Ship of the Line by Diane Carey
Published May 1, 1999, by Pocket Books
Ship of the Line revives a storyline from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect”. In that episode, the Enterprise crew experiences a temporal causality loop where they keep experiencin the same sequence of events over and over again. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day, except in the TNG episode, the crew initially don’t realize what is happening. They don’t realize that they are repeating the same day until late in the game. When they discover what has been happening, they, of course, come up with a solution, but that solution causes a Federation ship called the Bozeman to travel to the 24th Century from 90 years in the past.
In Ship of the Line, the U.S.S. Enterprise-E is about to embark on her maiden voyage. The E is under the command of Morgan Bateson, the Bozeman’s captain. Bateson is supposed to take the E on a short shakedown cruise before handing command over to Picard, but our time-traveling captain has other plans. Instead of the short trip around the celestial block, Bateson absconds with the E to investigate a possible threat to the Federation from the Klingons. Along the way, he encounters one particular Klingon who’s held a grudge against him for decades.
The plot is decent, but what really tarnishes Ship of the Line is some of the characterization. The way some established canon characters are presented is slightly Out-Of-Character. This is definitely not good. There are some things in the novel that the TNG characters just would not say. It seems like Carey already had dialogue prepared and she just threw some characters—any characters, didn’t matter who—into the scene to recite the words. Along those same lines are character actions. Some of them just don’t follow logic (based on established patterns regarding how specific characters would behave in certain situations.) I can’t see the characters coming to some of the conclusions they come to in Ship of the Line. It doesn’t follow what is generally known about them and adds to the OOC-ness of everything. OOC is frowned upon in the fanfiction world, and you would think that it would be a big n0-no in the world of professional publishing. It’s one of the only flaws that keeps the novel from being great. It’s also totally distracting! This OOC-ness tended to jar me out of the story, and I had to work to get back into it.
The resolution of all the problems and conflicts in the book happens a bit too conveniently for my tastes. An example is the whole plot line with Gul Madred and the Klingon named Kozara. I won’t give away any spoilers for those who want to read the novel, but they both backed off way too easily for who they are and what they represent in the story. It didn’t occur to me while I was reading, but this is yet another instance of OOC behavior, at least with regard to Madred, a canon character with established traits.
Despite the novel’s characterization issues, the overall concept of the book is still compelling. One of the best things about Ship of the Line is that we learn a little about what happened to the crew of the Bozeman. That said, I wish Carey would have spent more time exploring what it was like for the Bozeman crew to adjust to life in a new century. Instead, she immediately skips ahead to get to the meat of the plot. We witness the effects of the jump in time on the mental and emotional state of the Bozeman’s executive officer, Gabriel Bush, and Carey depicts Bateson as being stubborn and set in his 23rd-Century ways, but that’s it. Carey skips over so much other stuff that could have explored the ramifications that other characters had to deal with after being transported nearly a century into the future.
Overall, this book is only okay. The little annoyances (the OOC-ness, mainly) hold the story back because they distract from an otherwise intriguing plot.