The Enterprise is assigned a diplomatic mission to the Planet Lorca, which is practically foisted on them by the highly dodgy appearing character Ambassador Lewis. Lorca is a highly unusual planet where the entire population wear masks all day every day to show their rank and their job. In fact its considered extremely taboo to see a person's face 'naked' without a mask. So the enterprise away team (Picard, Worf, Deanna and Ambassador Lewis) is sent down with their own masks to search for the planet's only real leader - the wearer of the Wisdom Mask, and to begin diplomatic relations. The snag is that no one has seen or heard of the Wisdom Mask in years.
To add yet more difficulty, soon after landing, a volcanic eruption on the planet causes the away team to lose all contact with the ship, and are left to make their own way. After a period of non contact a second away team beams down to search for them (Riker, Data, dr Pulaski and 2 red-shirts). So then there are 2 separate away teams blundering about on the planets surface, trying to blend in with the locals, neither with any contact with the ship, and no one with any clue as to the whereabouts of the mysterious Wisdom Mask that was the original mission.
At first the Lorcan civilisation seemed like a slightly daft, but somewhat interesting concept, I was very interested as to whether the author could actually build it into a believeable novel. Unfortunately the whole masks concept didn't improve at all upon further reading, and if it had been anything other than a star trek novel I would have binned the book in disgust. The major problem with a civilisation like the Lorcans is this: That the mask you wear determines your status and role in society, ie wear a healer's mask and you're a healer, wear a mask maker's mask and you're a mask maker and so on. But anyone can be challenged to a duel (they can't refuse), and the winner of the duel takes the other's mask and has the right to wear it. Masks change hands so often due to these duels, that renders the entire civilisation laughable. Surely now everyone's mask (and therefore their role in society) depends entirely on their skill in swordmanship, and nothing else. How could a society like this possible continue? When so many people own and wear masks for which they cannot fulfil the job description, surely people would simply cease to put any value on the mask at all?
Hence the entire premise for the novel falls apart upon the mildest of scrutiny. I wouldn't even be sure that a short story would stand up founded on such an idea.. ridiculous to attempt a whole novel with this concept.
It might have been redeemed for it's Star Trek content, but it failed constantly on that point too. There were so many instances that were out of character, The computer constantly referred to itself in the first person "I do not understand"
, Data was constantly making mistakes and was half an hour late to the transporter room! And several other miscellaneos blunders.
Maybe I'm being harsh, but I think its only reasonable to expect an author to be able to keep everyone in character, seeing as this is set during season 2 (it's not like characters are not fully established). It truly read like the author had watched perhaps one episode of ST TNG before deciding to write a novel for the franchise. And some novels have been really quite good, so there is a certain standard to expect!
In conclusion, very disappointed. Would likely avoid other ST novels by this author in future.See my other reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation novels:
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