Star Trek fans' reactions to the last movie (Nemesis) were overwhelmingly negative (and the box office showed it). However, it has been the springboard to some wonderful Star Trek books (not to mention the fact that I, basically, enjoyed the movie anyway). The A Time to... book series, the Titan series, as well as the wonderful Articles of the Federation. But what happens to the Next Generation crew after the movie? Death in Winter, by Michael Jan Friedman, begins to answer that question. Whether it does it well is yet another question.
The Enterprise E is in drydock, being repaired after the horrible battle with Shinzon in Nemesis. But Captain Picard has more on his mind than just his ship. Doctor Beverly Crusher, the woman whom he has loved since he first met her when she was marrying his best friend Jack, has left her position on his ship and is now head of Starfleet Medical. He is pining, but he begins to pine even more when he is informed that she was on a covert mission to the planet Kevratas, a world on the rim of the Romulan empire, and that she is missing in action. She was there to find a cure for the disease running rampant through the population there. Starfleet wants Picard to lead another mission there, with a doctor from his old ship, the Stargazer. A doctor who is now in a penal colony for trying to kill Picard and other former Stargazer officers. Recruiting his old security officer to help them, along with a Romulan dissident, they go to Kevratas to find a cure, while Picard plans the search for the woman he loves, the woman he is certain is still alive. Meanwhile, Romulan politics intervene, which could mean the deaths of them all.
Death in Winter is not a very filling book. With small pages and large type, it looks bigger than it is. I raced through it in two days, partially because I wanted to know what happened, and partially because there wasn't a lot of substance to it. It deals almost exclusively with Picard and Crusher, as well as with the Romulan political situation. Unfortunately, those having read the books in publication order already know how the political problems have turned out, as we are told what happened in both Articles of the Federation and, more importantly, in Titan: Taking Wing. We just didn't know the details.
In fact, this is one of the problems. I don't mind the limited characters, but in an attempt to shoe everybody in, Worf and Geordi are also featured attempting to find out where Picard went, as they find out about Beverly's disappearance and think that they should go help. Worf even has a dream showing that if he doesn't go help Picard find her, she'll die. Ultimately, nothing happens. What was the point of this again? Talk about your dead-end subplots! It just seemed like filler in an already thin plot.
Also thin is the Doctor Greyhorse plot. A lot of tension is created with the fact that he could very well be insane, despite what his doctors have told Picard and Starfleet. He starts acting kind of weird, saying some odd things, making Picard wonder if he's going to jeopardize the mission. Then, not surprisingly, nothing happens with it. He does what he's set out to do, acting a bit more strangely but nothing too major, and the thread is dropped. I know I'm repeating myself, but what was the point of this again? Sure, it adds a bit of characterization to Greyhorse, but considering we barely hear from him anyway, it all seems superfluous.
Friedman's characterization is pretty good, though. I'm glad he finally deals with the Picard/Crusher relationship, in a way I heartily approve (and the excerpt from next summer's Resistance shows that it even continues!). Crusher's reaction to Picard's whispered statement to her near the end is understandable, despite the fact that she'd been realizing some things about him too during her captivity. He blindsides her a bit, and she needs some time to come to terms with it. The ending is a bit predictable because of that, but it was still nice to see. Picard and Crusher are captured wonderfully, both in their outward characterization as well as internal monologues. Worf and Geordi, despite being extraneous to the plot, are also done well, even without using stereotypical mannerisms from the series. The Romulan characters are extremely fun, making the political plot interesting despite already knowing the outcome. We do find out a bit more information about the Romulan commander Donatra, adding more colour to her portrayal in the previous books, such as why she was so fiercely loyal to Admiral Braeg.
What's missing is the Stargazer crew. Both Greyhorse and "Pug" Joseph depend mostly on what is known from previous books. I've already stated that the Greyhorse conflict is over before it begins, but I also get no real sense for why Joseph was so loyal to Picard and why Picard depends on him so much. Friedman tells us a lot about them, and there are a couple of nice scenes between them, but it just felt like most of the "showing" of why they're such good friends appeared in the other books. Those of us who haven't read the Stargazer books are left out in the Kevratan cold.
Overall, Death in Winter is an enjoyable book, despite the missteps above. It sparkles when either the Romulans are on screen or the Picard/Crusher relationship is being dealt with. Some of the passages in the middle drag, but when the action starts, Friedman does a good job with that too. I wanted the first post-Nemesis book to be a home run, but instead it's a single. The good points and bad points almost even out. Hopefully, Resistance will be that home run.