The Q Continuum, by Greg Cox
This book is technically three books in one that all deal with a consistent plot involving Captain Picard and his attempts to help his old enemy Q deal with a mysterious enemy from his past at the outer edge of the galaxy. For those who are fans of the interactions between Q and Picard, this book is certainly an enjoyable one. It’s by no means a perfect book but it has a lot going for it, even if it does offer some familiar tropes that are a bit tired for some readers–it has the red shirt problem, for example, in seeking to use expendable and little-known characters as cannon fodder to move a story along without having to show too much loss to the more familiar main characters. In addition, this particular story uses a trope of making biblical religion appear to be ridiculous and false through reviving a character encountered in the Original series with a similar anti-Christian bias. It is striking that Star Trek depends for its lore on common origin and common ancestry and common law for humanoid beings but rejects the common Creator implied by such a common design throughout creation, and this novel is no different in its polytheistic anarchy with predictable if lamentable results, even if there are elements of this book that are enjoyable.
As mentioned before, this book is a series of three novelas with a total of a bit more than 500 pages of material. The first one, Q-Space, is the largest, and it finds the Enterprise E in post-series events tasked with going to the edge of the galaxy to see if a hole can be punched in the barrier that separates the Milky Way from other galaxies. While approaching the barrier the Enterprise comes across an unfriendly but powerful species of gas creatures and Picard is kidnapped by Q, who is married and has a spoiled toddler for a son. In the second, Q-Zone, the Enterprise manages to escape the gas creatures by hiding in the barrier but that increases the psychic stress that the Enterprise and its crew are under, even as Picard and Q go on a massive visit of Q’s past to see insights on how a dangerous threat can be dealt with before it is too late. Finally, in Q-Strike, the being known as 0 and Q have a showdown on the Enterprise-E as Picard joins forces with the gas-aliens and the Q to save his crew and save the galaxy from a madman bent on revenge for his exile from the galaxy.
Why was this book written? What sort of psychic needs does the author have to reject biblical religion while simultaneously arguing for the importance of humans in a universe where there are a lot of powerful beings whose raw strength and length of life far outlast that of humanity. As human beings we have the simultaneous longing to be like God but to reject God, and until we come to terms with that, what we will get from our fiction that struggles with this tendency is mere wish fulfillment like this novel is. There is a lot about this novel that shows the author’s interest in higher matters of history and theology but also that show the author’s bad faith when it comes to such issues and the way that fantasy and science fiction sit uneasily with unexamined theological mysteries. This is a book with a scintillating plot and some interesting contents, but which is sadly overwhelmed in dealing with the larger implications of its material. As a result this is a book that can be read enjoyably but which does not have the heft that the author clearly wishes with a 500 page volume.