberger
An e-book exclusive novella
Published February 2008
Read January 11th 2015

Previous book (Slings and Arrows): That Sleep of Death
Next book (Slings and Arrows): Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment

E-book (Kindle): | |

Spoilers ahead for A Weary Life and the rest of the Slings and Arrows series!

From the back cover:
A team from the Enterprise -- Riker, La Forge, and Daniels -- are sent to deal with the latest threat from the Maquis. For La Forge and Daniels, it's just another mission, but Riker must face the spectre of his transporter twin Tom Riker, who left Starfleet to join the Maquis.

When the Enterprise team is caught between the Maquis and the Cardassians, Riker finds himself with an important decision to make -- one that may affect his future in Starfleet...

My thoughts:

The Thomas Riker storyline is one that has always intrigued me. From his introduction in TNG's "Second Chances" to his surprise appearance on Deep Space Nine in the episode "Defiant," Tom has presented an interesting complication in the lives of the characters. It is also clear that Jonathan Frakes enjoyed playing the character. There is an exuberance that he displays whenever he is on screen that makes it apparent that the character was a joy to play. Therefore, you can imagine that I was very happy to see him on the cover of this e-book. A story about Tom Riker? I'm in!

Starting A Weary Life, I was expecting a story featuring Will and Tom Riker facing off against one another, but I was surprised to discover that Tom doesn't actually appear in the story.

Unfortunately, I had gotten a little ahead of myself. While the "spectre" of Tom Riker looms heavily in this novella, the character himself never actually appears. The story is still a strong one with a lot of emotional resonance, but I would still have liked to have an appearance by the transporter twin. However, this only takes a small bit away from what is a pretty good story.

There were a few story and language choices that took me out of the story at times. For example, Greenberger's description of some of the actions taken by the characters caused me to raise an eyebrow. Perhaps this is overly nitpicky, but on more than one occasion, Geordi is described as using his "beloved" toolkit, or similar language. Sometimes the language seems overly flowery or padded out. However, these were minor stumbles that I experienced while reading the story.

One problem I had with the plot was how quickly Riker sided with the Maquis and took arms against the Cardassians in the initial encounter. Given the current state of relations between Cardassia and the Federation, and the status of the Maquis at this point, I found it strange that Riker would so quickly fire on the Cardassian vessels. I do understand that these actions were taken in the service of the overall mission, but I find it odd that there would be no repercussions. Also, the plot requires the characters to be less than intelligent at times. Their entire mission is to recover the mysterious "cargo" the Maquis possess, but at no time does Starfleet inform the team what the cargo is, nor do any of our characters check the crate they recover to see if what they captured is indeed the correct cargo. In order for the plot to continue forward, we have to accept these oversights, something that I have difficulty with.

Where the story shines, however, is in the exploration of Riker's emotional state and his reaction to his "brother's" actions. A Weary Life explores the idea of mirror images and how different choices affect who we are, and does it in a much better way than, say, Star Trek Nemesis. We really get the feeling that Tom and Will are the same person except for a few life experiences, and if Will were in Tom's place, it's possible that he might have made the same choices and may now be in a Cardassian prison instead of his brother. While we do of course know that Will won't disobey his orders and join the Maquis, it's a very interesting introspective journey he takes in this story.

Final thoughts:

A strong introspective story about Riker, marred only by a few questionable language and plot choices by the author. It's nice to get a good Riker-centric story, as they sometimes feel few and far between. A solid three out of five story with some good character moments, but far from the best story of this series. Also, however, very far from being the worst.

More about this book:

Also by Robert Greenberger:

My next read:

Next week: The exciting conclusion to the Slings and Arrows series: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment by Keith R.A. DeCandido!

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