Star Trek's wildest spin-off is starting to show its age

Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier series has spawned 18 novels and a host of tie-in materials. The weirdly soap-operatic book spinoff has become an obsession for a host of Trek fans. But how does David's latest installment stack up?

Blind Man's Bluff is the first New Frontier book since 2009's Treason, so it's got a lot of anticipation to cope with. And on the whole, it's... fine. There are some good things, some great things, and some not-so-good things. It just feels like it should be more than that.

Spoilers ahead...

Blind Man's Bluff picks up where Treason left off. The current and former crew of the USS Excalibur are worried about both a race of aliens who have been growing clone bodies in order to infiltrate the Federation and the growing insanity of the Excalibur's Artificial Intelligence. Those two threats run next to each other throughout the novel, growing more and more intertwined by the end.

Star Trek's wildest spin-off is starting to show its age

Both of these plots are nothing new to science fiction, or even to Star Trek, but David handles them very well, especially in the second half of the book. The beginning seems disjointed and slow — especially a chunk that takes place at Bravo Station, which has characters and plot threads that are never picked up again. This stuff may set up storylines for a later book, but it slows this one down. But once Calhoun gets left behind to fight off an invasion and his ship is in the hands of a vindictive computer, the pace picks up and the earlier heaviness is easy to forget. At that point, Blind Man's Bluff becomes almost abruptly more enjoyable.

By far the best parts are the scenes spent researching a method to disable the ship AI. David brought in Seven of Nine and the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager to work with New Frontier's Soleta, and their interactions really shine. The debate about what it means to have a life is more evenly balanced and more viciously fought than ever before in the Star Trek universe. Plus, it has the added advantage of being funny in all the right places.

And that is the real problem with not only this book, but the whole series since at least After the Fall. The New Frontier books used to be so much fun, and now it seems a shame that the best moments mostly involve characters from a different series. Star Trek: New Frontier always felt like it could be its own television series. You can even group some of the books into seasons. But in After the Fall, David skipped three years into the future and split up the original core crew of the Excalibur. This may have allowed for some more dramatic possibilities, but it is also where the disjointed feel comes from. A lot of crew interaction and camaraderie, which played so well in the early books, disappeared.

That is not to say that Blind Man's Bluff is a bad — it's just that the really good moments made me nostalgic for the earlier books instead of making me love this one. I wanted to love it, but instead it was just... fine.