Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Available Light by Dayton Ward


The post-Star Trek: Nemesis era novels return after a long absence with Available Light by Dayton Ward picking up right where they left off.

If you are a big fan of the Star Trek tie-in novel line, the last year has probably been pure torture for you.

Sure, there have been four very good Star Trek: Discovery novels, but the last Next Generation Era novel to hit bookstores was Star Trek: Voyager – Architects of Infinity by Kirsten Beyer way back in March of last year. That’s a long time to go between novels, especially with the books that take place in the 24th century using a more serialized storytelling style.

However, the wait is over. Star Trek is officially back on bookshelves with Available Light by the one and only Dayton Ward. The novel picks up only a few weeks after Ward’s last Trek novel, Hearts and Minds and also continues story elements from the book Section 31: Control.

Image: Simon and Schuster

In Available Light, the reader actually gets two stories interwoven to form a single narrative. The first is a straightforward Star Trek style story about the crew of the Enterprise-E coming to the assistance of the Osijemal, a starship seemingly without a crew that has been targeted by scavengers. In fact, the Osijemal is a generational ship belonging to the Nejamri, a race who had to leave their homeworld or faced extinction.

The main story involving the Osijemal is a fairly by the numbers first contact tale. It’s the kind of story that could have fit in perfectly in any season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and as such, while very entertaining, doesn’t exactly break the mold when it comes to Star Trek fiction.

No, where the real meat of Available Light lies is in the fallout of the destruction of Section 31 and the fact all the activities of the covert organization have been revealed for all to see. This of course includes Captain Picard’s role in the coup to remove Federation President Min Zife from power before he could start a war with the Klingon Empire.\

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I found myself looking forward to these sections of the novel more than the story about the Nejamri. Watching as the Federation tries to cope with the fallout of the exposure of Section 31 and their sinister activities is a real treat. Ward writes these sections with a real flair that I enjoyed immensely. Plus it was great to see Federation Attorney General Phillipa Louvois in action once again.

Plus, given the fact Section 31 played such a huge role in the second season of Discovery, it was intriguing to read more about the fallout from the clandestine group meeting its end.

Speaking of Discovery, you can’t help but compare the Control program from Season 2 and the Uraei program from the 24th century novels. There are a number of plot elements that are very similar between the two, but Ward does a great job making the version in Available Light stand out as unique and in some ways superior.

Available Light end on a cliffhanger, with the Enterprise called back to Earth so Picard can deal with the fallout from his role in Section 31’s covert activities. Of course, the reader has to wonder exactly how the novels will work around the new Star Trek: Picard television series coming later this year. Will all these novels be rendered null and void? Or will the writers figure out some way to work the Picard series into the narrative?

We will start to get our answer in October with the release of Collateral Damage by one of my favorite Trek authors, David Mack.

I do have with one caveat with the novel that more casual Trek fans should be aware of. If you haven’t been reading the 24th century Star Trek novels you may find yourself a bit lost at times during the Section 31 parts of the book. It’s not a major issue and doesn’t ruin Available Light in any way but if you have read the previous novels, especially Section 31: Control, you will get a deeper, fuller reading experience.

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Available Light marks Star Trek’s outstanding return to the printed page and gets my highest recommendation. It’s great to see the return of the Next Generation Era novels and I can’t wait for more. Hopefully we won’t have another drought of Trek novels like we saw over the last year for some time.