Death in Winter (Star Trek Next Generation (Unnumbered)) Hardcover – 2005
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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.
I found the various Romulan characters and sordid power plays to be a bit confusing and often times it seemed to detract from the prime or rather more prime storylines. Friedman did a great job of winding them all together in the end to create some great drama as the final scenes began to unfold. However, just as we catch our breath and the hero finds the girl, nothing. She rejects him for no good reason!
This is a good Beverly Crusher story, in that it explores some of her background and gives her a strong role in her own survival. For Picard, we see his somewhat blank, if determined, efforts to rescue her but we never truly get in his head - we just get to see how he moves through his role as Starfleet Captain, not a man dealing with potential loss of the love of his life, but the Captain out to rescue a fellow officer and friend.
As others have said, it would have been nice to see the other TNG characters actually have a role rather than just acting like they were going to do something but never actually doing anything. And while I'm sure Greyhorse was once a good physician, not having practiced in years, we're really to believe only he was qualified to try to come up with a cure? The cameo appearances by various Trek characters was almost as distracting as all the Romulan players and I'm not sure if any of them added to the story. Even Sela's, the ever-present Romulan enemy, role could have been enhanced. I would have loved to have a scene where Sela used Picard's feelings for Beverly against him or vice versa. Although the Crusher versus Sela fight was almost worth it.
Minor gripes aside I enjoyed this offering from the Trek writing world. It's been a long time since I visited with these characters on such an intimate level so I was glad to read the teasers and looked forward to finally having a new copy in my hands. I hope you'll find your copy soon and spend some time with these old friends.
Oh and the best it seems, is yet to come! Be sure to read the teaser at the end of the book for the next book.
As the Enterprise E is being retrofitted, Beverly Crusher has accepted once again the role of head of Starfleet Medical. Picard thinks he can with it, thinks he'll be okay --- after all, she's really not all that far away. But he finds himself longing for her and regretting what he's let slip away. Then, things all change when Beverly is declared lost, and possibly dead on a secret mission that Picard had no idea about.
Beverly had gone to help the people of Kevrata, a Romulan subject-world, find a cure for a plague that's afflicting them. It's something with which she's quite familiar, as the plague had affected the colony she lived in when she was young, but she managed to survive. But with the Kevratans and other of their subjects revolting, the Romulans want to see to it that the Kevratans do not obtain a cure for their disease. And they sent someone with whom both Picard and Beverly are quite familiar to deal with it --- Sela!
"Death in Winter" features this plot, an intriguing substory on treachery and rebellion among the Romulans themselves, but most important "Death in Winter" is the story of Jean Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher and I think it's here that it's really at its strongest. Beverly is obviously a fan-favorite, replaced by Katherine Pulaski for one year and then triumphantly returning for the rest of the series. This book explores the deepest connections of their relationship and sends it on a new path. There are flashbacks to past events and the emotions and situations are explored fully.
Perhaps the only thing I didn't like about this novel was the poor use of Admiral Janeway, who really seems to be getting the short shrift lately. Janeway is a powerful and amazing character and if she's just going to be stuck in for bit stuff, then she shouldn't be used at all. I know this is a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" novel and not "Voyager," but it still doesn't hold with me.
How bad is this book? Let me count the ways:
*contains Stargazer characters in a Next Generation book. Ok, this is fine if you've read those books (and I've read a few), but even for fans of the 'other' Picard series had to get tired about hearing details they've already read before. For those who haven't read them, little will make sense.
*contains NG episode retellings. Hello? Was the author bored? I've SEEN these episodes.
*I 'hardly knew you characters'. Absolutely filled with them. Some girl who loves some guy who loves somebody else who gets killed. After a while, you couldn't keep any of it straight - Decalon, Phajan, Kito, and on and on it goes, nameless faceless characters with little backstory and no future (literally!).
*'They did what?' characters. Totally inexplicable actions, from Crusher's rejection of Picard after her life was nearly taken, to page about page about Greyhorse's insanity (and yet he somehow manages to be the Federation's best hope for wiping out a disease), to the never ending 'evil Sela (hiss hiss boo boo) gotta kill as many people as possible cause mommy is weak'; the characterization of Sela was so cartoonish that mid-way through the book you just pleaded for somebody to kill her off, but to no avail!
*Rushed endings (Crusher mysteriously discovers that she really loves Picard even though she's spent the entire book thinking about how much she loves Picard), mysterious appearances (boy, does Janeway get around - I'm starting to think she is the only Admiral in Starfleet), stupid Romulans (Crusher and the spy manage to break out of a jail by beating up LOTS of folks along the way), regular character halos (Crusher gets darned near killed almost a dozen times and yet someone manages to live with no lasting impact even though EVERBODY, and I mean EVERYBODY, dies around her - thank goodness Crusher isn't wearing a red shirt), and the appearance of Ninja Warrior Crusher, who is able to physically best BOTH a master spy (who knocked out all those Romulans before in jail) and Sela who must be half Crusher's age!
In short, this is the worst of Star Trek Fiction. Badly written, incomprehensible, boring, inconceivable, and a waste of a paycheck to the author. And I've prob. read 100 of these novels by now but this deserves the 'worst of the lot' award. Makes Resistance look like a classic...
(P.S. And it ain't like the author can't do better - his Scotty/McCoy/Spock/NG "Crossover" novel was a quick, funny enjoyable read and one of my all-time ST novel favorites)
First, the good: Friedman does bring some resolution to the relationship thread. It was nice to see some of the old Stargazer crew again. Friedman also weaves a pretty good story with Romulan intrigue; and the plot, with several good premises, moves along briskly. I like that Friedman recalls scenes from the show, introducing familiar elements that fans can appreciate. I particularly like Picard's recollection of being rescued from the Borg.
However, the bad: I've read fanfic with more depth and better characterization than are found in this novel. The whole book, we're supposed to believe Picard is driven to find Beverly because of his love for her, but the main reasons we know this are, one, we're told this repeatedly, and two, other characters observe it repeatedly. But we're very rarely *shown* it. There is little emotion from Picard when he is told Crusher is missing, and less real angst. For her part, the musings are much more believable, but her reaction at the end is not as comprehensible because it isn't really explained. What is she *thinking*? We don't really know. For a book that's supposed to be giving more insights than we could see onscreen, that's a major shortcoming.
The Romulan intrigue plot has a good skeleton, but it's not fleshed out to the extent that it could have been, in a way that really involves the reader. Characters are brought in for cameos, and left at that (Worf and Geordi serve no real purpose here). And the scenes from the show that Friedman incorporates are, for the most part, both poorly chosen and dropped in too abruptly. Scenes from "Arsenal of Freedom" and "Sub Rosa"? I couldn't help but cringe, as these aren't scenes that did much to establish affection between the main characters. How about "Attached" or "High Ground"? There was more material here to mine, I think.
In short, this book seemed promising, but was a major letdown. In all honesty, the four preview pages for "Resistance" at the end of the book make it sound like that novel has much more potential than this one turned out to have. If you do read it (and I will say it is worth at least one read-through), I would check it out from the library. Though I'd like to report otherwise, it's not one I think many readers would want to go back to.