Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Diplomatic Implausibility: Prelude To I.K.S. Gorkon Books Is A Boring Who's-Who Of Klingons!

The Good: Knowledge of the Star Trek universe and how it fits together
The Bad: Failure to focus on Worf, Dull story, Way too much exposition, Alien race
The Basics: In a flatly sub-par Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, Worf's vocation as an ambassador is used as an excuse to launch a new book series.

The problem with working within someone else's universe is that sometimes the requirements of that universe stifle creativity. In reading Star Trek: The Next Generation novel #61, Diplomatic Implausibility, one has the sincere hope that author Keith R.A. DeCandido was given a memo by the editors of Pocket Books that read something like "We're starting a new series to tap into the Klingon market, we need you to write a book with at least five known Klingons on one ship or you're fired. Seriously, pack it with Klingons readers will recognize or you'll never write for us again (and use Worf, he's a pretty solid moneymaker for us)." And one hopes that those editors were given some form of note from Paramount Pictures that read something like: "VHS sales of episodes are dropping off, we need you guys to stimulate the market by making allusions to as many different episodes as possible so fans will go out and purchase tapes. Do this or we'll yank your license for Star Trek." After all, if these two criteria were met, then Pocket Books would simply be looking to protect its cash cow - the Star Trek franchise - and DeCandido would be looking to keep his job and this wouldn't simply be a crappy book packed with allusions.

Wow, I hope that's the case, because otherwise, Diplomatic Implausibility is a pretty unspeakable crime against literature and science fiction. In order to maintain my standards as a reviewed, I have to go with what is before me (just like I refuse to write reviews on a c.d. which includes information not on the disc or in the liner notes). Lacking any documentation on arm twisting or threats, I am left with the sad conclusion that Diplomatic Implausibility is just a lousy book.

Retired from StarFleet, yet again, Worf has been named the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. En route to his installation on the Klingon Homeworld, he is intercepted with his first mission. A rebellion has broken out on the world taD, a world the Klingons have subjugated and hold for the mining of topaline. During the period that the Federation and Klingons were at war, the leaders on taD requested assistance and now that the Dominion War is over with, the Federation is getting around to dealing with that request.

Worf it transferred to the I.K.S. Gorkon, which had just finished its shakedown cruise and is populated by Klingons Worf or other Enterprise crewmen know, like Captain Klag. The Gorkon takes Worf and his aide to taD to reach a settlement with Worf given the express orders from Martok that taD cannot be allowed to become independent for the sake of appearances. On taD, a genuine political revolution breaks out and Worf must find the rebel leaders and negotiate before a full-scale war begins.

Author Keith R.A. DeCandido clearly knows the Star Trek universe and in the credit where credit is due department, he clearly establishes his credibility with Diplomatic Implausibility. Indeed, he packs the Klingon allusions in right and left. There is Captain Klag, promoted from being first officer of the Pagh from "A Matter Of Honor" (reviewed here!), which allows for a scene that includes Riker. There is Kurak from "Suspicions" (reviewed here!), which gives Dr. Crusher a chance to flee the Gorkon abruptly. There is Rodek from "Sons Of Mogh" (reviewed here!), which gives Worf a chance to stare at a Klingon like an idiot. There is Toq from "Birthright, Part II" (reviewed here!), which gives Worf a chance to have another conversation about the past. There is Drex from "The Way Of The Warrior" (reviewed here!), which allows Worf to have a legitimate adversary on the Gorkon. And there is Leskit, from "Soldiers Of The Empire" (reviewed here!), which allows Mr. DeCandido to make yet another allusion to a Klingon.

Then there's the name of the ship, the allusions to General Chang and others . . . the only two original Klingons introduced in Diplomatic Implausibility are Vell, an ambitious engineer, and Dr. B'Oraq, a Klingon doctor who knew Dr. Crusher. B'Oraq is DeCandido's shining star of creativity, making a clever allusion to the year (the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation) that Dr. Crusher spent away from the U.S.S. Enterprise. This allows him to create a radical Klingon character and she works out well. As for Vell, I spent the whole novel waiting for him to be revealed as an android, but it didn't happen in this book (Vell is, rather unfortunately, written like first season Data).

