A Fall For Celebrations
To everything there is a season, and although it doesn't really feel like a time for joy on 21st century Earth, Star Trek has entered an autumn of celebration. Enterprise, the newest series in the franchise, kicked off to great ratings. A new book explains how humans can emulate the rituals and ceremonies of our alien counterparts. And we can finally rest easy about the fate of Sonya Gomez during her difficult S.C.E. sojourn on Sarindar. Here are some of the choice offerings for fall reading...
We've all read accounts of Trekkie weddings and Trekkie baby naming ceremonies in books like Jeff Greenwald's 'Future Perfect', so I suppose a volume explaining and illustrating 'Star Trek Celebrations' had become inevitable. Author Maureen McTigue has produced a nice contribution to Trek mythology with wonderful illustrations that alone make the book worth the cover price. This oversized paperback is divided into sections by culture, giving fantastic Klingon rituals more pages than any other, with lots of attention also on the Vulcans, Bajorans and Ferengi.
In fact, reading 'Celebrations,' one realizes how dry and emotionless the Federation seems compared to more ethnically concentrated societies like the Trill or Talaxians. Take weddings, for instance. Keiko Ishikawa wore traditional Japanese silks when she married Miles O'Brien, but their Starfleet ceremony seems pretty boring compared to the heat of Dax and Worf's Klingon vows, the joyous naturalism of Lwaxana Troi's Betazoid nuptials and the violence of Spock's abortive wedding to T'Pring. Starfleet funerals, too, offer elegance and restraint, but I'd rather be remembered by a Klingon roar or a Bajoran death chant than a dignified speech over a photon tube.
To its credit, 'Celebrations' draws heavily on all four series for background and illustrates how our understanding of the rituals has deepened as we learned more about them in subsequent Treks. In other words, alterations made by successive groups of Trek writers get rationalized very nicely, often with humor. Frustratingly, however, the book doesn't name the episodes in which we first learn about the rituals. Most of the accounts of the festivals come directly from Trek episodes, but in a few cases the writer has clearly taken the liberty of recreating events that were mentioned but never shown.
To me this is quite annoying, since Pocket Books' fiction is not considered canon but its non-fiction Trek books are the only authentic reference manuals available to fans. So some fans may appreciate the second-hand account of Paris and Torres' marriage on Voyager, but I found the transcript of the so-called real wedding -- borrowed heavily from the unreal one in 'Course: Oblivion' -- treacly and intrusive. The show's writers deliberately left that scene to the imagination of fans -- many of whom know the characters far better than the writing staff ever seemed to, so it's not surprising that there are much better extrapolations on the likely ceremony in fan fiction. The word-for-word account of Vorik's 'koon-ut so'lik' -- or proposal of marriage to Torres -- makes for much more entertaining reading. So do the detailed explanation of Ferengi death-and-dismemberment customs and the discussion of the Klingon Right of Vengeance.
McTigue makes no more attempt to trace the Native American roots of Chakotay's traditions than did any of Voyager's writers, which just makes the human customs seem all the more pallid, dissociated from their origins and functions. I understand all the reasons this is necessary, and I'm all in favor of Star Trek avoiding traditional religious and spiritual points of divisiveness, but one longs for a bit more suggestion that it's possible to hang onto one's ancestral human culture while participating in peaceful IDIC.
Though I'm sure the season for this book's release was chosen to make it available as a holiday gift, we don't learn of the fate of Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa in the 23rd century, nor do we learn the future form of traditional replicated vegetarian-for-the-Vulcans Thanksgiving feast. While he gets little press in 'Celebrations' beyond his boring Starfleet wedding and his function as a Bajoran spiritual icon, my role model will always be Benjamin Sisko, who never let his role as either Captain or Emissary interfere with his enjoyment of a good jambalaya feast.
Like the print version of Voyager's "Endgame," the lukewarm hardcover novelization of Enterprise's pilot doesn't contain photos and offers no teaser material to connect it to later releases. 'Broken Bow' does conclude with 30 pages written by Paul Ruditis about the conception and design of the new series, but that sure doesn't justify the $19.95 price tag. If you loved the episode or you're a completist, you'll want to own this adaptation of the script, but fans who don't fit into either category would be better off clicking over to the TrekToday archives to read about Enterprise's history and saving their book budget until 'Broken Bow' comes out in paperback.
