I’m well past the time when I would gladly devour Star Trek novels; in fact, I left that era before The Next Generation and subsequent Trek sequels ever came along. Still, there’s a draw to Trek novels… the well-detailed history of Trek lore gives the reader a background universe that, at times, seems richer than real life.
It was with this inherent background, and the promise of the book, that I picked up Star Trek: Immortal Coil. The book promises to answer a question that has nagged the Trek universe for decades: Star Trek: The Original Series seemed to run into androids and artificial intelligences every few weeks; when the Next Generation came along, it seemed Commander Data (and later, his brother and “mother”) seemed to be the only ones anyone knew about or had ever heard of; so what the heck happened to the universe of androids?
This being a Next Generation story, it naturally centers around Data and his investigation of a lab accident that leaves a familiar to (Next Generation viewers) android researcher in a coma and another, more noted researcher dead. In investigating the accident, Data discovers an android-related agenda with a deep and surprising history.
Speaking of the deep history of Star Trek; as with most Trek novels I’ve read, Jeffrey Lang treads a fine line between dredging up valuable bits of Trek history to fill in gaps in his story, and throwing in archaic bits of Trek lore seemingly to impress the reader with how much Trek he knows. Familiar names and places, obvious references to moments in TV episodes, serve to keep the Trek geek laughing and drooling like a… well, like a Trek geek. There may be a few moments when it seems a bit too much, especially to someone else who knows all of these references… but only a few moments, which pass quickly.
Most importantly, Lang weaves a bridge that finally connects the related but separate tapestries of The Original Series and The Next Generation into an aesthetically-pleasing whole. True, there are still a few gaps between the two tapestries, but the largest holes have been well-filled. It leaves the reader very satisfied at the outcome, and makes for some delightful moments of recognition.
The one real complaint I had with the story–and this is coming from a Gene Roddenberry geek, not just a Star Trek geek–is that Lang dredged up a name from another old Roddenberry project and used it in this book. Once I recognized the name, it had the effect of telegraphing about half the plot for me, which took some of the surprise out of the story. Trust me on this: If you happen to see a name that sounds vaguely familiar… don’t Google it. Just let it ride, and keep reading, and you’ll enjoy this story even more than I did.