It has been a while since I have read a Star Trek book, let alone review one for SciFiEmpire.net. And so earlier in the year I decided to make a list of what 2019 might have to offer. Instead of reading every novel in the Trek-verse I wanted only those that really mattered. That way I would get an idea of what my favorite characters have been doing since I last read about them. Or when I last saw them on the screen.
Yet, books set in the TNG, DS9 or Voyager universe are bound by constraints placed upon them by Discovery – the show that is now nearing the end of its 2nd season. With the principal villain being Section 31 on the show guess who are the villains in the novels. You guessed it – Section 31. Or they were. Available Light deals with the fallout of the destruction of Section 31 and the laying bare of all of their crimes.
For those aware of the Section 31 story-line you may remember they are a secretive unsanctioned spy agency supposedly working for the good of the Federation. Captain Picard, Dr. Bashir, Captain Sisko and even Seven of Nine have all tried to take down Section 31. Yet at times they also saw the necessity to work with them – and for Captain Picard that has come to bite him in the ass.
In the first chapters all characters who had any connection to Section 31, core-members and associates, are arrested. That also means former admirals Ross, Jellico and Nechayev. Not everybody who worked for Section 31 did so wholeheartedly. Almost all involved compromised on their beliefs. But for the Starfleet prosecutors that does not matter. Of particular concern is how section 31 managed to arrange the resignation of President Min Zife. What few of the conspirators know is that Zife was a murdered within minutes afterwards.
Out of reach
Captain Picard is also implicated in the murder of Zife. But as he is 8 weeks away on a voyage of the Enterprise E to investigate a derelict ship he cannot be arrested, nor is he able to defend himself other than answer questions on long-range comm. And so Available Light can be described as a very peculiar book. It concludes almost all of the outstanding Section 31 story threads – and yet. The principal character of the book is nowhere to be seen.
Instead Picard and his crew are off inspecting a derelict ship. Which in all honesty feels like a run-of-the-mill TNG episode. I don’t understand that particular choice. The fall of Section 31 feels reminiscent to Deep Space 9 at its best. Considering Section 31 featured largely on that show it cannot be considered a coincidence. There is also a chapter describing the fallout in the Klingon Empire. And even Riker is pulled in for questioning.
Simply put, Available Light are two novella’s glued together. The B-plot could in my opinion have been excised completely. It simply did not add enough meaning to the characters involved. At the same time it distracted from the main plot – the investigation into the crimes of Section 31. That is worth a whole book in its own – or even two.
And so I am sad to conclude that Available Light is a distinctly mediocre book. I don’t blame the author. It is clear his hands were tide behind his back. The B-plot takes up most of the book, while my attention could only focus on the fallout of the Section-31 conspiracy.