I don't know what the execs at Simon and Schuster were thinking when they ordered up a hardcover adaptation of the first episode of the new series. Diane Carey has been boasting that she wrote this book in a week, as if her readers won't be smart enough to notice that fact from the awkward descriptions and occasional misspellings. Oh, it's an impressive achievement for a week, all right -- especially a week that she spent as the cook in a boating competition, as she explains on the acknowledgements page. It's too bad she didn't work that boating experience into the trite show dialogue about not being afraid of the wind, because it would have given some vital color to the story she's adapting.
Instead this reads like the rush job it is -- functional, but less interesting than the episode itself. I don't know whether or not Carey had some insider scoop on upcoming episodes, but either way it's clear she doesn't know these characters any better than we do. Both 'Emissary' and 'Caretaker' spawned novelizations that, while readable, featured series leads who sometimes didn't even resemble the people we saw onscreen. 'Broken Bow' doesn't suffer as much in translation to print because, I'm sorry to say, the Enterprise characters aren't as colorful on first viewing. Shrieking Hoshi and comic relief Phlox make a stronger impression than Archer because they're easier to sum up in a few phrases.
There is one stellar debate between Archer and Tucker in the book that wasn't on television, though I don't know whether it was cut from the script or created entirely by Carey. The scenes that we did see onscreen read as terribly flat, expressionless events -- even the infamous decontamination chamber sequence is reduced to a 'he said, she said' dialogue without the suggestive undertones that made the TV sequence watchable if purient. T'Pol and Tucker might as well have been wearing opaque body condoms, since we get no hints of the physicality of the argument as they slather each other with goo.
I usually enjoy Carey's script adaptations and I know she did this job literally on the fly, so I don't blame her or the editor for this preposterous product. I'm sure some marketing geniuses at Pocket concluded they could bilk Trekkies out of $20 a head just by slapping a photo of the NX-01 on a hardcover. To the prospective targets of this scam, I beg: Don't give in. Insist on a quality product like 'The Genesis Wave' when you fork over the big bucks for hardbacks. Leave 'Broken Bow' sitting on bookshelves, and maybe when the marketing geniuses rush the paperback edition into production, they'll include not only fresher behind-the-scenes material but an adaptation that has been revised in light of the unfolding series, filling in personality and detail that are now woefully lacking.
'Invincible Book Two' is the opposite of 'Broken Bow': a book that's great fun to read, that develops characters both familiar and novel, that maintains a sense of humor and occasional sexiness despite its harrowing action, and that must be described as worth the cost even though the S.C.E. books still seem rather short to me for the cover price. The latest story picks up right where the cliffhanger dropped at the end of Book One, then does a graceful job summarizing events thus far even as it plunges headlong into the adventure. Like Book One, Book Two unfolds entirely as log entries, letters and messages written by the characters. This allows for a lot of first-person introspection and wry humor about the deadly events on Sarindar.
An enormous, deadly creature called a Shii has begun to kill members of Sonya Gomez's alien team, who already distrust her for being female and Starfleet. Unless she can stop it, she stands to lose both her reputation and the lives of many people she has come to respect. Unfortunately the government that has asked the S.C.E. for help building a subspace accelerator refuses to believe that a mythological beast could be responsible for the delays in the project. The one person Gomez really trusts, an engineer named Razka, suffers from an unfortunate tendency to freeze during deadly conflicts, so Gomez has to take care of the problem nearly singlehandedly.
Razka, who has five wives and numerous children but has grown to find his planet's patriarchy as oppressive to men as to women, makes most of his appearances in dispatches home to the wife he "dislike[s] the least." He wants her to have a record of his life (and probable death) so that he can tell his children that he loves them and that he was a coward. Some of Razka's male peers want the Shii to kill Gomez to get her out of their hair, but he rightly realizes that she represents their best hope for survival, even if most of their initial successes come from lucky breaks like a defective rifle showing them the frequency for wounding the creature.
Gomez never loses confidence in herself, drawing strength from memories of being on the Enterprise during attacks by the Borg. She makes a surprising discovery about the Shii, which explains why they have become so deadly. But then -- thinking more like a Starfleet officer than an engineer -- she incorrectly concludes that she can negotiate with them. As the title suggests, Gomez survives the experience and finds that it has brought her closer to Duffy, setting the stage for some future romance in the S.C.E. series, which along with the wit and action ought to be a lot of fun.
Click here to buy Celebrations or Broken Bow from amazon.com.
Trek Book Reviews