This is the second installment in my ongoing Star Trek Novel Project where I seek out random Star Trek books and review them. I have a whole stack, and hopefully the next title will take a lot less time to slog through than this. You can read the first installment here.
Author: Jean Lorrah
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Found: Goodwill for $0.50
Great explorations into the hopes and dreams of characters rarely turn out as planned, especially when writers are treading lightly between exploring those aspects while trying not to disrupt the overarching canon characters are involved in. Jean Lorrah’s Metamorphosis is a glimpse into what would happen if Data became human tries to pick up after the events of “The Measure of a Man” where Data wins a case regarding his sentience.
Data is not quite happy with the outcome of the trial in Lorrah’s interpretation. He’s pleased to continue to have control over his choices within Starfleet, but he begins to question how souls can be identified and realized, and doubt the ability for a artificially constructed being to have one. So of course the only logical narrative resolution to this conflict is to give Data what he has always strived for: Make him human.
I’ll be honest, I really did not like this book. It is the first in a series of “Giant Novels” which means it mistakes lengthy exposition for story telling in many ways. Due to the flippy-floppy nature of timelines within Metamorphosis, many scenes are repeated to show how one change in the flow of time can alter reality.
Mostly, you get to spend 250 pages listening to Data hate being human.
What’s the Deal?
Metamorphosis tackles the concept of humanity, dimension consistency, and the idea of having a soul. That means it arranges its time covering none of those topics in any real depth and leaves the reader thinking “why did I bother?” toward the end.
The real problem here, or at least my problem, is that Data is a very frustrating character in Lorrah’s eyes. He wants to be human so desperately, but when he has humanity, some seemingly insignificant action completely ruins his experience. Plus, becoming human means he alters the timeline of his reality, insuring a planet previously unknown to the story falls into chaos because he’s too fleshy to understand the real plight.
Data’s hung up on Tasha Yar, sleeps with a space mercenary, and realizes he didn’t learn anything useful in Starfleet academy. It’s an utterly frustrating and impotent story.
If you’ve longed to see Data become and fail at being human, Metamorphosis plays with your perception of what’s truly human and what it means to have a soul. What you’re left with is tired exposition left over from the episode where Data stands up for himself when he doesn’t want to be disassembled.
Sure, this should be the good section but I can’t really bring myself to say much good about it. There’s a lot of Data. That’s the good thing if you like Data, but if you find him to be a mildly intriguing character, Metamorphosis will almost certainly test your patience.
Data cannot support a book on his own. He is a supporting character in most of his ventures. He might be a seductive proposition to Borg queens, a competent Sherlock Holmes, and even a dashing Irish lass, but he certainly isn’t strong enough to carry an entire story on his own.
The most intriguing part of this story concerns Data being ripped apart while strange demi-gods examine his inner most desires. Data’s skin is ripped off, his fears tested, and his capacity for love explored.
Still, this all seems hollow when the plot shifts frustratingly to a seeming genocide among an isolationist race called the Samdians. A people calling themselves the Konor (or those with souls) are massacring the Samdians for an unknown reason. Somehow, Data becoming human changed the whole outcome of this plight.
Should You Read It?
Only if you give a damn about anything I’ve said so far, or really like Data. This book is unequivocally for fans of Data. Since I am not one of those, I find the heavy handed focus on the concept of having a soul, dimensional shifts, and genocide overbearing.
Given the setup for Metamorphosis, I’m not sure there is an outcome that would have pleased me. It illogically falls between two distinct plotlines within the Next Generation universe and flippantly dismisses any continuity errors with the idea that human Data existed in an alternate reality from the android one, but that distinction was only controllable by a god-like race on a planet overcome with electromagnetic fields.
Metamorphosis is just too improbable to catch your attention for extended periods of time. Given the time between my novel reviews, it’s clear that forcing my way through this book took an uncomfortable amount of time.
Seriously. Do yourself a favor and read something else. Unless you’re a big fan of the Data pity party, then this is the book for you.
2 exposed chest sensors out of 5.
My next book is an original series classic focused on the Kobayashi Maru! It’ll be great (I hope) so stay tuned!