Q & A (STAR TREK: TNG) by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Pocket Books, 2007, 304 pages, 978-1-4165-2741-1, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
Genre: Science Fiction
It’s been a long time since I read a Star Trek novel, and I certainly don’t recall having reviewed one before this. My memories of the ones I have read are good ones, though I’m uncertain whether that’s because they were well written or because I was too young to differentiate between a good and a bad novel.
Well, I can certainly tell the difference now, and while I wouldn’t classify Q & A as a “bad” novel, I also wouldn’t put it high on my preferred reading list. In fact, my reaction to this story has largely been ambivalence.
Q & A takes place after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (the film) and Star Trek: TNG: Resistance (the book). The Enterprise has been assigned to visit Gorsach IX (for reasons I’m still not particularly clear about), which is an exciting prospect for the captain and the crew, as simple exploration has gone by the wayside due to all of the battles and crises they’ve had to deal with. But Gorsach turns out to be stranger than expected, and, meanwhile, rifts are opening up across the galaxy. Add to that the appearance of Q, and the crew of the Enterprise finds itself in yet another sticky situation.
Frankly, I’m used to more from a book about Q and this one did not deliver. Aside from the inclusion of a number of new faces, many of which I might be familiar with if I had been keeping up with Star Trek novels for the last five years or so, there were a lot of random references in this book that I didn’t quite follow. These are, I imagine, references to events in other books. This is all well and fine except for the fact that it was distracting.
Now, I’m hardly going to condemn anyone for drawing links back to other stories. That’s what Star Trek does, and I’m all for that. But it could have been better rendered in the writing so that those coming at this novel as a standalone could have processed the information a little better.
As expected, any reference from the actual television series was easy for me to follow. But then, I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was eight years old, and I’ve seen the reruns more times than is probably safe to mention. I’m sure that this would be largely true of any reader with the inclination to pick up a novel in this universe. But when it comes to events that most people probably don’t know unless they’ve read previous books, then it only makes sense to try and smooth that out a little.
Which might have been possible had the writing style had been different. In fact, this is one of my huge issues with the book — there was no in-depth look at the characters. The point of view jumped around all over the place, back and forth to people who weren’t even integral to the plot. And while, in theory, I understand why DeCandido did this, I was also really annoyed by it. I think that the novel would have been better served by having one or two tighter pov’s on the Enterprise while still having the leeway of the omniscient exploration in other locations. In that way readers might get something a little more solid from characters they cared about rather than having to suffer through the surface skimming of a dozen people instead.
But even so, I felt like the majority of the book was relying on references from older stories rather than focusing on what was actually happening at that present moment. I don’t need a summary of the series, thanks. I can make one of my own should I need to.
And where was Q? When I pick up a book that’s supposed to involve Q, I really expect it to involve him. For the first three-quarters of the story we get to see him in the moments between his appearances in The Next Generation but, other than that, he does nothing. It isn’t until the tail end of the book that he shows up to interact with the crew of the Enterprise. This is, of course, the most interesting part of the story. I mean, it’s the reason you buy a book about Q, isn’t it?
I certainly didn’t buy it to watch Geordi go through his personal crisis about Data, nor did I buy it to sit through what appeared, to me, to be an aimless point of view chapter with the new Vulcan counselor (and, honestly, the concept of a Vulcan counselor isn’t something I can really comprehend). Not that T’Lana was an uninteresting character, but I didn’t see that she had a real purpose in this book beyond being a construct made for Geordi.
I’m picking on this subplot, I know. It’s not in an attempt to invalidate it — it would have been quite valid had it 1.) seemed to relate to the plot at all, and 2.) been part of a book that really delved more deeply into the characters.
I realize I’m making a big deal about that, so let me say that I know it’s difficult to write pre-existing characters — particularly characters that originate from a visual medium and not from books. But it can be done, and I would have liked for it to be done in Q & A.
This book also managed to put into writing one of the most annoying things that the Star Trek series does (on a regular basis), and that’s force the reader (or viewer) to experience the exact same thing a dozen times in different universe settings but from the same point of view. Oh my heavens…. If chapter nineteen hadn’t ended when it did, I might have stopped reading two chapters from the end and not picked the book up again.
Now, having said all of that, I am going to say that the concept behind the novel was a good one. The idea that all of Q’s shenanigans onboard the Enterprise (with the exception, perhaps, of the Robin Hood incident) were intended to prepare Picard for one specific moment was, I’ll admit, really rather cool. It’s only that the execution could have been better.
Overall, this is a book for those who want to keep up with all of the Q storylines. It doesn’t take especially long to read — a day or two if you’re really pulling for it. And it’s fun to know the story behind what Q’s been up to all this time. Just don’t expect to feel very involved.