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Stargazer: Three

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at August 29, 2003 - 6:17 AM GMT

Title: Star Trek Stargazer: Three
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Publication Date: August 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0-7434-4852-9

Michael Jan Friedman's latest Stargazer novel, Three, is a light, quick read, which doesn't require you to think too much. One of the best attributes of this series of novels set on the USS Stargazer during the captaincy of a very young, inexperienced commander named Jean-Luc Picard, is the engaging and at times quirky crew. Unfortunately in this novel, that doesn't make up for the story's overall shortcomings.

Three has two different plot lines: an A story set board the Stargazer involving the twin sisters Gerda and Idun Asmund, the ship's helm and navigation officers; and a B story involving the Stargazer's Pandrilite weapons officer, Vigo. After dropping Vigo off at a research outpost on Wayland Prime, where he is to observe tests on a new type of phaser emitter, Stargazer is sent to investigate an anomaly that has recently appeared in an area of space claimed by the Balduk, an extremely obnoxious race that is fiercely protective of their territory.

Without warning a transporter beam deposits a mysterious visitor onboard the Stargazer, a woman who appears to be in every way an exact duplicate of the Asmund twins. Determined to return their 'guest' to her own universe, the Stargazer must face off against the Balduk at extreme risk to the ship and crew. Meanwhile, on Wayland Prime, Vigo finds himself in the middle of a very nasty situation when a group of terrorists take over the facility, aided by one of his oldest friends.

Some readers of this series will probably find Three satisfactory and willing overlook the total predictability of the story. However, I found myself very disappointed that there wasn't much more to the story than already overused plot devises. While not one of the author's better efforts, Three does have a few things going for it.

One positive is the Balduk character Wutor Qiyuntor. The Balduk are a ridged and highly structured society. Through no fault of his own, Wutor has shamed himself in the eyes of his people and seeks redemption. I couldn't help but feel for Wutor and found myself hoping he would be able to recover his former position. As a race the Balduk are at times so preposterous that they are almost comical, but the suspense of whether or not Wutor would achieve his goals was one element that kept the story interesting. But it would have been nice to have a physical description of the Balduk a bit earlier in the story instead of at the halfway point.

The plot moves quickly due to Friedman's use of short scenes. The narrative is kept to a very simple, almost minimal level. There are several amusing sly little references that have a little innocent fun at the expense of Picard and his future experiences on the Enterprise-D that many fans are sure to appreciate; the reference to ships' counselors on page 143 is a good example.

Picard himself plays only a minor role in the overall story; the focus is much more on his crew and their reactions to their 'visitor'. This allows the reader to get to see the Asmund twins in a new light. Although physically identical, and alike in so many ways, Friedman's characterisation of the twins emphasises their subtle personality differences.

Regrettably the positive elements of Three are unable to save it. A quarter of the way in it is glaringly obvious exactly how both plot lines will unfold. You keep hoping you're wrong and something else will happen but the story remains mostly unimaginative. The book reads like an expanded television episode, and disappointingly, it's a mostly unoriginal episode.

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Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.

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