I started to read Day of Honor, the novelization of the Voyager television episode, and discovered that some of the Klingon stuff which B'Elanna Torres was going through seemed really vague without knowing something about the Klingon Day of Honor. So I picked up the other four books in the Day of Honor mini-series.
Considering that I am not a fan of most things Klingon, they were fairly interesting. They were also $29.95 plus tax - not even counting Honor Bound, the young adult Day of Honor book. I couldn't help but feel that I'd been the victim of yet another Trek marketing gimmick, like Peter David's engrossing but fan-fiction-ish New Frontier series.
To be fair, though, there's a huge market for things Klingon. Currently, it is possible to take correspondence courses through the Pennsylvania-based Klingon Language Institute, to attend a Klingon camp, even to read an unauthorized translation of Hamlet "in the original Klingon." Since Pocket Books is the only sanctioned outlet for Klingon materials, it was both clever and nice of John Ordover, Simon and Schuster's Trek editor, to come up with this series with Paula Block, though I wish he'd dispatched more skilled writers to produce a couple of the novels.
The first one, The Next Generation installment Ancient Blood, is quite good though very long - almost three hundred pages, in a much smaller typeface than any of the other series books. Diane Carey scripts a compelling Picard, though he's a bit more comfortable with children than is usual for the Enterprise's captain. She also shapes a large cast of intriguing new characters, both alien and holographic.
I'll admit that I found Alexander's story more interesting than his father's. Worf's son tries to learn about what it means to be human as well as what it means to be Klingon, and chooses to celebrate the Day of Honor by exploring his human ancestry on the holodeck. Despite the use of historical settings and events, this seems fresher and livelier than Worf's struggle among treacherous aliens to satisfy Klingon honor - a term used far too often throughout this series in place of a detailed explanation of the complicated ethics and behaviors it denotes.
Worf is the main Klingon again in the second novel, the Deep Space Nine installment of the series, entitled Armageddon Sky. He and Kor are trapped, along with dishonored Klingons loyal to Worf's (former) family the House of Mogh, in the midst of an impending cataclysm. The novel is very bloody, including an appalling ritual Klingon suicide which I found hard to believe within canon - though the series has made clear that one family member can ask another to execute him to protect his honor, there's been nothing on any series to make me believe that Klingons practice self-sacrificing bloodbaths like this - quite the opposite, considering the TNG episode in which several chose the relative dishonor of living among and even marrying their Romulan captors.
There's more Klingon dialect in this novel than any of the others. The author obviously did her homework, but she [they, really - L.A. Graf is actually two women] is not as compelling a writer as Carey, and resorts to cheap thrills over characterization. She does do a good job with Kira and Dax, who come across more strongly than do the female characters in Ancient Blood, though she doesn't explain the Trill's fascination with things Klingon any better than the series has.
Michael Jan Friedman's Her Klingon Soul, the Voyager novel, focuses on B'Elanna Torres, who has wonderful potential as a half-human, half-Klingon upstart Maquis rebel. But the book's very weak in attention to detail. Though the novel contains a stardate which sets it between the episodes "Deadlock" and "Tuvix" on the series, there are anachronisms in characterization which make it hard to place in the timeline. The most egregious error is the assertion that Tom Paris never made it to Starfleet since he screwed up as a cadet - the author is obviously thinking of TNG cadet Nick Locarno, also played by actor Robert Duncan McNeill, whereas Paris was a Starfleet officer courtmartialed for covering up an accident he was involved in. I hate sloppiness like this.
The main characters are equally unimpressive. Janeway spends much of the novel calling herself stupid and feeling too tired to work, while Chakotay gives her conflicting advice and tells heroic stories of his father. There's some nice backstory about how the Maquis leader came to work with B'Elanna, but this may not stay canonical once executive producer Jeri Taylor's Pathways is in print. Torres' fretting about her Klingon side gets tiring - even Alexander's a more interesting half-human - and Torres' fire from the initial episodes seems all but gone. Still, she comes across strongly during the abduction crisis which comprises most of the plot, and she's unquestionably the heroine of the story; though Harry Kim is missing along with her, she's the one whom the interest and energy of the rescue seems focused on.
The original series novel Treaty's Law by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch ended up being my favorite of the books, but that's because it's about Kirk. If you're going to read just one of the novels, this one stands on its own most successfully, but it's a pretty weak explanation of a how the Klingon holiday was established. The story focuses on a planet which Kirk and Kor (a stronger character here than in Armageddon Sky) compete over to claim for their respective leaders - reminiscent of "Errand of Mercy." When an enemy attacks, the two must rely on one another's honor to save their crews.
"Honor" here seems to operate more according to Kirk's personal code than the Klingon concept we've heard in the newer series, so it's an interesting concept for an alien holiday. One might wish for Klingons a little more like Captain Kirk and less like schoolyard bullies. Still, it's hard to believe that Klingon dealings with other races have had so little honor that this even stands out so dramatically. Since Kirk is a fairly unsubtle hero in this story, we don't get much sense of the suffering the characters undergo from him; I like Dr. Vivian Rathbone, through whose eyes we see much of the struggle. Some of the other mainstays from the original series come across as caricatures of themselves, but that could be said of them in the late Trek movies, too.
As for Day of Honor, the novelization of the television episode, Friedman does a fairly good job turning some miserably cliched scenes from the episode into compelling drama. This is a stronger novel than Her Klingon Soul since the supporting cast are right on target, especially the Doctor and Seven of Nine. But I can't stand the flashback to Torres' childhood; it reminds me very much of the young Janeway in Mosaic miserably struggling to please her absentee father. Torres also has a flitty nickname and saves a life inside a cave. I can't help wondering whether this redundancy was created by Friedman, or by Janeway and Torres' creator Jeri Taylor, who wrote the episode "Day of Honor" on which this novel is based.
Fans of the Paris/Torres relationship will like this book, since it gives much greater depth to the scene where the characters believe they are dying and confess to their feelings for one another. Paris comes across more sympathetically than the caustic guy on the series who snapped, "You picked a great time to tell me," in response to Torres' declaration of love. But they're both limited by the screenplay on which this story is based, which rushes both the Day of Honor elements and the love story.
Worth a read? Sure, if you like Klingons. Worth collecting? Of that, I'm not so sure.
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Trek Book Reviews