"Star Trek Paper Universe"

by Michelle Erica Green

Sixth-century Japan meets 24th-century Starfleet in this marvelous trade paperback, which offers step-by-step instructions for creating folded paper starships. Modern origami purists may be distressed that some of the designs require more than one sheet of paper, but Star Trek purists will be delighted with the results. Author Andrew Pang, a member of the British and Chinese Origami Societies, has now given us a way to create cheap replicas of sixteen ships and space stations, meaning that you can now ring your desk with Enterprises or suspend a fleet of Borg cubes over your bed for a lot less than the Hallmark Christmas ornaments.

Some constructions, like the Klingon battle cruiser, look breathtakingly like the original series models; others, like Voyager, look a little boxier, but no Trek fan will have any trouble recognizing them, and with a few strokes from a magic marker you can add serial numbers and lights if you wish. That, too, may not pass muster with origami purists, but it sure is fun. Star Trek: Paper Universe features an introduction that gives a brief history of the art form and explains the basic folds, plus the symbols used throughout the book.

The drawings are clear, the explanations concise and often witty (reading about how to squash bases and create rabbit's ears on enemy vessels can be quite amusing). In addition to the traditional water bomb and bird bases, Pang has created two new ones he calls "starbases," which recur on many of the Federation-model ships. Young adults will have little trouble following the instructions in this book, and anyone with patience can probably construct all the models illustrated.

As a person of limited origami knowledge and less-than-stellar eye-hand coordination, I removed the ten colored sheets of paper thoughtfully included by Pocket Books with trepidation, then decided to start by folding colored newspaper, which is just as thin and considerably larger. I first attempted the Borg cube, which looked relatively simple; other than some difficulty inflating the ship, causing my family to look at me funny when I explained that I was blowing up a Borg vessel, it worked quite well.

Then I got braver and tried the Ferengi Marauder. Other than some moderate trouble squashing open the corners while trying to fold the sides in, and wing cannons that looked a little ratty, that one worked pretty well too. After that I tried the pesky Defiant. That one was hard -- my paper kept bunching up and I couldn't get the sides symmetrical, but it's not one of the more recognizable ships, anyway. My Enterprise-A looked a lot more convincing, though I needed glue to make my saucer section stay attached. I've never been as fond of the Enterprise-D, but that was a fun model to make, using only a single square of paper.

The Type 6 shuttlecraft looked great as well, though again I had trouble inflating mine. The two Klingon ships most closely resemble the models from the show. The only time I quit in the middle was working on Deep Space Nine, which should only be attempted by professionals -- and even they should use large squares of paper and keep plenty of glue on hand. I'm tempted to try to make a DS9 big enough to dock Voyager and Cardassian warship, but it would be a lot easier to make an entire Borg convoy. Playmates probably isn't going to like Pocket Books much after this volume gets out: it might put the expensive plastic toy line out of business.

I still have pop-out cardboard ship models from my youth -- one a set I ordered off a Cheerios box, and one set from Random House's decades-old $2.95 Star Trek Action Toy Book. Those were a little simpler to build, but could only be used once, and they couldn't be customized (unless, I suppose, one used the stickers in the Star Trek The Motion Picture Peel-Off Graphics Book, but I'm not even sure the glue on those still sticks). Star Trek: Paper Universe provides blueprints you can use again and again, with slight modifications to keep up with the new ships from future films and series. It's a delightful tribute to origami and to Trek tradition. This book enjoyed for years to come, as a novelty for some and a craft volume for others.

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