The Enterprise-D is called by Etolos to mediate the breaking of a long-time silence between the people of the planet and a neighboring world called Alaj. Alaj is a member of the Federation while Etolos is not. The situation seems already precarious when the book starts out, because there are severe environmental problems on both Etolos and Alaj. As the history of the two planets is revealed, we find out that the people of Etolos are actually the descendents of outcasts that came from Alaj. The outcasts followed the teachings of a prophet named Etol about how to treat the environment of Alaj and the government threw them off the planet in an effort to silence them. Now, three hundred years later, Etolos has what Alaj needs and Alaj has what Etolos needs, but will they agree for the first time in a long time?
Captain Picard and Counselor Troi beam down to Etolos to find out their story. It seems that Alaj and Etolos hold a very absurd looking animal, called the nefittifi, in high religious status. Alaj is in the middle of government chaos when their only nefittifi dies, which could mean the end of their current leader, Zelia. Etolos is willing to give Zelia a breeding pair of the animals, who live for many years but are hard to breed, in return for a planet in the Alaj system. Among other problems with this mission is the fact the people of Etolos expect the Enterprise to just pick up their 200,000 residents and animals to relocate, which Geordi LaForge says is impossible.
Apparently, the Etolos homeworld is either a very young planet in it's beginning stages or it is dying. (Example: Data says this of the planet in Chapter Three, "Readings indicate that Etolos is a geologically young and active planet." Then an Etolos resident says this of the planet in chapter four, "Etolos is dying a cold, dusty death.") The author makes a discrepancy here and says both ways within only chapters of each other, which is confusing and takes away from the book itself. But the story does keep you interested as Commander Riker and Lt. Commander Data escort the ambassador from Etolos to Alaj while an arising new problem slowly introduces itself with some uninvited guests.
This is a book of urgency and the melting of pride when the welfare of the people is in question. I enjoyed many parts of this book, but some things are never explained and leave you wondering. It is a different side of the Enterprise crew as they are faced with a dilemma that tugs at the heart and calls for diplomacy. Overall, I have to give this book only two pips. Even though I will pick up this book as a favorite again, the author didn't explain what I thought were important points and didn't follow his own information throughout the book.
Author: Howard Weinstein
Review by: CL5 Amanda Sielu Paris