Friday, May 31, 2013

Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many review

    I was going to post this review a long time ago but I actually lost my original one. In any case, I got around to re-reading the novel and decided to review it anyway.

    As the title implies, this is a companion piece to Star Trek Online as opposed to the novel universe. There's numerous nods to the novels in the MMORPG, so it makes sense there's numerous nods to the novels in the companion book as well. However, the events of Star Trek: Destiny manifestly did not happen in the MMORPG so there's references to the novels in STO:TNTM but also contradictions.

    Confused yet?

    Well, you shouldn't be. STO:TNTM is more an epilogue to the Star Trek television shows as opposed to a tie-in to the MMORPG. The book is set after the events of the "Undine War" that is the central basis of the online game. Alien shapeshifters invaded the Federation, again, and the book implies our heroes eventually beat them back. It's an interesting tact for a tie-in novel to take, being set after the game itself, but I suppose none of us believed the game would end in the Federation's destruction anyway so it's ok.

    The premise of the novel is DS9 character Jake Sisko, known as a famous author in the novel's setting (and implied in the show), has been hired by the Federation to chronicle the events of the Undine war. He decides, in-universe, the only way to do this is to print up the transcripts from selected interviews taken from veterans of the Undine War. In short, the novel is the Star Trek version of World War Z without the zombies.

    The novel is, overall, good but there's many stories which have little-to-nothing to do with Star Trek Online or its history. There's some timeless stories like Jake Sisko dealing with a damaged soldier who couldn't bring himself out of the war, Worf dealing with a sanity-bending fight against an Undine warrior disguised as himself, and how B4 saved the Federation. I swear to you, the last story is actually touching. This, from B4's greatest detractor.

    However, quite a few stories don't deal with events from the Online game like an interview with Captain Picard's descendant and a baseball game against the Gorns. I'm serious about the last one. They seem more like epilogues to the characters of the television series. For example, Seven of Nine isn't particularly relevant to the conflict in the game yet we see her ultimate discussed.

    The confusion over the alternate universes of the Expanded universe is given a nice little nod, however, in an interview with Lucsly and Dulmer from the Department of Temporal Investigations. They, more or less, explain that all of the various novel universes are separate with temporal shenanigans responsible for the discrepencies. I liked this explanation and give them kudos for bothering to explain it.

    Would have the novel been better to talk about battles against the Undine and the Borg? Would it have been better to discuss how the Federation reacted to being under siege by not only these two implacable enemies but the Klingon Empire? Perhaps. There's only so much you can do without either spoiling events of the game or hamstringing the developers of the game, however. Likewise, I felt the Federation trying to make sense of such a senseless conflict was rather cool. It fits that they don't lionize the war other cultures might (including our own).

     Perhaps the most important story in the book, at least for Trek-Lit fans, is the discussion of the Hobus Nebula explosion in J.J. Abram's movie. The book nicely deconstructs the bad science behind it while maintaining it as an important cultural/political/historical milestone in the franchise. I appreciate when authors work around oddball things in Star Trek versus rejecting them outright.

    One of my favorite elements from STO:TNTM is the timeline in the back of the book. The Needs of the Many contains a complete timeline leading up to the events of Star Trek Online. For those seeking a companion piece to the MMORPG, this is the most useful part of the book. Captain Lucien Drake of the U.S.S Tarot, my character if you didn't know, found it most helpful. Despite not being what it advertised, this book got me into Star Trek Lit and I highly recommend it.

    Kudos to Mathew A. Martin, the book's "real" author.


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