The ambitious new book "Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many" from ‘Jake Sisko’ and Michael A. Martin is arriving at book stores now. Pocket books uses an interesting format to tell the backstory for the new MMORPG Star Trek Online. Find out how it works out in our review below. Plus we have some news on Martin’s next Trek books.
Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many
Massmarket Paperback – 432 pages
Written by Michael A. Martin & Jake Sisko
[available at Amazon – $7.99]
"Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many" is one of the more ambitious Star Trek books in years. CBS and Pocket Books are to be applauded for not only creating a first of its kind tie-in to the new Star Trek Online game, but to also offer a book in such an interesting format. "Needs of the Many" tells the story of the Undine War (that is the war between the Federation and various empires of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants versus those tripods formerly known as Species 8472). But it is not a normal Star Trek novel, but presented as a sort of ‘oral history’ series of interviews, very much in the style of Studs Terkel’s "The Good War: An Oral History of World War II", or Max Brook’s "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War." In this case we have the oral history of the Undine War as told to Jake Sisko, explaining why Sisko gets an author credit on the book’s cover.
The conceit of "Needs of the Many" is that it is being written decades after the Undine War and the events of Star Trek Online. The book contains a series of interviews from many different perspectives on the war, from the front-line grunts to ivory tower academics. Along the way we meet new characters and many familiar faces, including Worf, Vic Fontaine, Kasidy Yates, Garak, Geordi La Forge, Seven of Nine, Quark, and Admiral Janeway. There are also interviews with some less well-known, but previously seen characters like Bruce Maddox (from "Measure of a Man") and agents Lucsley and Dulmur from the Department of Temporal Investigations ("Trials and Tribble-ations").
You may have noticed a mention of Janeway and wonder "but wasn’t she killed off in a book? Yes she was, but Star Trek Online, and therefore "Needs of the Many" exist in a bit of a continuity pretzel, especially for regular readers of the Star Trek novels. The game is set in the ‘Prime Universe’ of 2409 and adheres to some of the post-Nemesis 24th century novels, but not all of them. Although there is a nod to the pivotal Destiny series, STO and this book essentially ignore those events (most notably the elimination of the Borg). To make things even more complex, the game and the book do adhere to events of the "Star Trek Countdown" comic book prequel to the 2009 Star Trek movie. This means that Data is alive too. In fact, the morality of transforming B-4 into Data is analyzed in interesting interviews with Bruce Maddox and Geordi LaForge.
"Needs of the Many" takes on a big challenge by trying to bring readers up to speed on the events between Star Trek Nemesis and the setting of Star Trek Online, covering three decades. That means that within each of the interviews there is a lot of exposition going on. Along the way you learn much about the transforming big political picture of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, but also the events in the lives of some of our favorite heroes. And for any Trek fan, that is a lot of fun. This is especially important for players of Star Trek Online, who learn much about how the shifting alliances have resulted into the Klingon and Federation factions we see in the game. But we also learn the very human toll the Undine War has had, with their pernicious infiltrations into all corners of the Federation and beyond.
However, all of that exposition often comes at the price of character. The number of voices in this ‘oral history’ is vast, but the visit with each is fairly brief. And with so many voices, Martin sometimes struggles with getting the feeling right for some of these well-known characters. Of course, we are meeting them at a later stage in their lives, but it is hard to buy that the Undine War has changed these characters so much. This was especially true with Worf and Garak, who both come off as borderline deranged. And sometimes it appears that Martin will manipulate the spirit of a character just to make a political point, like having Vic Fontaine singing a civil rights song to celebrate holographic rights. But many of the characters ring true, such as the interviews with Seven, Janeway and Geordi.
In the end, although it is overly long and a bit repetitive at times, "Needs of the Many" accomplishes its task well. The reader gets fully briefed on the backstory for Star Trek Online and also picks up lots of easter eggs tied into actual missions from the game. The book is recommended to any Trek fan playing the game, or those considering the game. If you have no interest in Star Trek Online, "Needs of the Many" is a bit of a mixed bag, but still an interesting read. The unique format and diverse cast of characters is worth checking out for book readers who can handle a bit of divergence with their continuities.
"Star Trek `Online: The Needs of the Many" is arriving at book stores this week and is available now at Amazon.
BOOK NEWS: Martin talks upcoming Trek books
In a new interview with Unreality SF, "Needs of the Many" author Michael A. Martin talks about his new Star Trek Online book, and also reveals what he has coming up. Martin discusses his 2009 book "Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath The Raptor’s Wing" at length, but calls it the "first segment" for the story of the war and reveals there will be "at least one more Romulan War book." Martin also discusses the "Needs of the Many" book (reviewed above), saying he hopes it will also just be the first of a series, but that will depend on sales. The author says that he has already proposed a follow-up book tied to STO, but it would be "more of a traditional novel" as opposed to the interview style of "Needs of the Many". Martin also discusses his upcoming Titan Typhon Pact novel "Seize the Fire" which has a big Gorn component. Read the full interview for the details.
Martin’s "Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath The Raptor’s Wing" is available now, and "Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire" comes out in November and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.