So, DeCandido knows Klingons. It's pretty hard to deny that he knows Klingons when he has packed in virtually every living Klingon to ever appear on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. One wonders if the Klingons ever compare notes and find it strange that they all had something to do with the Enterprise-D or space station Deep Space Nine . . . The fundamental problem here is that Diplomatic Implausibility is supposed to be a Worf novel and ultimately does not satisfy fans of the show or readers in general. For fans of the Star Trek franchise, at least the ones who are out buying the books, there is far, far too much exposition. Despite the stereotypes, Star Trek fans tend to be a pretty smart bunch and savvy for their favorite series. As a result, most of them will figure out almost instantaneously who the various Klingons are. Thus, we recall Toq, we know why Worf is avoiding Rodek and the moment there is an allusion to Martok in relation to him, we'll even remember Drex. We get it and after one hundred ten pages, a Star Trek fan is likely to be sitting there yelling "get on with it!" at the book. I know I was. For the first one hundred plus pages, it's exposition and reminding readers of who the characters are and why Worf is an ambassador now.

And for those who might be coming to the book blind to the allusions, Diplomatic Implausibility rather fortunately dumbs it down by repeating everything. One need not be a Star Trek fan to figure out most of the backstory with the various Klingons on the I.K.S. Gorkon. First, DeCandido alludes to the episodes each character was in. But then, later on, he provides moments when he rehashes each episode either through a character discussing the episode or an expository paragraph or two. And it's boring.

"What about the plot with taD?" I hear readers of this review crying. What about it?! Neglected for almost half the book, getting to taD becomes merely an excuse to introduce the crew of the Gorkon and if it hadn't been for knowing that Pocket Books would be releasing a series based on the Gorkon, this would have been a huge waste of time, money and paper. Come to think of it, it still is: the mission to taD is window-dressing. Diplomatic Implausibility is simply a prelude to that other series, which is why Worf figures minimally into the story. Moreover, when it comes to resolving the situation on taD, it is resolved abruptly and without and challenges to the resolution.

In other words, this is a "simple problem, simple solution" type book and it will not challenge readers on any front. In that regard, the only things that are problematic in the book are the few liberties Diplomatic Implausibility takes with creating new information. First, the residents of taD are essentially giant house cats. Whenever they are described, they are described in such a way that makes one think that DeCandido was bored when writing the book, saw a house cat of his own and began to write about it. Seriously, whenever the people of taD are described it instantly reminds one of the "Family Guy" allusion to Stephen King and the evil lamp.

Moreover, for all of his knowledge of Klingon characters who have appeared in the modern Star Trek series', Mr. DeCandido seems to know little about them or attempts to characterize them in terribly unsuccessful ways. For example, he creates a sexism in Klingons that is not as evident in the series as it is in this book. Worf, in fact, refers to Klingon women as equals in battle and Klingon women serve at the highest levels of the military in the series'. Not so in Diplomatic Implausibility. Similarly, DeCandido has Klingons whining about cold weather. Cardassians are characterized as hating the cold; the Klingons have never seemed to have any environmental restrictions. Or, if they did, they are not serious enough to thwart their warrior pride. Again, Diplomatic Implausibility makes Klingons into wusses about the weather.

There is nothing here to recommend for fans of Star Trek or readers of general literature. When the book isn't referencing episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it is developing the crew of the I.K.S. Gorkon; the storyline is peripheral to that so Worf does not learn or grow as a character here.

For other Star Trek: The Next Generation books reviewed by me, please check out:
Imzadi By Peter David
Federation By Judith And Garfield Reeves-Stevens
The Return By William Shatner


For other book reviews, check out my Book Review Index Page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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