For many years, the enigmatic Q has been a recurring companion (or should that read nuisance?) to Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise. For the better part of two decades we have witnessed his exploits on the Federation’s flagship, as well as in other parts of the universe. But now, the ultimate riddler prepares to deliver the ultimate answer in Keith R. A. DeCandido’s new Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, "Q&A". Right off the top, "Q&A" sets itself apart from the recent batch of Next Generation novels, opening with quite possibly the most unique prologues of any Star Trek work I have ever picked up. To be honest, it felt more like the work of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide series) than anything else.
First and foremost, humor, while rampant throughout the story, was not overboard – at least, no more overboard than your average Q episode. DeCandido nailed John DeLancie’s delivery and Q came across just as if the book was another Q episode aboard the dear ole’ starship Enterprise. Q, however, is not the only element of the novel that is appealing. The Enterprise is finally out exploring strange new worlds again, and she has a complete crew that actually gels. Unlike "Resistance", "Q&A" actually takes the effort to give each member of the crew a time in the spotlight. Geordi LaForge, sadly missed in the past several novels, is back in genuine form this time, and has several encounters that are substantial and important to the future storytelling of the Next Generation series.
Worf, the new First Officer, has settled into his post very well. We finally have the chance to learn just what his many experiences over the years have taught him about life, the universe, and… well… just about everything. Worf’s strategies, on everything from away missions to dealing with Q, come as a welcome and invigorating change of pace. Worf is able to make his own mark on the position of First Officer, one that would make Will Riker proud. Worf has matured, and DeCandido writes him like no one else can. At the same time, the Picard/Crusher relationship –poorly played out in the past few ‘relaunch’ novels – is approached far more maturely (and likeably) in "Q&A". One actually gets the feeling that they are settling down to for a life together, and DeCandido’s writing finds subtle ways to bring that out. Counselor T’Lana is formed into a far more intriguing Vulcan by DeCandido than Dillard managed in "Resistance". One now begins to see her value to the crew (in "Resistance" her value was limited to the return of a Vulcan to the bridge and her decision to oppose Picard) as a counselor. Her encounter with LaForge in "Q&A" establishes her as a counselor who can carry herself with dignity and composure, and who can get into the mind and heart of the patient to help them discover themselves.
To top off "Q&A", DeCandido introduces us to two new members of the Enterprise crew: Miranda Kadohata, the new second officer, and Zelik Leybenzon, the ship’s security chief. Both of these new crew members has their own unique background and storie, and it is the unfolding of their stories, intertwined with the contemporary events of the Enterprise‘s voyage, that make their presence aboard the ship so welcome, and their personalities so interesting. While various authors have done a very good job at creating backgrounds for new crew of the Deep Space Nine relaunch, I daresay that DeCandido –in a single tale- has outshone them all through Kadohata and Leybenzon.
One interesting feature (and one I normally would complain incessantly about) that DeCandido worked into "Q&A" was galaxy jumping. Various chapters included events in all four quadrants of the galaxy – with appropriate cameos from various television episodes and book series.HWhere other writers have made such side trips feel forced, DeCandido was able to give them an integral feel. Far from the, "Oh no, not again!" reaction that other recent novels have left me with, each of the visits to other ships and crews in "Q&A" feel absolutely smooth, and help to weave the tale.
"Q&A" is not without its faults. As an individual who missed a lot of Star Trek: Voyager when it was airing, it was hard to keep complete track of the entire back story of Q (though a quick trip to Memory Alpha helped). Unlike "Death and Winter" and "Resistance", both of which couldn’t end soon enough, "Q&A" ended far too quickly, and, in some respects, too abruptly. There was so much that could have been expanded upon; so many questions that could have been answered – both about Gorsach IX and about the events of the novel’s climax. (Maybe those answers are being saved for a future story.)
Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to "Q&A", however, is to boldly state that this novel should have been the first Next Generation relaunch novel. DeCandido’s work is everything that "Resistance" and "Death in Winter" should have been. It is a worthy pilot for a new series of adventures, one that actually establishes the crew of the Enterprise as comrades who, together, can face just about anything the universe –or the Q- can throw at them.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q & A
Pocket Books – 320 pages (Paperback)
by Keith R. A. DeCandido
…available now at Amazon