Monday, November 29, 2010

The Surprise Perfection Of Imzadi, More Than Just A Trek Novel!

The Good: Plot, Character, Narrative Technique, Deeper themes and insights into the human condition
The Bad: None, surprisingly!
The Basics: Imzadi is for anyone who likes a good read, especially those who don't like science fiction! More than the surface would imply!

If you tell people that you've found the perfect novel, odds are they'll instantly lose any respect for you when you tell them that your perfect novel is, of all things, a Star Trek The Next Generation novel. Of all things! I mean, you'd pretty much have to be an idiot with no culture or taste to think that some genre book can live up to the great novels of all time.

Such close-minded snobs are the type Swifte mocks in Gulliver's Travels as willing to go to war over which side end of an egg is the "proper" one to break. That is to say, they are unable to see something for what it is or place more importance on appearance than result (that is, they care more about which end is proper than actually getting the egg out of the shell).

Imzadi, a standalone Star Trek The Next Generation novel by the occasionally genius Peter David, is a perfect novel. I have it on my shelf next to Invisible Man (Ellison) and The Sound And The Fury (Faulkner). It belongs there.

Imzadi is the story of a man named William Riker and a woman named Deanna Troi. Forget what you've seen on television if you ever watched Star Trek The Next Generation. If you never saw the show, you're coming into the book with the perfect frame of mind - the clean slate benefits the reader. William Riker is an old man who had two important events in his life: he fell in love and he lost his love.

It sounds like the same old story, right? The old man laments losing the woman of his life. Given the magic of "science fiction" the old man here is given the opportunity to make things right. Why am I so proud of this book? Because it's not science fiction, it transcends genre and is literature. The novel wastes no time, absolutely none on the temporal mechanics aspect. There is a mystery that does engage the time travel, so it is not that those elements are gratuitous.

Admiral William T. Riker, bitter old man, pines for the days when he had the love of his life, Deanna Troi, a half-Betazoid empath who taught him, early in his career, that there might be more important things than service and the military as represented by StarFleet when as a young man he visited her world. Deanna Troi immediately dislikes William Riker, but over the course of a crisis, she begins to see his merits and the two fall in love.

Aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Riker and Troi serve as officers and comrades, long after their initial affair ended. When Deanna dies on a mission, Riker is heartbroken and sullen and becomes reclusive. He also becomes interested in thwarting the events that led to Deanna's death. Utilizing the Guardian of Forever, Admiral Riker returns to his past to change his life by saving the woman he loves from the forces of death itself!

The novel is about the power of love. It is about loyalty, obligation and the magic that comes with sharing life and love with another person. That the novel takes place in a futuristic setting ought not be a detraction from acknowledging the greatness of this novel.

Peter David masterfully extracts the best elements of characters established on Star Trek The Next Generation and explores them with a depth that is often lacking on the television. While he makes clever allusions to events and people from the television show, David takes them further. And more than that, each of the characters have a quality to them in this novel that they don't under the network rules and situations.

As well, Peter David wonderfully utilizes a sense of time that is esoteric, but works. This novel is not presented in order! Instead of following chronologically, the novel leaps and bounds between the future, the past, the present and a few alternates in between! It comes together beautifully to tell the story of the loss, the love, the mission to change it all. And David's narrative conceits work wonderfully because the story flows through all the time periods.

On Star Trek: The Next Generation Commander Riker is a paradoxical character often portrayed (and, to the actors credit, often poorly written!) by Jonathan Frakes. In Imzadi Will Riker is an actualized individual who is empathetic and vibrant. Moreover, Deanna Troi is not the simple eye candy (whatwith it being a book!) that she was often portrayed as on television.

Great novels always explore the most important aspects of humanity. Imzadi does that with wit and intensity by Peter David that is unmatched in genre work. This novel, with its narrative uniqueness, succeeds in not just stepping out of genre but joining the ranks of great literature in the leap.

For other science fiction novels, please check out my reviews of:
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Revenge Of The Sith - Matthew Stover
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger


For other book reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2007, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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