So … the actor who plays the android Data on the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series has written a book. And the main character in Brent Spiner’s book is … Brent Spiner. Of thirty years ago. And the supporting cast in the book are Spiner’s fellow actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It is 1991 and Star Trek: The Next Generation is a huge, global hit. The young actor from Texas, Brent Spiner, who plays the Pinocchio-like android, Data, receives a horrifying package and some very disturbing fan mail. He seeks advice from his cast-mates, whose quirks make them almost as odd as the fans writing to them, and ultimately he calls for the FBI. Taking his case is FBI agent Cindy Lou Jones, for whom Spiner immediately begins jonesing.
Spiner wants Jones around ‘for protection’ more often than she can afford to provide, so she gives him her sister’s contact information. Candy Lou Jones is Cindy’s identical twin sister who runs her own private security company
Brent falls in love (or at least in lust) with the Joneses, but of course the one he prefers is the one not as interested in him.
And through it all, a crazed fan calling herself Lal (Data’s daughter from the series) is threatening to kill Brent.
This reminds me of the Ron Goulart ‘Odd Jobs’ books of the 1970’s-80’s – a little mystery, a lot of humor, and some wild, crazy shenanigans. Only these characters we think we know because we watch them on TV.
But what worked for Goulart in the 80’s is just a little bit tired here as Spiner maybe tries to do a little too much. There’s mystery, danger, romance, humor, apparent biography, and always the lure of some ST: TNG insider insight all wrapped up in 250 pages.
There are extremely odd moments, such as when Spiner heads to his favorite video rental store and learns that there’s a woman calling herself Mrs. Spiner who also uses the store. And when she is killed in a car accident, he goes to her funeral, where everyone there only knows her as Mrs. Spiner – no one knew her real name. I’m not quite sure why this is in the book other than that it adds to the oddball humor that Spiner is trying to set up in the book. If those scenes with “Mrs. Spiner” were cut from the book it would have zero impact on the mystery or the romance. And as a ‘red herring’ it falls flat.
The most fun aspects were the scenes with other members of the TNG cast and crew. As Star Trek fans, we of course want to think this is exactly how the other cast members are, and while these characters may be based on real people, they do come across as exaggerated caricatures of themselves.
I did have some fun reading this, though the actual capture of the stalker was kind of a let-down (and most people should have seen it coming). This is the sort of book that I would consider a ‘beach read’ – something to read that doesn’t take too much thought or reflection, and reads pretty quickly.
There is a built-in audience, given the number of Star Trek fans there are who are likely to glom onto this, and most will appreciate the book, but it’s not likely to be long-remembered.
Looking for a good book? Fan Fiction is a humorous mystery by Brent Spiner (referred to as a ‘Mem-Noir’). Inspired by true events is appealing, but one wonders where the line between truth and fiction lies.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
author: Brent Spiner
publisher: St. Martin’s Press
hardcover, 256 pages