This TNG novel is set in early fourth season (an actual stardate is given at the end), and was written in that period. The series had settled down into a long haul of success, and the novels are doing better.

This isn’t a great novel, but it is a good one. This contrasts sharply with the first season batch. We have a couple major MacGuffins here: A planet that is home to a completely unknown form of life, and a unknown intelligent species of the more conventional type which has claimed said planet.

We get two parallel main plots out of this, each of which have a cluster of sub-themes. That last is the only place the book really falls down, as many come up for a conversation, and then don’t continue past that. One of these unexplored themes gives the novel its title, as teenagers try to grapple with the still-distant country of mortality.

For one main plot, we deal with Troi, Data, Wesley, and two other new-for-the-novel teenagers on board the Enterprise. The latter two (and Wesley, of course) are involved in studies to get into Star Fleet Academy. The shuttle used for an expedition gets into trouble, and plot follows. Sadly, after a good start this does largely dead-end with few opportunities for the characters to move things forward, except on a personal level.

The second plot gets going slightly later, and ends up doing the heavy lifting as Picard deals with a prickly Teniran captain, and tries to figure out just what is going on with this planet.

In general, it’s all handled well, and flows through to the end well. The real troubles are the dead-end co-plot, the reader knowing more than the characters, and suffering through watching them fumble around, and an overall lack of explanation of how these energy creatures are so different from all the other energy creatures seen in Star Trek that the Enterprise‘s sensors don’t seem register them at all. On the other hand, the entire cast is present, and each get a meaningful scene, but the discarded themes bit keeps some to no more than that.